COVID, Brexit and the Economic impact on Road Transport

November 20, 2020

A poll taken at an Ashtons Legal Road Transport event earlier this week showed the impact that COVID, Brexit and the state of the UK’s economy was having on the Road Transport sector in our region.

Of the 90 businesses in attendance, 82 per cent of respondents confirmed that COVID had directly impacted their economic performance this year in a negative way and over half the attendees felt confident that their business would perform better in 2021 than in 2020. However, everyone agreed with the statement that “COVID, Brexit and other factors will make 2021 a very challenging year for the transport sector” starting already with the issues around stockpiling of PPE at Felixstowe Port which has made national news.

The ability for supply chains to function well, and provide continuity through the COVID Pandemic, has been critical. Goods and passenger businesses have provided essential services for the country as a key industry with thousands of key workers. However, the sector faces problems planning around the COVID uncertainties and as yet, unresolved, solutions when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

Departure from a Single Market and the Customs Union mean that for operators and drivers to comply with the law they will have significantly greater administrative burdens relating to import and export customs procedures, not to mention licensing and documentation issues. Furthermore, as yet no agreement has been reached for UK operators to travel beyond the country and into the EU; only this last week HMG Guidance published that possession of an international operator’s licence (the new ‘UK Licence for the Community’) “will not necessarily guarantee the right for UK hauliers to do business to, from and within the EU.”

On a more local note, there has been significant publicity with regard to Felixstowe Port, whose owners cite the pandemic and pre-Brexit, for stockpiling. Thousands of PPE containers ordered by the Government are said to be taking up port capacity with hauliers being very unhappy at the inability to get time slots to pick up containers.

The Ashtons Legal webinar, hosted by the firm’s Road Transport & Regulatory Team, updated business and transport consultants on road transport operations and safety and were joined by guest speakers from the Driver & Vehicle Services Agency (DVSA). Presentations were on reasons for DVSA investigations and visits; common compliance failings; how COVID has affected enforcement; drivers’ hours infringements; what effective management systems must include and new rules for old tyres.