How Brexit Could Affect UK HGV Driving Regulations & The Impact So Far
At the turn of the year, the UK secured its political independence from the European Union. Since January (2021), haulage company managers have been putting in the hours necessary to cope with unprecedented levels of change. Below, we look at hauliers’ experiences so far and the likely future effects on Britain’s HGV driving regulations.
Now, as we approach late February, the UK is nearing two months officially outside the European Union. Following years of attempted negotiation, heated discussion and seemingly endless conjecture, businesses across the nation are now seeing the post-Brexit situation for real.
Of course, it is still relatively early to be sure of precisely what will happen, whether to individual hauliers or the logistics sector in general. Nonetheless, it looks as though transport companies will continue to face considerable challenges and upheaval for some time to come.
HGV driver certificates
Against a fast-moving backdrop, haulage companies have been working to balance business needs with driver recruitment, office staffing and LGV/HGV driver training. Understandably, the lack of certainty surrounding HGV training courses and driver certification is a worry. It seems unlikely, though, that there will be much change to the Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) system – in the short term, at least.
To comply with the rules, drivers must hold a valid CPC to drive goods vehicles to, from and within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. While many UK drivers believe that keeping their CPC test up to date will mean they have more work options available, others might work only on British roads. Nonetheless, UK-only drivers still need a CPC.
Logically, if Britain is to maintain previous levels of trading with countries in mainland Europe, our transport regulations and national safety standards ought to be similar. Otherwise, difficulties might arise in terms of European approval of loads and itineraries. Industry experts consider that a British HGV driver certificate will match European requirements quite closely, should any change take place. If latitude is possible, perhaps a future system might see less stringent ongoing medical checks in response to long-term lobbying by the industry.
In the meantime, as detailed in the gov.uk website, British drivers have to complete thirty-five hours of LGV HGV training every five years to retain their CPC. Driving without adequate goods vehicle training and a valid certificate could result in a fine of up to £1,000. Processes differ in Northern Ireland; drivers have to complete the training in the country where they usually live or work.
Effects on UK haulage operators
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic somewhat complicated the immediate post-Brexit period. Great Britain became a politically independent island, but lengthy discussions continued until the last minute regarding how goods would flow between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Of course, the latter retained its access to the single market and the Euro as its currency.
On cold winter days, now that Britain was free of what some had previously seen as restrictions of the EU, lorries formed lengthy queues. Drivers awaited Coronavirus tests, sometimes having to repeat them due to certificate time limits or other inconsistencies. As feelings of bemusement and confusion prevailed, traffic through channel ports including Dover and Calais dropped to around 15 per cent of the previous year’s levels.
However, a proportion of the above delays might have arisen after the introduction of the new customs procedures at the English-French border. Nevertheless, hauliers across England, Scotland and Wales bemoaned their experiences of extra bureaucracy and customer frustration as journey times lengthened for goods moving across or under the channel. Predictably, for their part, a cross-section of businesses complained of knock-on stock shortages of materials.
Withdrawal of routes
In January, a news story published by the BBC reported the dismay of one transport company boss. It had taken one of his staff twenty-two hours to deliver from Crowley to Paris, whereas the journey used to take just a fraction of that time — around six hours.
Significantly, various hauliers countrywide have seen little option other than to withdraw their international services. Overwhelmed by the unexpectedly high volume of extra administration, several hard-hit companies have announced a temporary or possible permanent suspension of European activity.
Possible future trends
Paul Mummery, a spokesman for the Road Haulage Association, described the above events as the tip of the iceberg. As he saw the situation, exports were currently at a low point in the year and transport routes quieter than usual because numerous UK companies had stockpiled to prevent problems.
As cross-channel freight traffic volume returns to normal and even rises, events could reveal the extent of the problem more thoroughly. Mr Mummery called for the government to cut red tape, streamline procedures and mitigate future issues as they became apparent.
Additionally, new charges, costs and duties are likely to affect the prices and availability of products imported by Britain from the EU, along with British products exported to Europe. Strain could increase as haulage companies scramble to get the right administrative processes in place.
Looking forward, the best advice for hauliers is to endeavour to stay as patient as possible as the situation develops towards a new norm – even if the transition is lengthy. In the meantime, thorough preparation of correct and complete shipping documentation will be essential.