In a rare piece of good news from the past week, an agreement has been struck to open the French border to truckers stuck in the UK. planes, ships and the Eurostar can resume services from Wednesday morning, opening up vital supply lanes across the channel.
The downside is that crossing the French border is now only possible after a negative COVID-19 test taken in the 72 hours prior to travel. For most this will be the PCR test which is considered the gold standard but takes time as has to be processed in a lab. However there are indications that truckers will be able to get moving with a lateral flow test which gives results almost immediately. It will still take some time to help the stranded hauliers to get home and many might now not make it in time for Christmas with their families as it will still take two or three days to clear the back log. Testing for truckers will start at 6am Wednesday morning with assistance from the Army.
The situation is terrible for truckers, close to 2,220 are parked up at the old Manston airport with another 600 plus parked up on the M20. However that’s just the official count and it’s estimated that perhaps as many as 5,000 trucks and vans waiting to get home for Christmas are scattered across Kent parked anywhere they can find space. Many more will be stranded across the UK yet to travel to Kent but also wanting to get home.
Lack of food, water, washing facilities and even basic toilet availability is practically zero and many truckers are now spending their third night sleeping in their vehicles since the border was closed at midnight Sunday.
Opening the French border is good news as it will hopefully forestall a rush to supermarkets to stock pile as we’ve seen in the past. Supermarkets in the main have said only a limited number of fresh products may be out of stock after Christmas. Only Tesco so far have informed customers they will be a small number of temporary purchasing limits on certain essential products. Other than maybe not being able to snag a lettuce for your New Year’s Eve family BBQ, it’s unlikely that you’ll go hungry.
One might think that opening the French border would signal that carriers will start moving ecommerce traffic to Europe in the near future, but we strongly suspect that many couriers and the Royal Mail will want to clear their existing backlog before starting to accept parcels again. Additionally, this close to Christmas many had planned a temporary pause in shipping due to Brexit so it could be the New Year before they open up European shipping lanes again.
The last thing carriers want is a ton of parcels in their network at best without the requisite customs information and at worse, if there is no deal, not knowing what tariffs may be applicable.
The best advice is to speak to your carrier to ascertain when they will reopen their networks to accept parcels going to Europe… although as many have disabled the ability to book European deliveries it’ll be pretty obvious if you still can’t.