If there’s one thing to say about COVID-19, it’s that it doesn’t discriminate.
The impact of the virus is being felt across the world, across all industries, and all job roles.
However, while the UK enters another week of lock down, those working in logistics are working around the clock to ensure vital equipment makes it to the NHS, the supermarket shelves remain stocked, that eCommerce can keep retailers afloat, and the economy supported as much as possible.
But how is the pandemic affecting the UK’s fleets and what should operators keep in mind while tight measures remain in place?
While we all thought Brexit was going to bring huge disruption to border crossings, little did we know that COVID-19 was around the corner. Rightly so, the continent that has long promoted free movement has put a firm stop to it.
Operators looking to continue travelling through Europe will no longer have the large number of entry points available to them and will need to closely evaluate the new routes and checkpoints on offer. Clearly this may have an impact on operations and so the timings of deliveries will undoubtedly need to be re-evaluated, contingencies built in and communicated to customers. Hopefully customers will understand the situation but where timings are of the essence, operators may need to look at their warehouse function to see where efficiencies for certain customers can be made.
Operators can check the EU’s website for an constantly updated overview of the restrictions and available border crossings.
There’s a lot of operators out there that will have a warehouse or site function attached to their business and that poses all sorts of questions around social distancing – do I need to reduce the number of staff? Do I need to change my warehouse management flow? Do I need to provide PPE? This has created quite a number of headlines over recent weeks as warehouse staff voice their concerns.
The best thing to do is apply every aspect of the government’s advice on its website. If social distancing can’t be executed, operators need to asses whether certain functions can be closed down, and if not, changes to the way personnel work alongside each other should be adopted e.g. working side by side or back to back so as not to face each other.
With the borders at many countries inside and outside of the EU being extra stringent during this pandemic, HMRC has made some special dispensations to help operators out.
If COVID-19 is impacting your ability to conform with the conditions of your customs authorisation, you’re able to temporarily vary certain elements of that authorisation, with the approval of your supervising HMRC office or with Border Force. Conditions open to amends include:
- Changes to site opening hours
- The requirements for staff to be on site to perform functions that can’t be actioned remotely
- Where custom controls can be conducted
- Duration of dwell times to move through the process quicker
- Time limits for discharge bills and special procedures
- How goods being temporarily stored for more than 90 days should be processed
Operators can apply for a change of authorisation by emailing their supervising office with the subject ‘COVID-19 customs easement request’ and no site visits are required during this period due to social distancing.
Additionally, import charges are being dropped for any business bringing medical equipment, supplies and PPE into the country, with advice on how to apply for that relief and the conditions around it on the government’s website.
Transport Network & Driver Behaviour
Yes, the roads are clear. And yes, there’s probably a lot of drivers who are finding the situation a welcome break from the norm of driving on the UK’s over-congested roads. But that doesn’t mean complacency in safe driving practices should start creeping in or be tolerated.
The use of telematics and fleet management software can provide the much needed visibility fleet managers need in order to keep driver performance at the expected standards. DIRECTOR is our advanced fleet tracking system that enables fleet managers to have access to real time data in one easy-to-use interface.
It provides fleet managers with a diverse range of information, from the location of individual vehicles (tracked in real time) to monitoring fuel usage and driver performance, with the latter able to report on incidences of speeding, harsh barking or cornering for example to ensure bad behaviour can be stamped out and drivers retrained.
Moreover, with border controls a bit tighter and customs authorisations changing delivery times, having that real time view of where each vehicle is massively beneficial in being able to provide consistent updates to customers or internal stakeholders on the expected arrival of goods. While operations are clearly being impacted, clear and up to date communication is the best asset operators can have in their toolkit to maintain relationships through this pandemic.