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Ban on freight lorries to France – expect serious disruption

The UK's HGV market accelerates 12.9% in 2021 to defy supply challenge, says SMMT.

France has blocked arrival of cargo from the UK for 48 hours, reports The Guardian. The ban, which came into effect at 11pm on Sunday 20th December, is expected to have a ‘devastating effect’ on the supply of food and other goods to Britain.

Freight and passenger travel via the Eurotunnel has also been halted for the 48-hour period. This move is in response to a new strain of Covid which is spreading rapidly across London and the South East.

There is currently no ban on the movement of trucks from France to the UK, however, the majority of trucks that make the journey from Dover are empty, picking up food from large distribution centres in France and Belgium to bring back to the UK. It’s likely that the ban will discourage EU truck drivers from crossing the border for fear of being stranded in the UK.

Rod McKenzie, policy director at the Road Haulage Association, said: “It’s only 48 hours, but the French ban will have a devastating effect on the supply chain.”

The ban comes at a time of mounting pressure for cross-channel freight, with five mile queues already forming on the main roads into Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal every day for the past three weeks. In the other direction, drivers to the UK have had to queue in tailbacks of up to 10.5 miles as a result of police migrant checks.

Around 10,000 lorries travel between Dover and Calais every year during the Christmas period.

Police in Kent have mobilised Operation Stack – the system which sees the M20 motorway transformed into a truck park. The Department of Transport has said Manston Airport in Kent is also being prepared to hold 4,000 lorries to help ease the congestion.

Logistics UK said it is “very concerned” about the welfare of drivers and the government has admitted that the lack of sanitary facilities for drivers is a problem. Plans for Portaloos to be installed could be moved forward.

According to Logistics UK: “It is essential that they [truck drivers] continue to be recognised as key workers and given access to testing, if necessary, as a priority to ensure the continued movement of goods to and from France.”

Ian Wright, chief executive at the Food and Drink Federation has urged the government to take action saying they “must very urgently persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban.”

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