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'Time for Change' says FPC Chief, as Dutch Hauliers Slam Post-Brexit Border Chaos, Demand Immediate Action

Lorry drivers may start rejecting jobs transporting goods from continental Europe to the UK unless delays are reduced and driver conditions improved at post-Brexit border posts, the biggest trade body for Dutch hauliers has warned.

Transport en Logistiek Nederland (TLN), which represents 5,000 Dutch transport companies, said its members were facing average waits of more than four hours in Britain due to the new checks introduced after the UK’s exit from the EU, with some being held at border posts for up to 20 hours.

It described the facilities that drivers were forced to wait in as “leaving a lot to be desired” and said most border facilities only offered water, with nowhere for drivers to get food or drink.

Sadly this isn’t a surprise but totally predictable and avoidable. Too little too late.

In a four-page report outlining drivers’ experiences and shared with the Guardian, the association said: “We are increasingly receiving reports from hauliers that their drivers no longer want to drive to the UK unless conditions improve.”

The report listed a series of problems Dutch lorry companies and drivers had experienced since the government introduced border checks for plant and animal products on 30 April.

The checks, which have been put in place to prevent diseases from entering the UK, take place at designated border control posts near ports such as Killingholme, Harwich, and Felixstowe. The largest is an inland, government-run facility at Sevington, Ashford, which serves the Port of Dover despite being 22 miles away.

TLN has raised concerns about the delays and poor conditions facing drivers at these posts and called for the UK government and port authorities to provide “good and decent facilities for drivers.”

Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), stated, “Our members have built modern driver-friendly border inspection solutions.

"It’s crazy! Post-Brexit we were encouraged to invest in commercial control points with no Government funding. (Control points are an alternative to Sevington) Yet days before the go-live in April, the government, without discussion, withdrew official inspectors after 7 pm at these facilities.

"Simply ridiculous," continued Jenney, "when most of our deliveries arrive throughout the evening/night.”

Elmer de Bruin, the international affairs manager at TLN, said: “Sometimes these drivers are being held in a waiting room that is only a few square metres, and there is nothing there, only a bit of water, and not even a cup of coffee.

“The drivers, who usually love coming to the UK, may say that if we continue to experience these waiting times, treatment, and the facilities [in the UK], it might occur that these drivers think, ‘With a huge driver shortage, I can start at a new company.’”

Earlier this week, the Guardian reported that one Italian lorry driver had been held at the Sevington border post for 55 hours and instructed to walk to the nearest McDonald’s, more than a mile away, to get a meal.

The TLN report also highlighted several other problems with border processes, including reports from Dutch hauliers that thousands of pounds worth of plant imports had been damaged due to careless handling by port staff when loading and unloading goods.

In one instance, a TLN member said €40,000 (£34,000) of plant products were rejected by a UK customer because of the damage incurred during loading and unloading at a post.

The Netherlands was the UK’s third-largest trading partner by imports last year, with more than £65bn of goods being transported. One of the biggest categories of products moved from the Netherlands to the UK is plants and cut flowers, with imports for these products reaching €2.1bn for the first three months of 2024.

TLN called for better training for inspectors and border staff who load, and for drivers to be allowed to assist and instruct port staff on how best to unload and load the lorries.

The report also called for more transparency from private border control post operators about when checks were carried out. It claimed that companies often receive bills of between £300 and £800 for checks at privately run border posts but have no information on what checks took place.

Jenney further criticised the current system, saying, “Official Common user charge fees equate to almost £5k per inspection at Sevington whilst providing a shocking welfare and service to industry. Control points only charge for actual inspections (around £100) so they are considerably more efficient and driver friendly.”

Nigel Jenney spoke about the crisis in a recent GB News interview

Jenney added, “Sadly this isn’t a surprise but totally predictable and avoidable. Too little too late, but perhaps the government may eventually reconsider as food prices rise and shelves empty. It’s time for change!”

De Bruin said: “What we hear is that members say if this goes on like that, you cannot deny that the prices will go up in the UK, because we suffer so much damage and so much loss, as well as the waiting times, someone has to bear the costs.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it had been working closely with traders to ensure checks were completed efficiently and effectively to avoid delays and that inspectors were trained and equipped to ensure goods were handled with care and to standard operating procedures.

It added that its standard practice was to provide water and toilets but no food, and its role was to undertake checks and to move drivers through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A spokesperson for the British Ports Association said: “Most border control posts are required to be built and operated by ports, but the checks are carried out by government agencies.

“We share some of the frustrations from hauliers and traders at new processes and the way they have been implemented by the government. The government must ensure border agencies have the resources they need to meet their targets for getting border checks done quickly.”


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