Journeys made to mainland Europe by UK trucks lowest since 1989

The number of journeys made to the Continent by UK-registered goods vehicles fell to its lowest level in 25 years in 2013, while the number of foreign trucks returning home continued to grow.

The total annual figure for UK trucks travelling to mainland Europe dropped to its lowest since 1989 last year. However, the number of journeys made by foreign-registered vehicles reached its highest since its 2007 peak.

Ro-ro statistics released by the Department for Transport this month also showed that UK-registered vehicles represented just 16% of freight traffic crossing the Channel, down from 18% in 2012.

Polish-registered vehicles accounted for the highest portion of traffic at 20%.

UK-based hauliers were unsurprised that that the number of journeys by UK operators to the Continent had dropped.

Portsmouth-based Freight Transport said although the company itself has not seen much of a change in the number of journeys it makes to mainland Europe, it has seen a reduction in the number of UK firms it can subcontract to.

MD Andrew Bearryman said: “There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of exports. Maybe a lot of hauliers have come out of the market because of a lack of finished products to take.”

Trips have also remained consistent for Fraser Freight, but MD Ross Fraser said remaining competitive in some markets is a challenge, especially in areas such as full loads.

“You only have to take a drive around the M25 to see for yourself that every other truck is foreign-registered,” he told “That said, we have a very loyal customer base and by concentrating on quality not quantity our trips to and from the Continent have remained constant.”

Brian Yeardley Continental has seen an increase in the number of ADR goods it is shipping to the Continent as it tries to provide a higher quality service, but MD Kevin Hopper said competing with foreign hauliers is still a challenge.

He said: "It is very difficult to compete against the foreign hauliers price wise with their lower operating costs, unless you offer something different as we have.

"But you can survive if you offer something they cannot and we have set ourselves up in the European marketplace to do this- offering a quality British self-drive service."

According to new EU data, Rotterdam was the busiest port in terms of the weight of goods handled in 2012, with 395.6 million tonnes handled at the port. This was followed by Antwerpen in Belgium and Hamburg. The port of Immingham was the seventh busiest in terms of weight, handling 60.1 million tonnes in 2012.