“The extra time and hassle if you have a fleet of several thousand trailers would be tremendous,” said James Hookham, the deputy chief executive of the Freight Transport Association.
The Vienna convention also contains measures that the UK hopes to seek an exemption from. These require different rules for pedestrian crossings, for drivers on different sides of the road to park in the same direction, and for lights to be used when parking, going through tunnels or carrying loads. The government’s intention “to enter reservations” against these rules could be challenged by other countries.
But the biggest long-term challenge for the UK freight industry is the tiny number of travel permits potentially available for British truck drivers if there is no other solution found through an EU trade deal.
Under existing international treaties there are between 103 and 1,224 permits a year available to deal with more than 300,000 journeys by 75,000 British trucks.
“British businesses have heard enough talking – what’s needed now is a concrete solution to enable all those involved in moving goods and services across the UK’s borders to plan with certainty for a post-Brexit future,” said Hookham. “The time for discussions is over – what the country’s businesses need now is action, to keep trading Britain trading without penalty or hindrance.”
Legislation to run a rationing scheme for the tiny number of permits is part of the new bill introduced into the Lords on Wednesday, but the government insists it is only a precaution.
The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said: “We believe reaching an agreement to continue the liberal access enjoyed by both sides is in everyone’s interests and remain confident we will do so.
“But I also understand that hauliers are planning for the years ahead and want to have certainty that any future deal can be implemented smoothly – so this bill ensures we have plans in place if the deal requires a permitting system.”