Smelly portaloos, $500 fines: British truck drivers warn of Brexit chaos

One of the UK's biggest trade unions has warned that truck drivers face hardship at the end of the Brexit transition period.
One of the UK's biggest trade unions has warned that truck drivers face hardship at the end of the Brexit transition period.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - One of the UK's biggest trade unions has warned that truck drivers face hardship at the end of the Brexit transition period, because poor government preparations will lead to "chaos and confusion" at ports.

Drivers have the prospect of "being stuck in their cabs for hours and hours on end in ad-hoc lorry parks without adequate access to clean toilets, washing, food or rest facilities," said Adrian Jones, a national officer at Unite, in an e-mailed statement.

"Smelly portaloos, some outdoor sinks and a burger van will not suffice."

Unite's warning comes as the British government races to avoid a border crisis with the EU when it leaves the bloc's single market and customs union at year-end.

Ministers fear that freight will try to cross to the EU without having the correct customs paperwork, causing major traffic jams and significant supply chain disruption with Britain's largest trading partner.

The government is building new IT systems to manage the flow of traffic, yet those projects are still in development and are untested.

Under the government's plans, lorries will be fined 300 pounds (S$524) if they attempt to enter Kent without a valid permit and will be sent to new Brexit lorry parks until they have the right documentation.

The new customs paperwork will be required even if Britain and the EU sign a free-trade accord.

"Our members need government guarantees that they will not be left stranded with inadequate facilities on giant lorry parks or be unfairly fined for documentation issues that are out of their hands," Jones said.

"We urge the government to meet with our members, who keep this country's shelves filled and factories stocked, and act on the very real concerns they have."