UK-EU freight costs still high as hauliers remain nervous over new customs rules

Fri 5 Feb 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


UK-EU freight prices remain above normal levels for the time of the year, largely due to reduced capacity and a reluctance from some international hauliers to serve the UK market because of new customs rules following the end of the transition period.

However, the cost of moving goods on the continent has declined annually for the first time since the pandemic, suggesting Covid-19 restrictions are having less of an impact on trade flows.


Analysis from shipping intelligence firm Transporean, reported in Lloyd’s Loading List, suggests that the higher-than-normal rates seen at the start of the year – amid uncertainty over the end of transition and European restrictions to prevent the spread of the British strain of Covid-19 – have not eased.

“Rates in the last week of January remained stable and, in some cases, even increased,” the firm said in its latest ‘Brexit Market Monitor’.

“Transport demand is recovering slowly, but our FR-GB border crossing monitoring – based on real-time visibility data by Sixfold – still indicates a much lower number of trucks are crossing the English Channel. Rejections remain high both inbound and outbound GB.”

European rates decline

The high prices come against the backdrop of an improving outlook for goods moving across the European continent.

According to Loadstar, European road freight rates registered their first annual decline since last year.

Demand across the continent remains lower than normal, with the exception of UK-to-continent routes and the Rotterdam-Duisburg journey.

Data from Upply, the digital road freight marketplace, showed that prices dropped on average 1.6% to €1.55/km.  

UK problems to worsen

Upply’s road transport expert William Beguerie doesn’t expect UK-EU rates to improve anytime soon, however.

He said that as the UK implements border checks for goods entering the country from the EU from the middle of the year, questions will arise over market access, transport of live animals, phytosanitary checks, insurance, customs declarations and new IT systems.

“What is clear is that nothing is clear, but we expect reduced capacity and higher prices, regardless of demand,” he said. 

Direct to France

Many Irish firms are already seeking to avoid unnecessary checks and documentation in the UK by bypassing the ‘GB landbridge’ route to the continent.

Brittany Ferries is the latest shipper to increase its direct France-to-Ireland services in a bid to avoid the GB landbridge, reports Lloyd’s Loading List

It has added three new freight services from Rosslare to St Malo, and Cork to Roscoff. The new freight ferry capacity will be operated by Brittany Ferries’ Armorique vessel, which usually takes holidaymakers from UK to France.