Speedy Freight, which provides transportation solutions for urgent or sensitive freight, is urging greater action from the UK government to deal with the issues currently being faced at the UK border with the EU.
The national courier network is particularly concerned 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 the company’s drivers just two weeks after the transition 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 that at Ebbsfleet in the county of Kent there were no food facilities at all, just water on request, with outdoor portable toilets, hand washing facilities only, and a single portable building to process paperwork, forcing drivers to wait for hours at a time.
The same driver was delayed for 48 hours in Sevington where the customs agents was unable to resolve a systems problem, a result of software faults 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.
According to Shona Brown, Speedy Freight’s network service manager and head of its Brexit team, “While these delays are yet to impact the general public, that will change if driver welfare is not addressed. 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 is also concerned about persistent technical issues at the border. Speedy Freight franchise owner Joe Cross had to carry out personally a 300-mile round trip to resolve an issue with an urgent shipment of Covid testing equipment, which had been delayed en route to Austria.
With no translation facilities, resolving issues is a challenging situation for many drivers. In this instance, the local reference number, which contains each driver’s trailer/registration number and destination, was not recognized by customs officials. This particular issue is frustrating, notes Brown, as the local reference numbers are produced by the government’s own NCTS (New Computerised Transit System).
Speedy Freight’s paperwork provided by the driver was all correct and in line with the government process. “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,” said Brown.