The two major road haulage organisations, the RHA and the FTA, have both been looking ahead to the post-Brexit era of the UK’s logistics sector, in anticipation of prime minister Theresa May triggering Article 50 to formally begin the country’s two-year negotiation period to depart from the EU.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, pointed out that current customs rules mean that “it’s as easy to deliver from Milan to Manchester as it is from Manchester to Leeds”.
His organisation is calling for the Brexit negotiations to protect the security of the UK food supply, and referred to the recent lettuce shortage as “the tip of a dangerous iceberg on the horizon”, although this was caused by poor weather and crop failures, and not by border controls.
Some 30% of UK food comes from the continent, and while the RHA is not suggesting that supplies will be cut off completely, they are warning that delays could instead mean perishable food does not get into the UK as fast.
Of course, the UK’s own road haulage network will not be directly affected by any outcome of the negotiations, allowing haulage firms to make sure essential supplies continue to reach all parts of the country, whether that means Manchester, Leeds or the further reaches of Great Britain.
Meanwhile the Freight Transport Association has taken the opportunity to call on the government to cut fuel duty by 3p per litre in order to relieve the tax burden on road haulage firms post-Brexit.
James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the FTA, said that doing so would help to support the domestic UK haulage industry, which has a direct value of more than £1 trillion each year.
UK haulage firms are responsible for as estimated overall £121 billion of gross value added to the nation’s economy each year – and by cutting fuel duty by 3p per litre, Mr Hookham argues that this would encourage an increase in trade opportunities.
While it is impossible to predict how the negotiations will conclude, especially before Article 50 has yet been triggered, it is clear that the industry’s largest representative bodies are taking the chance to focus on not just the risks, but also on the potential positives in the form of reduced taxation and new trade deals.