Hauliers will be faced with a major training challenge if the UK quits the customs union, CEVA Logistics' executive director Leigh Pomlett has warned MPs.

Speaking to the Treasury Select Committee on Brexit last week in his capacity as FTA president, Pomlett said the need for hauliers to make customs declarations would require a significant training programme across the industry.

He quoted HMRC estimates that around 185,000 companies will have to make customs declarations for the first time ever, post-Brexit, with customs declarations set to rise from 55 million to 255 million a year.

“Look at the sheer training need. Even for relatively small companies, that is a big issue in terms of training. That is beside whatever happens at the border controls and training the people there to be able to administer this traffic.

"I am talking about the people who work in the companies that I represent. This is a huge and growing issue,” Pomlett said.

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He added: “I just want to make it clear that this is not something we should overlook. I am old enough to remember when we did border controls before all this kicked off.

"What a painful life we had—and I had. I wouldn’t want to go back to that. The training needs then were huge. And we are talking about vast volumes now. The world has changed.”

He called for the government to ensure there is enough time for the industry to prepare. “You are talking one year, or certainly two years, to become an expert or knowledgeable in this field and we haven’t started yet.”

Asked if he considered that a frictionless border was still possible after Brexit, Pomlett told the committee: “I am preparing for there being hard borders, purely from a practitioner’s perspective - I hope they will be soft and fluffy, but they are probably going to be harder than I would like them to be - I hear and read nothing that convinces me yet that there will not be disruption at the border.”

Pomlett also questioned the government’s ability to put in place a workable border system before the March 2019 Brexit deadline.

Pointing out that between three million to four million trucks cross the channel each year, he added: “It is not unusual for a truck to carry 40 consignments. It is even more complicated if you go to the Irish border, which is far more porous and the level of consignment per truck is higher.

"My concern is the sheer practicality of making this work in 13 months. As we sit here today, we do not know what the solutions are.”

He warned MPs: “Queues are created from very little—you only have to drive up the M6 or the M5 to know that one little incident can cause a huge tailback.

"We can draw a parallel between that and what is potentially going to happen at the borders, if we do not find practical solutions.”