Welwyn Garden City haulage firm warns of Brexit price hikes

PUBLISHED: 11:10 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:10 25 September 2018

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

The boss of a Welwyn Garden City haulage company has warned of the possible knock-on effects of Brexit customs delays on food and medical prices.

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOOPW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Every morning at 6am, workers at PW Gates haulage are busy unloading, sorting and re-packing goods they’ve brought from Dover.

Time is tight, as many of their clients are expecting the goods at distribution centres ready to be sent out to supermarket shelves all over the country.

If, for example, goods don’t reach Waitrose’s Milton Keynes distribution centre by 3pm, PW Gates gets a hefty fine. “A lot of supermarkets do it,” said director Peter Gates.

“Any delay at Dover or Calais will have serious repercussions,” he added. “I’ve seen the bills.”

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOOPW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Previously a truck driver himself, Peter started his haulage business in St Albans in 1973, the year the UK entered the European Economic Community (EEC, later to become the EU). He has been doing business in Welwyn Garden City for 29 years.

With uncertainty over what Brexit deal we’ll get, Peter’s business is bracing itself for possible customs delays at Dover.

Peter remembers what it was like clearing customs as a truck driver before 1973.

“I stood at Dover once to clear customs with about £150 of specialist materials,” he said. “I was sitting there for about 24 hours without getting clearance.”

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOOPW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

He described the additional time, paperwork and costs for every single truck.

He worries that after Brexit, costs like these could end up being passed on to shoppers.

The government answer to many of these woes has been to try to stockpile essentials like food and medicines, but he says it’s not as simple as that.

“Just-in-time” supply chain management, which is structured to ensure that products are always on the move, tends to avoid them ever sitting still in storage.

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOOPW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

This has had an effect on the cost and availability of warehouse space in the UK.

“We’ll have baked beans, maybe,” Peter joked.

PW Gates’ costs have begun to rise already, as truck prices rise, due to many of the parts being made in the EU and the difference in the exchange rate.

“I’m not a great fan of the EU,” said Peter, who voted to remain. “But I don’t think people understand the ramifications of leaving.”

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOOPW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

• How will Brexit affect your business, good or bad? Send your views to news@whtimes.co.uk

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOOPW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOOPW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

PW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOOPW Gates owner Peter Gates at their Swallow End distribution centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

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