Essex road haulage, and in fact a lot of the economy of Essex in general, has been historically based around The Confederation of Cinque Ports– a collection of coastal towns in Essex, Kent, Sussex which were brought together to support military and trade activities in England back in the 1060’s. It’s hard to understand how that could still be influencing road haulage today, but it really does.
Essex has a high preponderance of Bonded warehouses (also known as customs warehouses) which has a big effect on the road haulage in the area. A Bonded warehouse allows imported goods intended for export to remain in the UK without legally entering the UK market so import duty and VAT are not applicable – essentially it’s a duty free zone. This means that much road haulage in the area is involved in moving dutiable goods to and from bonded warehouses and ports such as Tilbury. It also means that there are many specialists in ‘port-centred logistics’ which, in turn, whilst creating value for the local economy, also places strain on the road and rail systems and leads to high demands for drivers who can handle bonded goods.
Felixstowe, Harwich and Tilbury – parking
It’s rare for a member of parliament to become involved in parking issues, but Central Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter has had to step into a problem that has led to Felixstowe Port (Suffolk) developing such problems with parking that hauliers have been diverting to Harwich and Tilbury to avoid the risk. The Road Haulage Association has been involved in the consultation, along with over thirty hauliers from as far away as Aberdeen and Grimsby to try and resolve issues between Trinity Parking who manage parking on the Trinity Estate around the port and the hauliers. While Trinity Parking say they have been focusing on ensuring free flow of traffic, hauliers say they are being penalised for using port facilities. It’s claimed that more than £3 million trespass notices have been handed out by Trinity Parking to road haulage companies in Suffolk and Essex ports. The complains from hauliers also have the support of the Freight Transport Association.
One major impact of the Felixstowe and Tilbury parking problem has been a knock-on effect on Harwich which has received up to a third more road haulage traffic in the past eight months as a result. Warehousing has also been impacted, with an increased demand for warehousing in Harwich and a similar level of decline in the Felixstowe area.
Brexit impacts road haulage
In line with the large amount of bonded warehouse space in Essex and Suffolk road hauliers in the region have always been specialised in moving bonded goods to and from the mainland of Europe. The new guidance issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) has been a blow to their hopes of an orderly transition after Brexit.
Currently, there is an unlimited number of hauliers who can travel to and from the continent, under the European single market. If a deal is not struck, each haulier will need to apply for a transit permit from the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) and it had been hoped that rather than a no deal position, a transition deal would be operable and that there would be a quota of permits available. The DfT paper has now revealed the number of permits that would be available for the entire UK haulage sector: 984 annual permits and 2,832monthly ones. The Road Haulage Association estimates that there are 38,000 hauliers who travel regularly to the continent. Given that 11,392 applications were made for those annual permits, there is fury amongst how whose business is based in travelling to Europe. The DfT says it is confident that UK hauliers will not be required to have documents to operate in the EU in the case of a no deal and also points out that the European Commission had tabled a proposal to allow UK firms to continue carrying goods into the EU for nine months from the date of a no-deal Brexit. Finally, it also suggested that existing bilateral agreements with each individual EU state would be restored to force if there was no arrangement for the European bloc as a whole.
Essex hauliers are now concerned that the criteria which will be applied to decide who receives a permit will put most specialist hauliers out of business. Their biggest fear is that the monthly permits will be issued on a geographical basis, meaning that counties with little or no haulage relationship with mainland Europe will get the same quota as counties with international shipping ports. It’s not clear if the permits will be tradable, or whether partnership use of permits – where hauliers team up to use allocated permits – will be permitted.
New Essex haulier services
The new haulier park in Stanford le Hope is an example of how local services are being prepared to handle the expected fallout from Brexit. The five acre site has park up spaces for 169 trucks and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The roll in, roll out system has a number plate scanning system which gives contract customers designated bays whilst ‘one off’ visitors can pay using cash and card pay stations. Toilets, showers and a cafe are also available. The site is expected to be highly popular because hauliers may find themselves ‘stacking’ while waiting for port facility access or – in a worst case scenario – require hauliers to leave their loads portside so that it can be picked up and taken across the channel by a permit-possessing haulier.