Problems began when France, among many other countries, closed its border to UK arrivals on 20 December in response to the detection of the new COVID-19 variant. The move saw over 4,000 lorries stranded in Kent in the run-up to Christmas, with a huge backlog taking days to clear once the border reopened on 23 December to drivers testing negative for the virus.
Logistics UK (formerly the Freight Transport Association) says many drivers were left without basic hygiene and food provision facilities. It has written to transport minister Lord Agnew pointing out what it sees as shortcomings in the Government's plans in the event of border disruption.
“That drivers should have to spend two days at the side of the road, without adequate toilet facilities or the immediate provision of hot food, was a national embarrassment, and the need to rely on the generosity of the charities, businesses and local residents and the support of the armed forces must not be repeated,” said Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at Logistics UK.
“In the first few months of the year, the UK relies on fresh food supplies from across the Channel to keep our supermarkets stocked. But this lack of concern for driver welfare could impact on the willingness of EU hauliers to send their drivers to this country, and we want to protect the integrity of the supply chain.”
De Jong also emphasised the need for a revised approach following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.
She said: “With new customs procedures in place from 1 January 2021, it is vital that all the systems needed to support hauliers as they move across our borders are in place and in full working order.
“The industry will need regular, nationwide real-time information feeds from the government on the status of all ports, combined with early insight on where traffic is building, as this will highlight where problems are likely to occur and help delays to be mitigated.”