Since the 2016 EU referendum, many haulage professionals have raised concerns about the impact of Brexit on the industry; this isn’t surprising given their often heavy dependence on cross-border transport. However, a new piece of legislation – the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act – may go some way to allaying such fears in the transport industry.
The Act, which received Royal Assent on 19 July, is intended to ensure that the UK government will have the powers it needs to support British hauliers and ensure that they can continue operating internationally after Britain exits the EU in 2019.
The rationale for the act is that, depending on the exact deal struck between the UK and the EU on Brexit, future cross-border haulage could require some form of permitting system to be used. The Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act provides the government with the flexibility to put the legal frameworks in place to implement the new administrative structure.
There are two main aspects to the act. The first is the establishment of a framework for the regulation of existing permit arrangements with countries outside the EU, which could be used to manage permit arrangements with the EU post-Brexit. The second is the implementation of a trailer registration scheme that will allow UK trailers to meet the vehicle registrations standards of the 1968 Vienna Convention, which will ensure UK haulage operators driving in EU nations can comply with those countries’ registration requirements.
Other moves intended to allow haulage to move smoothly across borders post-Brexit include work by the DVLA on establishing a trailer registration scheme, while the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency is working towards the creation of a permit administration scheme. Both schemes are expected to be open for applications before the end of 2018, paving the way for the UK withdrawal from the EU on 29 March 2019.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We believe reaching an agreement to continue the liberal access enjoyed by both sides is in everyone’s interests and remain confident we will do so. But I also understand that hauliers are planning for the years ahead and want to have certainty that any future deal can be implemented smoothly – so this Bill ensures we have plans in place if the deal requires a permitting system.”
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said: “The views of the RHA and the road haulage sector as a whole have been consistently clear. We want to see a system where licensed UK and EU operators can undertake international road haulage to, from, and through the UK and EU without any additional burden or cost.
“The Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill is an enabling Bill to instigate a contingency to cover a negotiated settlement involving permits, or the worst-case scenario – that we get no deal. In this case, we need to see clear Government commitment that it will seek an agreement that does not impose new permits, quotas or limits on UK international operators.”
James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the Freight Transport Association (FTA) welcomed the passing of the bill as a sensible contingency measure, but expressed that it is one that freight operators hope “never has to be used”. He said: “Any decision which will enable the frictionless movement of trade to continue between the UK and EU is to be welcomed, and the UK’s logistics industry needs reassurance that ‘business as normal’ can continue throughout the negotiations and transition period.”