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Logistics UK calls for Smart Freight speed-up

[ September 3, 2020   //   ]

Logistics UK (formerly FTA) has sent a joint letter to Michael Gove alongside other logistics industry bodies, requesting that development of the Smart Freight system be speeded up.

The industry body says it is concerned that the new system – which will need to be used by every company involved in exporting goods to the EU – will not be ready in time for Brexit day due to inadequate time for testing and staff training.

European policy manager Sarah Laouadi said: “Despite the government’s assertion that the Smart Freight software will be ready before 1 January 2021, this timeline fails to take into account the time it will take for transport companies, their customers, subcontractors and customs intermediaries to agree and co-ordinate the necessary business processes at the right time to gain access to the border. We are concerned that mass user testing of the software will not be possible until October – or maybe even November: this is far too late for the thousands of companies and tens of thousands of people who build our complex supply chains to redesign their own processes and contractual relations  before the Transition Period ends.”

The timeline would also bring Smart Freight onstream at the height of the Christmas peak, the worst possible time to test and train staff in new working practices.

Laouadi added: “Even if the software is ready by the end of the year, the government’s plans ignore the users’ perspective – our members will need time to learn the new system, adopt it and help to iron out any potential issues in the system.  This will leave logistics businesses carrying the can for the government’s failure to plan in a timely fashion – something we have been warning about for some time now.”

She added that the logistics industry needed “the means to remedy the border readiness issues Smart Freight is intended to flag, as well as a much more joined-up and streamlined approach to the border with fewer, integrated systems. Without time to plan and implement new systems, the sector is being set up to fail at the start of the New Year, which is not what we expect or deserve.”

Logistics UK says that Smart  Freight is one of eight IT systems which hauliers will need to use to move goods to and from Europe after 31 December 2020:  these include four UK systems, and up to four other EU country IT systems, depending on their route and goods to be transported. 

Logistics UK earlier warned that the Operation Brock measures to manage international freight moving through the port of Dover and Channel Tunnel must not be allowed to disrupt local transport.

Policy manager for road infrastructure Chris Yarsley added that the need to interact with Smart Freight meant that international transport operators may have to use no less than eight different systems. He said: “This is a tall order and the least they can expect is to be given appropriate support and sufficient time to get familiar with these platforms.”

Smart Freight aims to keep traffic moving through Kent by preventing trucks that are not ‘border ready’ from accessing the county’s road network.

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