Post-Brexit study reveals border delays, increased admin and driver shortages as major challenges

As haulage demand surges by up to 120% in 2021 and hauliers are pushed to breaking point, a perfect storm of red tape, driver shortages and other Brexit issues threaten retail, food, farming and gardening industries.

According to a new study of haulage industry leaders, haulage companies are facing problems when working with a range of sectors post-Brexit, raising concerns that consumers will feel the cost of ongoing supply chain issues. In light of challenges, over half of UK hauliers (56%) are considering moving operations to the EU.

Almost a third (31%) say they are having to avoid working with the food & drinks industry, due to increased checks and admin on certain products. Other sectors impacted include livestock farming (25%), agricultural farming (25%), gardening supplies (19%) and retail (13%). 

The situation is being exacerbated by huge spikes in UK demand for haulage, at a time when there’s a skilled driver deficit of up to 100,000 drivers due to Brexit, Covid-19 and other factors. In the three months from March to May 2021, the uplift in demand for haulage was more than twice what it was for the same period in 2019. In April 2021 alone, demand was 120% stronger than in April 2019. 

The 2021 Post-Brexit Hauliers Survey – conducted by specialist return loads platform Haulage Exchange – received feedback from business leaders at 16 of the UK’s top haulage companies operating in the UK and Europe. They provide insight on how Brexit has affected their business, the wider impacts on employees and business plans, and what the future holds for the industry.

Full survey findings available here:

The study reveals the increased challenges for haulage companies in the UK. Six months on from the Brexit transition, 94% of UK haulage companies state they have been negatively impacted, and are seeing greater Brexit aftershocks than they anticipated.

The number of UK haulage companies that have lost business because of Brexit regulation changes has risen to 69%. In December 2020, prior to the Brexit deadline, this stood at 21%.

How is this impacting SMEs across the UK? 

Brexit changes are disproportionately impacting SMEs in the UK, some of whom rely upon haulage for day-to-day operations. The study found that haulage companies and SMEs are doing much less business together since the Brexit transition on 1 January 2021.

  • 63% of hauliers do less export business (UK to EU) with SME companies
  • 56% of hauliers do less import business (EU to UK) with SME companies

This is twice the impact felt by multinationals (with more than 1,000+ employees): 38% of hauliers do less business exporting from the UK and 25% less business importing into the UK.

What has had the greatest impact on UK hauliers?

Inevitably, hauliers are experiencing longer waits at the border since Brexit: 81% say they have been affected. To counteract this, some firms are exploring alternative routes into the EU, with these longer journeys impacting half of all hauliers surveyed. There is also more admin to complete before crossing the border, with 69% of companies experiencing this issue.

Some 56% of hauliers say business has been affected by fewer exports going to the EU, while half say their operations have been impacted by fewer imports coming in.

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With full border checks due to come into force on 1 January 2022, nearly 7 in 10 UK haulage companies believe they will be negatively impacted. 

Lyall Cresswell, Founder and CEO at Haulage Exchange, says:

“We know more changes are coming, but this is an industry used to adapting and it has proved extraordinarily successful in dealing with the unexpected. It’s encouraging that demand for haulage is stronger than ever, and how well companies have adapted to big changes shows the resilience of our industry.

“Companies can use that demand to overcome the challenges ahead and I’m positive about the future of the industry. The issues identified in our survey need to be addressed quickly and decisively. If that happens, I’m confident that the industry will continue to thrive.

“It’s clear that haulage companies will have to continue to be flexible, especially with further Brexit changes around the corner, but this is where platforms like ours can help. Our network helps companies to avoid dead mileage or fleets sitting idle. Instead, they can take advantage of the surging demand.”

Darran Major, Plant Buyer for a large independent garden centre in Hertfordshire, says:

“The whole supply chain in our industry, from grower to hauliers, have clearly worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition into this new era of dealing with the EU. This new way of working is still very fresh and I’m sure that in time we’ll get back to where we were pre-Brexit.

“Pre-Brexit, plant imports from the EU were very straightforward as we all seemed to ‘sing from the same song sheet’. Since leaving, we now must ensure all paperwork, documentation and inspections are adhered to in accordance with HMRC and Defra guidelines through the PEACH (Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates from the Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate) system, soon to be replaced with IPAFFS (import of products, animals, food and feed) system. Plant passports and phytosanitary certificates need to be issued for every plant. This has obviously had huge implications on costs and turn-around times of orders.

“The only ‘issue’ really is the additional paperwork. This is now unavoidable and although it may help towards ensuring only healthy and sustainable plants are entering the UK, it is an additional cost implication, which will ultimately be handed down to the end user.”

By Alison