Confusion relating to new rules that came into place on 1st January is causing tailbacks up to eight hours long as lorries head for Calais.
The new rules, which came into effect on the 1st of January, mean that imports must be processed by the Goods Vehicles Movement Service (GVMS), an IT service run by HMRC. Some have criticised this service as not being ready yet and being the main cause of the tailbacks, with many drivers unable to get their reference codes accepted. Others claim that the GVMS is only part of the problem, and that what paperwork is required has not been clearly communicated.
While the tailbacks have been as long as eight hours, some vehicles, unable to proceed through customs, have been held back for several days.
One driver reported that he was held up on the UK side of the border, after crossing the channel, for six days because of additional checks being carried out, before finally getting cleared to continue.
Another truck driver said that as many as 25% of trucks were being pulled over due to incorrect paperwork. The high frequency of drivers being pulled over has meant that HMRC support lines have been in high demand and busy near-constantly.
The problem is expected to get worse as February begins, a time at which imports usually increase and the ports become busier.
Jon Swallow, Founder and Director of Jordon Freight, said:
“The problem is that the new rules require a lot of information to be co-ordinated between a number of parties, including the shipper, the haulier, the customs agent, the freight forwarder and the importer and all that information is complex and has to be correct.
“You need an HMRC Gateway pass to use it and it is an awful clunky system to use”
“I think European hauliers will decide they no longer want to come here – that they won’t want to bother with the red tape and will find it a lot easier to just trade in Europe.”
Others hope that the tailbacks are just “teething pains” as hauliers get used to the new regulations and paperwork requirements.
A spokesperson for the HMRC said:
“We recognise that the introduction of full customs controls is a significant change for hauliers and traders, which is why we are providing comprehensive support both through the customs and international trade helpline and jointly with representative bodies and the border industry.”