IRU calls on the French, UK and other governments to keep borders open for goods transport and for clarity regarding new COVID-19 measures.
France yesterday banned all trucks and drivers entering from the UK, initially for 48 hours. This puts up to 85% of all UK imports from the EU at risk, and literally cuts off the supply chain from the EU to Ireland.
Essential goods transport, especially for food and medicine, is at risk on both sides of the English Channel. EU drivers and haulage firms are uncertain about taking loads into the UK for fear of being not able to return. This is exacerbated by UK-bound trucks already having to wait for up to 24 hours on the French side of the border in recent days. Blocked trucks and closed borders will quickly snowball beyond the UK and France to affect other supply chains across Europe.
The new COVID-19 strain is serious and must be monitored. As in the early stages of the pandemic, clear and proportionate measures must be taken that target the virus, rather than drivers and trucks. Mandatory exclusions or quarantine periods for drivers do not effectively do this.
“Completely closing borders to truck movements anywhere in Europe is unprecedented in the current pandemic,” said IRU Secretary General Umberto do Pretto.
“Trucks have been moving across Europe throughout the entire pandemic. The EU Green Lanes initiative, supported by all EU members including France, made clear that continuity of logistics chains is crucial and must be protected.”
“The current French action makes no sense and will only make things worse in an already uncertain period due to the looming Brexit transition,” he added.
To avoid further confusion and disruption in goods transport across Europe, the French government must immediately exempt trucks, truck drivers and their loads from border crossing restrictions.
In the meantime, with trucks already waiting up to 24 hours in recent days on both sides of the English Channel due to pre-Brexit stockpiling, driver welfare must be prioritised, especially for EU trucks stuck in the UK.
It is welcome that the UK government is enacting its Brexit contingency plans, for example with Manston Airport, but this may not be enough. Drivers stuck in France and in the UK need adequate food, water, sanitary facilities and access to medical services.
Beyond short-term action from the French and UK governments in the next 24 hours to reopen truck movements, authorities need to again put in place measures from earlier in the pandemic to ease border movements, including green lanes to prioritise trucks in border queues, and to push for transit solutions such as TIR.
However these tools don’t work if borders are closed, so that remains the most pressing action needed.
IRU organised a productive high-level dialogue with the UK Ministry of Transport and UK Customs (HMRC) together with EU based haulage companies last week on Brexit planning. This sort of constructive public-private dialogue must continue on all sides to allow the goods that European citizens need to be delivered.