The import flow from EU to GB has progressed without much fanfare. Goods move quite freely with the final import entry not being required at the frontier and, in some cases, not until six months later.
Things are about to change. IPAFFS which is the GB pre-notification system for the arrival of food and feed commences on 1st October 2021 and requires EU exporters to issue a health certificate for food and feed prior to dispatch. This is the first real obstacle concerning GB arrivals and is causing some concern in the market.
Exports from GB (to EU) have been problematic from day one. Health certificates have been a requirement from the outset and this, coupled with the confusion over customs paperwork, has put many exporters off. Export flows are down.
It was always known that imports would flow very smoothly, and exports would be more of a challenge, hence the truck traffic management plans for the M20 in Kent and the initial need for the Kent Access Permit (now defunct). Cross channel freight movements are largely carried by EU hauliers (c.85% of all driver accompanied movements are ‘foreign’) and this imbalance of process flow (quick in, slow out) was always likely to create an issue for vehicles operating on a round-trip basis. This, together with the fact that exports are down, has resulted in many EU hauliers avoiding GB as there is ‘easier money’ to be made on the mainland where borders are non-existent.
There was always likely to be a short-term shortage of available trucks and many have already looked at alternatives, including short-sea container traffic, the benefit of which is that the movement is two-legs rather than a dependent round-trip.
What has caught many out is the shortage of domestic drivers. Some are blaming IR35 changes, others Brexit and some on the pandemic. They are probably all correct. There was a shortage of drivers before Brexit, and this has been exacerbated by the mini exodus of EU nationals. Supermarket shelves are often photographed empty and it seems that the final domestic mile is the problem.
The goods are arriving in GB pretty much as they did before but are struggling to complete the journey from storage to RDC. Government has reacted by reducing driver rest periods, thereby increasing driving time. Cabotage rules which govern the amount of work a non-domestic haulier can carry out are also likely to be relaxed.
The logistics industry also needs to do what it does best, innovate to solve problems. Supermarkets need to hold more stock, distances from storage to RDC need to be considered and order lead-times need to be increased. Driver training should be funded and image profile increased to attract new entrants. It will take time. The driver problem is not going to solve itself overnight and one cannot ‘sit on your hands’ waiting for Government intervention.
These are challenging times, made slightly worse by the relaxation of Covid restrictions causing a surge in demand. Import flows into GB are about to get a little more difficult and this could have a further impact on truck capacity availability.
Oakland International have recognized the challenges and are constantly re-inventing themselves. EORI, which is part of the Oakland group of companies, is one of the largest customs agents in the UK and continues to grow. The group have also embarked on D2C internet fulfillment services and have seen steady growth in this sector. At a time when GB domestic transport is in short supply, Oakland have faced the problem head-on and invested in their own fleet of HGV vehicles and extensive driver training and retention programmes. A new warehouse has been added to the estate (Bardon) and is already operating efficiently with positive signs of growth. The next project is a food park, which reduces the distance from production to supply chain, thereby freeing up the final mile driver fleet.
This is not a time for ‘more of the same’, one must adapt and innovate, something Oakland International have done since their inception.
Oakland International Ltd
t: 01527 596 222