SPEEDY FREIGHT calls for government to improve border control facilities for drivers.
- Driver wellbeing at risk with no access to food and inadequate facilities at the border
- Each days’ delay can cost between £200-£1,000 per vehicle
- Brexit expert urges Government to act now or face long term impacts
Speedy Freight, who provide transport solutions for urgent or sensitive freight is urging greater action to deal with the issues currently being faced at UK borders. The national courier network is concerned particularly about driver welfare as the post Brexit rules cause delays at several ports. It says rapid changes are needed to ensure poor conditions for drivers are rectified in a timely fashion.
Feedback from Speedy Freight drivers just two weeks after the withdrawal period ended is that inland border control facilities are not adequate for either the number of drivers delayed, or the length of time drivers are forced to wait. One driver reported at Ebbsfleet that there were no food facilities at all, just water on request, outdoor porter-loos, hand washing facilities only and only a single port-a-cabin to process paperwork, forcing drivers to wait for hours at a time. This is after 48 hours held up in Sevington where the customs agents couldn’t resolve a system issue, as result of software issues and agents not being fully trained. This same issue occurred at Ebbsfleet, despite Speedy Freight drivers turning up with all the correct paperwork, having followed the procedures set out by the government. Customs marshals also asked HGV drivers to switch off their generators, meaning cold supplies were at risk of spoiling during the wait, and drivers were left to sit, and sleep, in sub-zero conditions. In some areas, drivers forced to wait more than 2 hours were liable to pay a parking charge, and those delayed overnight, were not able to stay on site – forcing them to find other areas to park and lose their place in the queue.
According to Shona Brown, Speedy Freight’s network service manager and head of the Brexit team, “while these delays are yet to impact the general public, that will change if driver welfare is not addressed”.
She said: “At the moment, the poor welfare standards for drivers is one of our biggest concerns. Aside from the obvious concern for our drivers, this has the potential to develop into a much bigger issue for supply chains up and down the country. If driver welfare continues to suffer, then more and more drivers will simply not agree to carry out jobs to and from Europe, leading to a massive resourcing issue. The quickest and easiest way to ensure that doesn’t happen is for the government to make changes to the facilities ASAP.”
Aside from driver welfare, Speedy Freight are also concerned about the persistent technical issues at the border. Just this week, Speedy Freight franchise owner Joe Cross was forced to personally carry out a 300-mile round trip to resolve an issue with an urgent shipment of COVID testing equipment, which was delayed on route to Austria. Joe had to travel from Swindon, initially to the Southampton Customs advice location, and then onto Ebbsfleet Inland Border Facility, where he spent five hours, working with the customs agent to resolve a customs system technical issue that had ended up causing a 48-hour delay. With no translation facilities, for many drivers, resolving issues is a challenging situation. In this instance, the Local Reference Number, which contains each driver’s trailer/registration number and destination, was not recognised by customs officials. According to Shona Brown, this particular issue is frustrating, as the local reference numbers are produced by the government’s own NCTS system (New Computerised Transit System). Speedy Freight’s paperwork provided by the driver was all correct and inline with the government process.
She said, “In this instance, we were lucky that Joe was on hand to personally resolve the issue, but this isn’t a practical solution in the long term. When we were in the transition period, we expected border delays, but we expected that the delays would be caused by drivers or customers not filling out the correct paperwork. When we, and our clients have submitted all the correct information and are still met with delays, it can get frustrating and costly, in terms of both time and money. Every day a vehicle is sat waiting at the border it can cost upwards of £200, and if we’ve got an articulated lorry stuck, it can cost up to £1,000 per day. That being said, Speedy Freight understand that we are all in the early stages of understanding these new regulations, and that there will be lessons to learn. As a company, we are constantly looking ahead to ensure we help our customers and driver network to navigate these new regulations, and we hope the issues faced will be resolved promptly.”
For more information, or to arrange an interview with Shona Brown to discuss these issues in more detail, please contact Taylor or Harry at Speedyfreight@wearebrazenpr.com