As hauliers yesterday found out the fate of their applications for ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport) permits, many were left disappointed as they missed out. 

The permits allow operators to transport most types of goods (or drive an empty vehicle) in to and through EU member countries.

There were concerns from across the industry highlighting permit supply issues, given the number of permits required from UK operators – and these concerns turned out to be justified.

“Most applications were refused because there are not enough annual ECMT permits to meet demand,” said Duncan Buchanan, policy director at the Road Haulage Association (RHA). The association had repeatedly warned there would not be enough ECMT permits available to meet demand in a no-deal Brexit situation. 

As a response to the permit shortage, the European Commission today announced the contingency measure to apply for international road haulage in early 2021. Under these rules, UK operators are free to undertake international haulage travel between the UK and the EU without requiring ECMT permits until at least 30 June 2021. However, there is no word on what might happen after that date.

For some operators, the whole process has proven to be totally frustrating. “What I don’t understand is that we went through this charade last year because Brexit was meant to be happening at the end of 2019,” said Rob Hollyman, director at Youngs Transport & Logistics. “Back then, I applied for five permits and I got two. This year, the criteria was exactly the same and I didn’t get any!”

Hollyman says he can’t understand why so few permits have been produced in the first place, but hopes that the situation will change. “I suspect that by the end of June there will be pressure to issue more ECMTs or else we’ll be in the same position we are now,” he said.