Concerns remain over the poor state of post-Brexit preparedness, says CILT

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has responded to The Transport Select Committee's inquiry into the effects of Brexit on UK freight operations.

The Institute's response has been led through its Freight and Logistics Policy Group, with a detailed submission that will contribute to parliamentary understanding of the fundamental role freight and logistics will play in supporting the UK economy in a post-Brexit world.

The submission highlighted the work of CILT on Brexit, supported by a series of roundtable discussions with officials from the Department for Transport, HMRC and DExEU. CILT has stressed to government the need to promote the preparatory steps operators, their customers and the Government should take ahead of the UK's exit from the European Union. This work with government has made it clear that the impact of Brexit on freight is dependent on the detailed conditions relating to border management processes and employment.

CILT has stressed to the committee that its terms of reference, which specifically exclude border or customs arrangements, were limiting. The Institute divided its comments between post-Brexit international supply chains and domestic operators, and presented evidence that nearly 40% (400 million tonnes) of the goods moved within the UK are either imported or exported. If these import and export chains are disrupted then shippers will look for alternative routings and sources based on economic or service conditions.

Under the worst scenario of a hard Brexit, CILT observed that there would be:

  • An increase in unaccompanied trailer movements between the UK and Europe
  • An increase in deep sea port activity
  • Increases in stock and warehouse requirements
  • A reduction in foreign vehicles operating in the UK
  • CILT's Freight and Logistics Policy Group believes that all of these changes require capacity that may not exist in the market today, and will constrain highly agile operators from responding economically; in turn, threatening consumer and industrial prices.

The Institute understands that 60% of tonnes that move solely within the UK will not be as challenged in a post-Brexit world. That activity is represented by more than 400,000 HGVs and another one million vans. However, the biggest threat to these movements is the availability of staff for the vehicles, the warehouses and distribution centres. A consequence of the pressure put on the workforce will be the need to invest in automation. CILT is clear that the Government should promote and incentivise such investment.

Finally, the Institute underlines the need for the UK to remain strongly aligned with EU regulations on vehicle and equipment standards to facilitate inter-operability. But this should not be a slavish adherence where alternative regulation could encourage innovation and productivity within the UK.

Daniel Parker-Klein, Head of Policy, CILT, says: "Preparing for Brexit is key to the success of the UK's freight sector. We have worked extensively to engage with Government officials to understand the threats and opportunities that will arise after Brexit. The Institute is clear that companies and government must plan and rehearse for a variety of scenarios in order not to risk economic damage during transition."

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