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DB Schenker lifts pause on truck trips to UK

Shippers, transport providers make strides validating data as they adapt to post-Brexit trade rules

Trucks leaving the Port of Dover. (Photo: iStock)

DB Schenker, which operates the largest pan-European trucking network, on Thursday resumed deliveries to Great Britain after a weeklong suspension because of customs-related delays associated with Brexit.

Complex new rules and fees has created operational headaches for road and air transport. 

The contract logistics and freight management arm of German railroad Deutsche Bahn said it reduced the error rate by educating customers on how to properly fill out customs entries with information required for the first time in more than 50 years, making it possible to get truckloads cleared again.

Noncompliant individual shipments can hold up the entire load, leading to trucks being held back from making the trip until every shipment is in order.

Shippers began experiencing significant problems moving goods after the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union went into effect Jan. 1. The U.K. and EU have signed a free trade agreement, but now shipments are treated like those exchanged with other foreign nations. Adapting to new customs checks and regulations on both sides of the English Channel has created a bureaucratic nightmare for companies used to seamless transport within a single customs union.

DB Schenker last week said it had stopped accepting consignments for the U.K. because only about 10% of customs documents submitted for cross-Channel land transport were complete and free of errors. The Road Haulage Association told the BBC that about a fifth of trucks were being turned away at the Port of Dover for turning up without the correct paperwork or not having negative COVID test results to enter France. Daily traffic for the Dover-Calais ferry or the Channel Tunnel was about a third of normal – 2,000 vehicles per day – it said.

Dynamic Parcel Distribution, a large parcel carrier in Europe, also temporarily suspended road service to Ireland and mainland Europe because 20% of parcels had incomplete or incorrect information. DHL Express said it reserves the right to transfer small parcels to air without consultation and at a higher tariff. 

The new trade environment has also impacted air cargo. New security requirements, for example, are complicating road feeder service from the U.K. to European airports. Shipments often have to be rescreened to get on an outbound flight because the EU no longer accepts trucked cargo as secure. Lufthansa Cargo says it is charging a security fee for shipments it is “legally obliged” to reinspect. 

Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo is not passing on the cost of extra security checks, according to The Loadstar.

The EU and the U.K. mutually recognize their air cargo security standards so pure air shipments continue to move without interruption. 

Logistics providers are urging shippers and consignees to share information in advance to facilitate completion of the customs forms. 

The documentation problem has increased the workload for freight forwarders, forcing DB Schenker to add people to a team that provides 24/7 customer assistance for completing the required customs documents. 

The company has cautioned customers that shipments will only be accepted if the necessary export/import documents are submitted and accurate. 

Customs entries must now include a proof of origin, a new customs invoice and a power of attorney to process the customs clearance. The importer must also issue a power of attorney and provide information such as the commodity code found in the U.K. tariff schedule. 

“By making the hard decision to suspend shipment collections for a short period, we were able to protect our transportation network from potential tailbacks [long queues of trucks] affecting transshipment platforms in the whole of Europe,” said Cyrille Bonjean, head of land transport Europe at DB Schenker, in a statement. 

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]