shutterstock_445107211 (1)

A leaked government document warns that lack of haulier preparations for Brexit could create major delays on routes to the UK’s channel ports with HGV drivers waiting two days to reach the front of queues of up to 7,000 trucks – whether there is a trade deal with the EU or not.

However, the RHA hit back this week, laying the blame for any post-Brexit border delays at the feet of the government.

A “reasonable worst-case scenario” report, drawn up by the Border and Protocol Delivery Group, is forecasting that, with an estimated 30-60% of lorries carrying freight not ready for the transition, Kent routes to the Channel ports will face gridlock.

The document, which was leaked to the Guardian this week, states: “At 30% levels it is estimated that a maximum of 6,500 HGVs may develop in January.

“Considering demand levels in the first week of February it is estimated that if readiness is not improved by then queues could reach a length of 7,000 HGVs.

“In each case it is estimated the HGVs could take two days to reach the front of the queue.”

The report also notes that the inbound flow of traffic “will be constrained to a similar degree”.

The document also raises concerns that the Smart Freight system will not be publicly beta-tested until late November, giving hauliers little time to train their drivers in using it.

The leaked report was presented last week to a meeting of the XO (exit operations) committee, chaired by Michael Gove, which oversees the progress of border control preparations, the management of goods vehicles and the Smart Freight software system.

Read more

The document calls for advice centres to be rolled out across the country, equipped with printers to help hauliers who do not have the right documentation prepare for their onward journey to ports in Kent, Portsmouth, Holyhead and Felixstowe.

It identifies 39 sites at truck stop and service stations on all main motorways including the M6, M40, M1 and M20.

The report also reveals ongoing work at the DfT to provide the advice centres “is currently unfunded” with an £18.5m bid for funding still in development.

The document also notes that government plans for 29 lorry parks across the country - which will act as border check points to ensure HGV drivers have the correct paperwork before setting out for Kent – are still at the planning stage with the location of most sites yet to be revealed.

Rod McKenzie, RHA MD of policy, hit back at the suggestion that unprepared haulage firms are at the heart of potential border delays.

He said: “It is clearly not the fault of logistics operators when the government has failed to make clear what they have to do. Government communications have not been clear or complete.

“In addition 50,000 agents are needed to process the 200 million customs forms Brexit will generate each year. There are currently 5,000 of these agents despite the fact that we have been warning the government for months. Yet they have done nothing to recruit these agents, so how on earth are those forms going to be processed by January?”

Turning to the Smart Freight beta test, scheduled for November, McKenzie added: “It beggars belief that it is only being tested at this stage. A system of this size needs at least 18 months of testing, as any IT expert will tell you.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the document had presented a “stretching scenario” rather than a forecast or prediction, adding: “It reflects a responsible government ensuring we are ready for all eventualities.”