International haulage permits: important November 2018 deadline (Brexit)

Posted 02/11/2018 : By: Tim Ridyard

With precious little time before 29 March 2019 (the scheduled date of UK's departure from the EU) international goods (and indeed passenger) operators still have no clear idea what arrangements will be in place to enable them to operate their vehicles outside the UK and within the EU/EEA.

The stated aim of UK Government is to keep ‘existing liberal access for commercial hauliers’.

Will there be some 'deal' followed by a transition period or 'no deal'? Who knows - this is unsatisfactory for any business and hence various trade associations together other bodies have long expressed exasperation at the lack of clarity so that operators can plan and know where they stand, in good time. Certainty is needed. Otherwise operators may have to take steps that in due course prove unnecessary or alternatively wait to see what happens, only to find that they needed to take action earlier.

Various scenarios may play out: the current goods arrangements (Standard International Operator's Licence with authorisations namely Community Licences) might continue through some agreed mechanism; activities might be covered off by new / existing bi-lateral agreements; some other scheme may be put in place. Matters may resolve themselves in some way more positive than feared.

In the event of 'no deal' - and this is the current default position – UK operator vehicles would be permit-less as an effect of departure from the EU in the absence of alternative arrangements. This could mean that international hauliers could only access the EU through the use of European Conference of Ministers (ECMT) permits. This existing scheme has in practical terms not been needed as operator licences with Community Licence authorisations have addressed this. The UK Government still maintains it is confident that in the 'no-deal' scenario it will still be able to address through the new/ existing bilateral agreements – but time is of the essence.

At very short notice the DfT has announced that annual ECMT permits needed by international goods operators will be available for purchase from 26 November to 21 December. Applicants must hold a Standard International Operator's Licence or Restricted Operator's Licence. The annual permits run from January to December and can only be used in Euro VI vehicles.

For 2019 there are just 984 annual permits that are for Euro VI vehicles.

However, in order to acquire these permits international operators will have ensure they already have a Vehicle Operator Licence account (VOL) and if not go through a registration process for this by 12 November 2018. Link: Of course many operators will already have an account but many may not.

The Department for Transport states that 2592 monthly ECMT permits for Euro VI vehicles will be available in 2019. There will be 240 further monthly permits for Euro V or Euro VI vehicles.

The number of ECMT permits already available are limited and would not be sufficient to cover existing international operations. They will continue to be limited in number and they will be issued subject to certain criteria.

The ECMT permits will allow UK operators to drive in the EU and in the EEA (not Cyprus). UK operators will need ECMT permits to operate in the Republic of Ireland though not if they hold a Northern Ireland operator's licence. ECMT permits have to be carried in the vehicle when the international journey is taking place but can be used by different vehicles at different times.

So, the bottom line is that international operators must decide if they want to apply for ECMT permits to cover off the eventuality of Community Licences not being recognised post 29 March 2019. This will need to be done very quickly indeed.

As stated it may transpire that they are not necessary as existing arrangements may continue or other new measures may be put in place.

With regard to the new trailer registration arrangements required for international haulage and unaccompanied trailers, please see our earlier article here.

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