British haulier “shocked” as UK Government confirms cabotage changes

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British road transport company Broughton Transport Solutions Ltd has been shocked by the UK Government's decision to relax rules on cabotage, a move that was officially confirmed yesterday.

British haulier “shocked” as UK Government confirms cabotage changes
Photo credit: Volvo Trucks press office

The new rules, which were unveiled earlier this month, allow foreign road transport firms to conduct unlimited cabotage operations in Great Britain within a 14-day period.

The government says the temporary cabotage extension, which applies until the end of April, could result in “thousands more” HGV deliveries each month, thereby bolstering supply chains.

However, the change has prompted severe criticism from British hauliers as well as the Road Haulage Association.

Commenting on the new rules yesterday, the RHA said:

“Although it will help with the crisis in haulage availability, it will undermine the work being done to provide long-term solutions to deal with problems of lorry driver availability, pay and conditions and is in direct conflict with the Government’s aim in creating a high skilled, high wage economy post-Brexit.”

Rod McKenzie, RHA Managing Director for Policy and Public Affairs, added:

“It is shameful that the Government are offshoring UK haulage work to operators from outside the UK who will pay no income tax or national insurance and are unaccountable for safety standards and compliance”.

Another player in the industry who joined in with the chorus of criticism yesterday was Broughton Transport Solutions Ltd, run by Toby Ovens.

Writing on Facebook, the company reacted to the government’s decision as follows:

“Today the government’s decision to extend cabotage rights to foreign hauliers has shocked me. For weeks we have heard Boris Johnson talking about getting wages up, why then allow foreign vehicles with some drivers earning in a month what out drivers earn in 1-2 weeks come and take over our roads. Foreign vehicles don’t have to abide by the same road safety laws as us, the state of some of the vehicles on our roads is atrocious and completely unsafe, today our government has put road users lives at risk. I suggest this has been done following pressure from business leaders who are trying to keep their costs of transport down. These vehicles will run round the country with drivers not contributing national insurance, no road tolls, not paying fuel duty and not paying parking in services. They will not contribute anything to the UK economy.”

In the same post, Mr Ovens added “I will be contacting my local MP Michelle Donelan MP to let her know my thoughts on this topic. To say i am disappointed is an understatement.”

Despite the fact that both the RHA and Broughton Transport Solutions appear angered and concerned by the new cabotage rules, many figures in the logistics industry believe the changes will make little difference.

Just over a fortnight ago, Paul Uglow, Commercial Manager at Meachers Logistics, told told Trans.INFO that in his view, the unlimited cabotage plan “will have zero effect”.

Mr Uglow explained that most international operators do not do UK domestic work as well – especially since Brexit. As he sees it, EU hauliers will snub the opportunity to do cabotage in Britain as it does not make operational sense from their perspective:

“The really major point though is that the revenue the hauliers are getting from EU to UK is now so high it pays for the round trip, many hauliers don’t wish to get back loads to EU as it wastes time on them managing their base EU to UK volumes. With this in mind few international hauliers will want to lose time messing about with cheaper UK backloads as their fuel is already paid for and could make them miss already contracted loads.”

Kevin Buchanan, CEO of the Pall-Ex Group, has also expressed disappointment regarding the UK Government’s decision. He too thinks it will be largely ineffective, saying it will “only scratch the surface” of Britain’s domestic transport crisis.

We are disappointed with the proposed cabotage changes from the government, in what is yet another attempt to deflect from the real issues causing the ongoing crisis in the logistics sector,” Mr Buchanan told Trans.INFO.

The Pall-Ex Group CEO added:

The proposal will only scratch the surface of the increasingly concerning domestic transport crisis, as the majority of EU drivers will enter the UK and return to the continent immediately, without making domestic deliveries whilst in the country. I urge the Prime Minister and the Transport Secretary to revisit these plans to implement change that will actually benefit domestic distribution as we head towards the Christmas peak, rather than making what are token gestures.”

Commenting on Twitter following the shock cabotage announcement earlier this month, Shane Brennan, Chief Executive of the Cold Chain Federation, showed that he too doubts the UK Government’s plan will work:

Mr Brennan said:

“I doubt the Gov has any evidence that ‘cabotage’ restrictions is the reason we have less non-UK trucks adding capacity to the supply chain – I regret that it is probably this poorly conceived and argued piece or similar soundings taken by ministers that prompted this decision.”

The Cold Chain Federation Chief Executive then expressed the now-popular view that the cabotage relaxation plans will not make a substantial difference:

“Foreign hauliers have been less willing to come here this year for three reasons (1) covid – 8000 EU drivers spent Xmas week on a Kent airfield relying on food parcels (you don’t forget that) (2) collapse in UK to EU food trade and (3) better easier work available elsewhere. Cabotage restrictions would probably be about 10-12 on a list of factors making it hard to deliver the supply capacity we need – also please note that cabotage restrictions existed throughout our time in the single market and exist between EU member states today.”

Photo credit: Volvo Trucks press office

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