Study finds Brexit causing 1 in 3 UK hauliers to ‘avoid’ food & drinks industry

HGV truck

According to a new study of haulage industry leaders, almost a third (31%) of haulage companies say they are having to avoid working with the food & drinks industry, due to increased checks and admin on certain products. In light of challenges, over half of UK hauliers (56%) say they are considering moving operations to the EU.

These findings come from the 2021 Post-Brexit Hauliers Survey, conducted by return loads platform Haulage Exchange, which received feedback from business leaders at 16 of the UK’s top haulage companies operating in the UK and Europe.

The study found that these issues are particularly difficult to navigate for the food and drinks industry, whilst other impacted sectors include livestock farming (25%), agricultural farming (25%), gardening supplies (19%) and retail (13%).

The situation is being exacerbated by huge spikes in UK demand for haulage, at a time when there’s a skilled driver deficit of up to 100,000 drivers due to Brexit, Covid-19 and other factors.

To tackle these issues, the government are ramping up support measures – this week they announced a campaign to recruit additional vocation driving instructors. They have also promised new training schemes, improved working conditions and relaxing testing rules for lorry and van drivers. However, these pledges have been met with concerns from industry leaders, who believe it will be months before they take effect.

The study reveals the increased challenges for haulage companies in the UK. Six months on from the Brexit transition, 94% of UK haulage companies state they have been negatively impacted, and are seeing greater Brexit aftershocks than they anticipated.

The number of UK haulage companies that have lost business because of Brexit regulation changes has risen to 69%. In December 2020, prior to the Brexit deadline, this stood at 21%.

How is this impacting SMEs across the UK?

According to the Food & Drink Federation, 97% of food and drinks businesses are SMEs and Brexit changes are disproportionately impacting SMEs in the UK, some of whom rely upon haulage for day-to-day operations.

The study found that haulage companies and SMEs are doing much less business together since the Brexit transition on 1 January 2021: 63% of hauliers do less export business (UK to EU) with SME companies, and 56% of hauliers do less import business (EU to UK) with SME companies.

This is twice the impact felt by multinationals (with more than 1,000+ employees): 38% of hauliers do less business exporting from the UK and 25% less business importing into the UK.

What has had the greatest impact on UK hauliers?

Inevitably, hauliers are experiencing longer waits at the border since Brexit: 81% say they have been affected. To counteract this, some firms are exploring alternative routes into the EU, with these longer journeys impacting half of all hauliers surveyed. There is also more admin to complete before crossing the border, with 69% of companies experiencing this issue.

Some 56% of hauliers say business has been affected by fewer exports going to the EU, while half say their operations have been impacted by fewer imports coming in.

With full border checks due to come into force on 1 January 2022, nearly 7 in 10 UK haulage companies believe they will be negatively impacted.

Lyall Cresswell, Founder and CEO at Haulage Exchange, says: “We know more changes are coming, but this is an industry used to adapting and it has proved extraordinarily successful in dealing with the unexpected. It’s encouraging that demand for haulage is stronger than ever, and how well companies have adapted to big changes shows the resilience of our industry.

“Companies can use that demand to overcome the challenges ahead and I’m positive about the future of the industry. The issues identified in our survey need to be addressed quickly and decisively. If that happens, I’m confident that the industry will continue to thrive.

“It’s clear that haulage companies will have to continue to be flexible, especially with further Brexit changes around the corner, but this is where platforms like ours can help. Our network helps companies to avoid dead mileage or fleets sitting idle. Instead, they can take advantage of the surging demand.”

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