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FTA raises government immigration policy concerns

The FTA has responded to the government’s call for evidence regarding the salary threshold for a future immigration policy, stating that proposed post-Brexit salary thresholds could impact the logistics sector.

In a statement, the industry has asserted that with unemployment is at its lowest on record, and with logistics currently reliant on EEA workers to help support vital occupations such as LGV/van drivers, as well as warehouse workers, it is crucial that businesses can continue to access non-UK workers, particularly when UK workers are not available to take up the vacancies.

Sally Gilson, Head of Skills Policy at FTA, said: “The government is focused on the £30,000 salary threshold for the employment of non-UK workers after Brexit and how this could impact businesses.  However, this ignores a greater hurdle for the logistics sector, which relies on EU workers to move the goods and services which UK PLC requires to operate. Even if the salary threshold recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee was to be reduced, businesses still would not be able to recruit non-UK workers within the proposed future immigration system as they may not meet the required Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) Level 3 threshold.

“Although being an LGV driver takes skill and requires significant knowledge regarding the regulations and legal requirements, officially this is a Level 2 qualification. Therefore, under government plans, whether a driver earns the salary threshold or not, they still will not be considered.

“Our fear is that, with the emphasis in the media and government on the salary threshold, businesses are missing the two-part nature of the employment criteria requirement. The UK is already in competition with other EU countries who have even worse LGV driver and other logistics career shortages than we do. In an ideal scenario we would have the investment to train UK workers but until government takes FTA advice and switches from an Apprenticeship Levy to a Skills Levy, ensuring logistics businesses gain the funding they require – we are reliant on continued outsourcing of labour.

“FTA’s members believe that the arbitrary salary and qualification standards should be scrapped, and further consideration should be given to an alternative scheme which utilizes unused Apprenticeship Levy funding to create the training programmes needed to generate the workforce of tomorrow.  But these new employees will take time to train, and enforcement of the new rules as early as 2021 leaves logistics businesses with little time or guidance on how to recruit.  Where is the industry supposed to find the ready-qualified people to do the jobs which will be left undone by the departure of EU workers from the UK. Fruit won’t be picked, and what little is picked won’t get delivered without drivers and warehouse personnel – so how is the UK’s supply chain to be protected after Brexit? The industry wants to keep Britain trading, but needs answers – and fast!”

The FTA also reiterated that efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. It says that with Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.

FTA sceptical on smart tachograph financial benefits

Smart Tachographs will aid compliance with drivers’ hours rules but any claims of financial benefits to businesses are misguided, according to FTA.

The business organisation, which represents the interests of the logistics sector, refutes claims made by the European Commission when the law making the new devices mandatory was made in 2014 that it will save logistics businesses a total of EUR 500 million through increased efficiencies. 

James Firth,  FTA’s Head of Road Freight Regulation said: “Smart tachographs will aid enforcement of the drivers’ hours rules; regrettably, enforcement agencies across Europe face a constant battle against those who would try to compete unfairly by driving beyond the legal maximum hours. The  next generation tachographs herald a new era in the fight against lorry drivers driving  when fatigued, but while they will help with enforcement, but they will not save the industry substantial money.”

Firth continued: “Fortunately for drivers, they will notice little change; the new models look identical to their predecessors and drivers do not need to replace their tachograph cards. Furthermore, the added satellite location data will help authorities to catch non-UK based operators who work illegally in the UK market. The satellite location function does not provide live tracking – a common misconception – instead, it takes a location ‘stamp’ at start and end of duty and every three hours of continuous driving.” 

The FTA says efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. It says that w ith Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. 

Image by MikesPhotos from Pixabay

FTA urges hauliers to submit for international permits

UK hauliers have been urged to submit applications for international road haulage permits before the closing deadline (this Friday, 18th January) ahead of a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has advised vehicle operators looking to transport into the EU-27 countries post-Brexit that they should prepare accordingly.

An ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport) permit will be needed by commercial vehicle operators to transport goods into the European Union (EU) and EEA (European Economic Area) if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29th March 2019.

Sarah Laouadi, European Policy Manager at FTA, said: “A No Deal exit from the EU remains a distinct possibility and businesses must prepare for this eventuality. Applications for ECMT permits close this week and FTA advises businesses to submit their applications urgently, or risk being unable to travel in the event of a No Deal outcome.

“The number of ECMT permits available to British operators is painfully short of the required total; it is likely to cover only 5% of the current vehicle journeys made between the UK and EU. Without frictionless movement between the UK and the EU, the delicate supply chain our economy relies upon will be in jeopardy. With this in mind, FTA has prepared a list of emergency “mini-deals” and contingency measures, covering areas including truck permits, aviation and VAT, which we will demand the UK government prioritises with Brussels urgently to limit the disruption of a No Deal scenario.”

Laouadi continued: “The European Commission has already tabled a proposal whereby UK hauliers could carry out certain transport operations in the EU on the basis of mutual recognition of the Community Licence; however, this arrangement would not cover cabotage or transport between two EU countries and comes with many other restrictions and caveats. FTA will stand up for its members and seek to ensure the proposal is improved to meet the needs of the industry. In the meantime, operators should nevertheless apply for ECMT permits as there is no guarantee there will be a workable alternative in time for Brexit day.”

Brexit White Paper receives mixed response from supply chain sector

The White Paper outlining the UK Government’s proposed future relationship between the UK and European Union after Brexit has received a mixed, but mostly positive, response from leading supply chain industry figures.

The proposals include a facilitated customs arrangement, removing the need for customs checks between the EU and UK – a measure that, whether successful or not, has far reaching implications for supply chains across countless markets.

James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said the solutions outlined offer encouragement for those tasked with keeping the nation’s complex supply chain moving freely, but will require a similar level of imagination and optimism from the UK’s European trading partners.

He added: “[The] White Paper includes positive proposals for many areas which have caused concern for the logistics industry, and should give businesses, which have been worried about a lack of clarity over future trading arrangements, some level of reassurance. It is now Europe’s turn to step up and deliver a similarly supportive, encouraging plan which will minimise the barriers to continued frictionless trading arrangements as the UK leaves the EU.”

Robert Keen, Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) expressed mixed feelings about its contents. He said: “The White Paper addresses some of the issues that BIFA has highlighted over the past two years, including retaining something as close to the Single Market and Customs Union as is possible, with positive ideas on future Customs matters and international trading arrangements.

“But we have to remember that nothing in the White Paper is cast in stone. The proposals on Customs, where the UK is proposing to apply EU tariffs to EU goods passing through the UK, while having the freedom to set different tariffs on goods entering the UK, look complex and untested, something that has already seen negative comment from the EU.

“Other than a facilitated customs arrangement, I suspect that there will be other areas where there will be differences of opinion between the UK and EU.

“Notwithstanding the above, it is the most comprehensive and cogent proposal put forward by the UK Government to date and is a useful basis for negotiation with the EU.

“However, we need to be realistic. It still has to get through parliament, even before the negotiations in Brussels.”

The UK Chamber of Shipping, meanwhile, has given the Prime Minister’s White Paper its seal of approval, and demanded the European Union now ‘gets serious’. Director of Policy David Balston said: “The Prime Minister is to be commended for this detailed paper which shows the government has listened to industry’s concerns.

“This vision for the UK’s future relationship with the EU is bold, comprehensive, ambitious and robust. It is good for both the UK and the EU economy; it guarantees both that the referendum result will be delivered, as well as the free flow of goods over national borders.

“Just as importantly, it will put the UK at the forefront of global customs arrangements, making UK customs processes streamlined not just for European trade, but for trade with countries around the world – allowing the UK to further develop its status as a global trading nation.

“It is time now for the EU to get serious and stop being prisoner to its own dogma. The UK is being constructive, collaborative and realistic. If the EU dismisses these proposals, as it has previous iterations, or tries to push the UK even further, then the risk of a no-deal Brexit will rise dramatically. If that comes to pass it will be because of their own intransigence, and they should be under no illusions: a no-deal scenario would significantly damage the European economy as well as the UK’s.”