Brexit: guidance for road hauliers

trucks lined up at depot

A critical stakeholder in the cross border movement of freight is the road haulier. The many items we as a society take for granted simply would not be available without this often-overlooked stakeholder. Virtually every item of freight at some point in the supply chain has been transported by truck. Whether over an international journey or the final mile delivery, the importance of the road haulage industry should not be underestimated. 

As we head into the final weeks before the end of the Brexit transition period, this article considers some of the challenges that the road haulage industry will face and the new systems and solutions with which they will need to interact with from 1 January 2021.


Many road haulage businesses trading between GB and the EU will have witnessed increased volumes over the last months. This is in part the case due to traders either side of the border stockpiling goods in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit, seeking to avoid the perceived disruptions and additional burdens that could arise from 1 January 2021. 

This has reportedly led to an increase in freight rates as capacity becomes ever tighter. While stockpiling goods might serve to alleviate the immediate period following the end of the transition period, it of course is not a sustainable solution.

The introduction of new systems and checks have given rise to news of long queues on the approach to export ports. This is of concern to the haulage industry, not least in terms of driver welfare and the impact on utilisation of vehicles. Delays cost money. There are also wider implications for the local towns and villages and where additional domestic capacity will be sourced if large numbers of vehicles remain underutilised waiting for export.

While much of the focus remains at the channel crossings in Kent, stakeholders should be mindful that these are not the only frequently used services to access the EU. Regional ports such as Port of Holyhead in Anglesey, Wales and the Humber ports remain critical nodes for freight to and from the EU.  


When the transition period ends, it is expected that the EU will implement full import controls on goods moving from Great Britain to the EU. Such requirements will exist from 1 January 2021 regardless of whether the UK and the EU conclude a Free Trade Agreement. 

Drivers transporting goods from GB to the EU will have to carry evidence that EU import requirements have been met for the goods they are transporting, including customs or transit declarations and any other commodity-specific approvals such as Export Health Certificates. 

Drivers without the correct documentation risk being prevented from boarding services departing GB or on arrival at the EU port, being fined, or sent back to their point of departure. In recognition of the challenges a number of systems have been developed (or remain under development) to lessen the impact on the road haulage industry and avoid unnecessary delays at the port of departure.

Check an HGV is ready to cross the border service (C-HGV service)

A primary system is the Check an HGV is ready to cross the border service (formerly referred to as Smart Freight system). This service will inform hauliers which documentation will need to be provided for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes when exporting freight from GB to the EU after 31 December 2020 from all RoRo ports. It is an online portal through which all details of the given shipment can be self-declared to prove that an HGV has the correct EU import and commodities documents for the goods it is carrying before it crosses the GB/EU border. The person completing the registration will receive a red, amber, green response from the service, indicating:

  • Green - All documents declared present, proceed to the port
  • Amber - Documentation declared present, but driver must proceed to an HMRC Office of Departure or a third-party authorised consignor to complete customs processes and obtain a Movement Reference Number (MRN).
  • Red - Some or all documents are not present, do not proceed to the port.

Guidance regarding which documents or aspects are outstanding is provided in the event or a Red outcome.

If somebody other than the HGV driver completes the declaration, it is imperative that the driver is made aware of the results.

Kent access permit (KAP)

Following government consultation, the use of the C-HGV service will be a mandatory requirement for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes that are intending to travel outbound from GB via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel. This applies whether the HGV is carrying goods or not. 

The C-HGV service will issue a Kent Access Permit digitally for every HGV for which the required information has been successfully provided. The online process is intuitive and takes only a few minutes to complete. The digital permit is issued by email to the individual making the application. Access to key roads, as specified in legislation, will be prohibited for HGVs that do not have a KAP obtained from the service and this will be communicated to drivers on the road network. 

Officials involved in enforcement will have access to an app that allows them to confirm whether a particular HGV has been provided with a KAP. HGV drivers on those key roads in Kent without a permit could be stopped and issued with a £300 on the spot fine.

Domestic journeys that start, travel through, or end in Kent, will not need to obtain a KAP. Drivers of HGVs transporting trailers that will be exported unaccompanied are considered to be undertaking domestic journeys and so will not require a KAP. Each KAP is linked to the individual movement of goods. A single KAP cannot be used for multiple journeys. 

A KAP will be valid for a 24-hour period, designed to cover a single trip. It is advisable that all drivers who are transporting goods domestically carry paperwork detailing their journey so any possible delays can be minimised.

Goods vehicle movement service (GVMS)

In recognition of the fact that goods moved into and out of the EU will be subject to new customs controls, the GVMS will serve to simplify procedures. GVMS is only to be used for UK ports using the pre-lodgement model (other than for Transit movements where GVMS can be used for all ports) supporting both imports and exports. The GVMS is to be used by hauliers along with traders and carriers. The GVMS will:

  • Link declaration references together. This means the person moving goods only needs to present one reference at the frontier to prove that their goods have pre-lodged declarations.
  • Link the movement of goods to declarations, meaning they can be automatically arrived and departed in HMRC systems in near real time.
  • Notify users via your software whether their inbound goods have been successfully cleared in HMRC systems by the time they arrive in the UK.

EU based hauliers can also benefit from using the GVMS if they obtain a GB Economic Operators Registration and Identification number (EORI). There are no restrictions in terms of EU hauliers obtaining a GB EORI even if they already hold an EU EORI. Once registered Hauliers can access GVMS in two ways:

  • Online service via GOV.UK
  • A direct link from software they use into GVMS (API)

Accessing GVMS enables a haulier to create a Goods Movement Record (GMR) so customs and transit declaration references, and any safety and security declaration references can be linked together into one GMR for each goods vehicle crossing the border. 

The haulier will present the GMR to a carrier upon entry to a port before entering or exiting the UK. The carrier will send the GMRs to GVMS to enable customs and transit declarations to be processed. The Haulier will then receive a notification from GVMS informing them that they are cleared or not cleared from customs control before entering or exiting the UK.

In the UK, HMRC may undertake checks to confirm the accuracy of the declaration. These checks may be undertaken after the goods have been released from the border and may include taking a sample of the goods being imported. Ensuring accurate declarations are made is therefore of importance.

Safety & security declarations

For accompanied freight the haulier will be responsible for submitting the entry summary declaration (ENS) into the Member State's Import Control System (ICS) at the first point of entry. While recognising that the haulier also has the duty to make the exit summary declaration (EXS) in practice this will nearly always be combined with the Customs Export Declaration for movements from GB to EU and EU to GB. From 1 July 2021 for ENS declarations for imports from EU to GB, hauliers will submit declarations through the S&S GB system.

For unaccompanied freight, the ferry operator is responsible for submitting the ENS at the first port of entry to the EU. To complete Entry Summary declarations in a Member State's ICS, you will need to apply for an EU EORI number. Carriers can use a third party with their knowledge and consent to complete the ENS data entry on their behalf; the liability however, remains with the carrier.

A haulier transporting goods via a RoRo location to the EU must have the Movement Reference Number (MRN) for the EU customs import declarations or the transit (CTC) movement. The MRN is needed by the haulier to present at the GB and the EU border. 

EU port systems

EU ports and/or (RoRo) operators who have access to the Port Community Systems (PCS) will insist that traders and transporters using those services to those locations are registered on the systems and understand what they need to do at the GB check in, to ensure smooth entry into the EU and to avoid disruption and congestion. If the necessary formalities are not completed, the goods will not be able to leave the EU Port and one of the following actions will be considered:

  • The goods may be put in temporary storage until the requirements are met, there will be a charge for this storage.
  • The goods may need to be exported to GB.
  • The goods may be destroyed.


While in most instances it is the responsibility of the trader to provide the necessary documentation to the driver, it is the driver who must carry and present these when requested by border officials, or members of staff for the relevant carrier.

From 1 January 2021, drivers crossing the border will require their passport. Those drivers who regularly (or might) undertake such journeys, should check the validity of their passport, ensuring that there is at least six months validity from the date of the intended journey. It may be prudent to renew your passport as early as possible in the event that it is due to expire in the first six months of 2021. You might also need to consider the validity of passports moving forward with employees to ensure minimal operational impact.

CMR notes will continue to be the required consignment note for goods shipped cross border between the EU and UK. However, a little more thought will be required (than is common practice today) when completing these documents, a greater level of detail for example will be required in connection to the description of the cargo being shipped. 

The expectation will be that the description of the goods on the CMR note will match that contained within other required cargo related documents. It should be highlighted that there are likely to be more frequent checks by authorities and accuracy will be important.

It is best practice for the driver to have hard copies of any certificates or licences required for the goods being imported to the EU, e.g. an original signed Export Health Certificate.

For those hauliers involved in the transport of groupage consignments additional care will be required to ensure that all documents and requirements are satisfactorily in place for cross border movements. An issue with a single shipment has the potential to hold the entire trailer up at the point of entry/exit. 

Drivers of GB registered vehicles will need to display a GB sticker, fixed to the rear of the vehicle and trailer, even if the number plates include the GB identifier under the EU logo. Vehicles registered in Great Britain or Northern Ireland do not need to display a GB sticker to drive in Ireland.

Licences and qualifications

Driver licences

Drivers will continue to need the correct category of driving licence for the vehicle that they are operating. In addition to their driving licence, drivers might also require an International Driving Permit to drive in some EU and EEA countries. More information will follow in this context on the conclusion of the current trade negotiations.

Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)

It would be prudent for drivers to verify recognition of existing Driver CPC qualifications depending on where the qualification was obtained and where you intend to operate. 

UK legislation currently allows EU drivers working for UK operators to continue doing so with a Driver CPC awarded by EU member states. However, if such drivers wish to have long-term certainty on their ability to work for UK operators, they should consider exchanging their EU Driver CPC for a UK Driver CPC.

Drivers holding a UK CPC, who work, or plan to work for an EU or EEA company should now take action. EU or EEA employers from 1 January 2021 might not recognise a UK Driver CPC as a valid qualification. Drivers working or wishing to work for EU or EEA businesses should exchange their UK Driver CPC for an EU Driver CPC before 1 January 2021.

In a similar way, EU operators from 1 January 2021 will no longer recognise a transport manager Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), those wishing to work for EU businesses in this capacity will need to take action and apply for an EU CPC.

Community Licences/UK Licence for the Community

UK Hauliers with a Community Licence will be automatically issued with a replacement 'UK Licence for the Community' for use from 1 January 2021. A copy of the new UK Licence for the Community should, in all circumstances, be carried on board all vehicles when working in the EU from 1 January 2021.

Green cards 

UK drivers are likely to need a Green Card to drive their vehicles in the EU (including the Republic of Ireland) as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland from 1 January 2021. Hauliers should take action to ensure they have Green Cards for all applicable vehicles and trailers from 1 January 2021.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The EHIC currently entitles holders to state-provided medical treatment for pre-existing and new illnesses or if involved in an accident. The cover extends to all EU Member countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. For UK citizens travelling to these countries after 1 January 2021, the EHIC will no longer be valid. 

For individuals that might be affected, such as drivers, businesses should consider the provision of adequate health insurance and be mindful of any pre-existing conditions that might otherwise be excluded from cover. EU drivers holding an EHIC intending to drive in the UK after the end of the transition period should make local enquiries to ensure they have appropriate health insurance cover in place.


It would be prudent to undertake a review of any contract that applies to the movement of goods cross border between the EU and UK to ensure that they remain relevant after the end of the transition period. References for example to EU Law or the UK being a Member State of the EU should be of particular interest and might result in the need to revise the contract terms. 

While there might be risks connected to the legality of the terms, where for example the UK is no longer considered a Member State of the EU, operationally stakeholders should also consider the geographical reach of the contract and which party would be considered liable for additional costs that might be incurred.


Hauliers should assess the services they currently provide and intend to provide from 1 January 2021 and consider:

  • EORI number (GB/EU/XI)
  • Registration for relevant services
  • Training for office and mobile personnel. In this regard, it is imperative not only that drivers have all the necessary customs information, documents and paperwork, but also that they know what documents to present at each stage of the journey, including:
  1. at on road pre-departure inspections at checks to demonstrate border readiness 
  2. at ports or train terminals, and
  3. at customs posts.
  • Validity of driver licences, professional qualifications and passports  
  • Health and medical insurance

Mike Yarwood

TT Club