The UK is sleepwalking into a disaster, according to RHA chief executive Richard Burnett, with no Brexit deal on the table and a maximum of 1,224 cross-border truck permits up for grabs.
The Haulage Permit and Trailer Registration Act, which gives government the power to put a permit scheme in place for hauliers wishing to carry goods across the French border after Brexit, received royal assent last week.
However there are only two recognised forms of permit for international haulage: a community licence, which is free of charge to holders of international O-licences, and European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) multilateral permit.
When the UK leaves the customs union, community licences will become obsolete, and the number of ECMT permits available is capped at quantities dependent on the emission standards of the trucks carrying them. If every truck granted an ECMT permit was the cleanest possible (Euro-6), just 1,224 would be available.
According to the RHA, this is less than 5% of the number of community licences in use.
Burnett told CM: “The EU is completely unwilling to even have a conversation about an alternative. That is catastrophic. This is a disaster scenario. At the moment we are facing no deal. We haven’t negotiated any terms of access into Europe, which means if we haven’t got permits, we can’t go. That means businesses out of business, it’s as simple as that.
“People have switched off Brexit but we are sleepwalking into a disaster. It’s up to us to find a solution for this. But what solution is there at the moment? There’s nothing.”
Burnett added that the potential queues for customs processes on either side of the channel remains a significant concern. “The Dover Strait handles 10,000 lorries a day and processing them through the port is seamless,” he said.
“The stark reality is that if customs controls are put in place it will take an average of 45 minutes to process each truck on either side of the channel. We could be looking at queues of days, if not weeks,” he said.