Government U-turns crippling the logistics sector


With last minute government rule changes causing significant costs for businesses, Mike Parr, MD of PML says action is needed to support the logistics sector.

The news that British ports are contemplating taking legal action after investing millions of pounds to create post-Brexit border control facilities which now remain unused in the wake of the UK’s government’s decision to defer the planned checks on European plant and animal produce is one that resonates very clearly with us.

As a leading global provider of world-class logistics and supply chain solutions, we have always strived to stay well ahead of any planned changes in legislation which are likely to impact on our customers. Our priority is to deliver an exemplary service designed to ensure the efficient and seamless transfer of perishable goods, with a focus on maintaining the cold chain to maximise shelf life.

When Brexit was announced we, like so many other logistics businesses, worked very hard to interpret and understand the proposed changes. It was always disappointing to note that the voices of those working at the coalface were never really heard before or during the drawing up of plans.

At a time when we were also battling the challenges associated with Covid, we committed huge resources to ensure we were fit and ready to adapt our business to meet the new Brexit requirements. Huge resources in terms of upweighting our staffing to work through the minefield of confusing new paperwork; committing dedicated personnel to monitoring the constant changes in government guidance and shifting of deadlines; future proofing our new state-of-the-art Kent logistics and transport hub so that it is compliant and had the capability to meet with the new border control checks protocol.

Businesses like ours worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic making sure that the supply of essential food and drink was not compromised, even at a time when the complexities associated with Brexit were starting to take their toll making operations even more challenging than they needed to be.

We flexed our creative muscles to come up with innovative ways in which to overcome the hurdles persistently presented to us. When we encountered problems with the rising price of air freight cargo, we started our own chartered service from Kenya, twice a week. When the LEZ zone was extended to include Heathrow, incurring prohibitive costs for haulage companies, we identified an alternative route via our Kent-based hub which provided excellent proximity to the ports and motorway network. When the HGV driver crisis struck, once again compromising the supply of food and drink we campaigned for improved facilities for drivers comparable to that experienced on the continent. And not only did we raise awareness of the issue, we also invested in the provision of an HGV welfare unit where drivers can park up in a secure setting, rest safely, access clean and well serviced washroom facilities, grab a wholesome meal, refuel and even wash their lorry. Treating the drivers like the heroes they really are.

And now we hear of yet another government U-turn. One which has incurred significant costs for our business and which could signal the demise of many freight forwarders who are now seriously out of pocket.

With the political landscape looking more precarious than ever before, we are not confident that this will signal the end of any further last-minute changes. Surely the government has to acknowledge its role in playing with people’s livelihoods and accepting that the mistakes it has made have had dire financial consequences for many. Supporting and guiding business, kickstarting the economy, providing a framework for growth. Surely this is what we should be expecting from those in power?

Instead, we are on the receiving end of chaotic thinking and ill-thought-out strategies which not only cause disruption and discontent but also inflict financial hardship.

The sector that is the backbone to Britain’s future has been treated appallingly.

PML is considering similar legal action. But in the meantime, who and when will this be sorted out. And what will convince us to even believe in any further empty promises?