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Covid-19 tests for lorry drivers will lead to border delays, hauliers group says

Helen William, PA
·2-min read

Imposing a coronavirus testing regime on lorry drivers crossing the English Channel “still means we will have delays at the border” and that UK supply chains will be hit, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said rapid lateral flow tests – which can give results in about 30 minutes – will be used to test HGV drivers at the ports in a deal to reopen the border between France and the UK.

The French authorities will be carrying out similar testing on hauliers entering the UK in a programme that is set to get under way on Wednesday.

Coronavirus – Tue Dec 22, 2020
Police officers stand near to a matrix sign notifying that French borders are closed at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent. (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The RHA estimates between 8,000 and 10,000 delayed lorries are now in Kent and its surrounding areas, in truck stops and at depots waiting for borders to reopen and to cross the Channel.

A spokesman added: “Even if the border is opened up, a short delay in the process is going to mean huge delays in the supply chain.”

Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “There are many serious implications to this latest situation, even lateral flow Covid testing will have a massive impact on the supply chain.”

The welfare of the drivers is also an issue, with Mr Burnett saying: “What happens to them? How is it all going to play out? Are they going to be tested on site or are they going to have to go somewhere else to do it?”

Coronavirus – Tue Dec 22, 2020
Lorry drivers walk about on the M20 in Kent where freight traffic is parked up near to Folkestone services whilst the Port of Dover remains closed. (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Mr Burnett also questioned what would happen to the drivers who test positive.

“They will be unfit to drive but where will they go?,” he added. “They will be unable to quarantine with their families in Europe and what will happen to their vehicles?

“Who will be responsible for the deep cleaning of their cabs? And for those carrying return loads, what will happen to their cargo? This is going to be an extremely expensive exercise.”

It is expected the Department for Transport will set out the full details of the testing programme on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours for hauliers – increasing the driving limit of nine hours to 11 – to help them get through UK borders safely over the coming weeks.