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Deal or No-deal Brexit: Bidding for International Haulage Permits

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Anyone in the UK with a pulse is probably heartily sick of the B-word, but for the haulage companies whose profits rely on the passage of trade in and out of Europe, it’s vitally important to keep a vigilant eye on how their businesses may have to adapt to survive in a post-Brexit Britain.

One of the biggest fears is that Britain will leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement getting the support of the House of Commons - aka a ‘no-deal Brexit’ – and many of the EU member states are preparing for this exact outcome. UK haulage companies are under pressure, with bidding already commenced for a share of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permits, which allow drivers to operate in Europe.
The Race to Europe
With under a thousand ECMT permits available and some 38,000 registered trucks regularly moving between the UK and Europe, it doesn’t take a maths genius to work out that around 95% of trucks will not be successful. For haulage companies who run large fleets of vehicles, the fact that a permit is on a per-truck basis is concerning.
In the event of a no-deal, hauliers will unequivocally not be permitted to travel in Europe without the permit.
The Process
The ECMT allocates annual and monthly permits according to an annual quota, which for 2019 is as follows:
• 984 annual, Euro 6 trucks
• 2592 monthly, Euro 6 trucks
• 240 monthly, Euro 5 trucks
The bidding for annual permits began in November 2018, while the bidding for the monthly ones will begin in early 2019.

The ECMT makes judgement based on a number of factors, including the emissions capacity of a vehicle, regularity and volume of travel, the sector of operation and whether the applicant has done international business regularly in the past.

In addition, some will be issued arbitrarily in order to ensure a range of different sized businesses is represented.

The RHA Weighs In

The Road Hauliers Association has weighed into the situation with dire warnings that the demand will quite clearly and drastically exceed supply. As well as this, some sectors of the industry say that the system is unfair, because of the possibility of operators overstating their number of trips into Europe and gaining a permit under misrepresentation. This also opens up sub-contractors to the threat of losing work if haulage companies revert to using only their own drivers in order to boost the number of trips they claim.

The MD of Policy for the RHA claims that the UK transport industry doesn’t have faith in the government being able to manage the allocation of available permits correctly and with a sound understanding of the way the industry works. He likened the system to a ‘lorry lottery’ and pointed out that, as most people will be on the end of a losing ticket, it will not be a ‘happy situation’ should a no-deal Brexit come about.

Deal or No-Deal?

However things pan out over the next few months, it’s safe to say that a significant number of UK haulage companies will need to make changes to the way they do business in Europe. For the vast number of managers and workers that the situation in Britain will affect, both directly and indirectly, all we can do is wait and see.
About author: Desiree Michels

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage companies or self-employed drivers with jobs in road transport and haulage work. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.

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