What hauliers should understand when exporting goods from the UK

There have always been laws around what you can export from the UK and how you do it, but thanks to Brexit and wars across the world, amongst other things, there are now new laws that hauliers need to be aware of.

If your haulage business includes international exports, then you need to be aware of any changes in order to make sure that your transportation runs smoothly.

Keeping your goods moving is vital as a haulier, so having everything in place before you start is important in gaining the trust of your customers and living up to the expectations that have been set.

In this article, we take a look at everything that you need to know to make sure your goods leave the country without a problem and arrive at their destination without delays or fines.

Exporting goods from the UK

As of January 2021, any businesses which export goods to an EU country will need to meet certain customs compliance obligations. The exporter will need to be established in the UK for customs purposes or use a third party to act as the exporter of record.

It is also a requirement for the exporter to complete an export declaration and provide key documents such as the road consignment note, copies of the export licences and the Movement Reference Number to their freight forwarder. Hauliers will also need to obtain a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number in order to export to the EU.

It is important to remember that this can be different if you are exporting goods to Northern Ireland or to other countries outside of the EU, so make sure that you check the specific rules for each country.

You must first submit an Exit Summary Declaration containing any key safety and security information before submitting a customs declaration to the customs authority in the country of export a few hours before the goods reach the border. This will be checked, along with the EORI number and some additional processes may be required depending on the types of goods that are being transported.

Export licences

UK hauliers who undertake international work will need to ensure that they have the relevant operator licence, and this will need to be carried on board all vehicles when working in the EU.

If you wish to undertake up to three cross-trade movements, it is possible to do this using a European Conference of Ministers Transport (ECMT) permit, whilst a motor insurance green card is needed as proof of vehicle insurance when driving abroad, although this is not the case in the EU. Drivers should also make sure that they are carrying either their vehicle log book (V5C) or a VE103.

There are certain goods which will need a special export licence before you can transport them, even if it is only temporarily. Doing so without the correct paperwork is considered to be a criminal offence and can land you with some hefty penalties.

There are controls on the exports of animals, plants, drugs, medicines, medical devices chemicals and radioactive substances. You will also find there are controls on moving diamonds, artworks, waste, technology, security, firearms or defence goods and anything that could be used for torture or capital punishment. As a haulier, it is therefore vital that you have a good understanding of exactly what items you are being asked to transport to ensure that all of the correct paperwork is in place.

Any truck that is registered in the UK must display the letters ‘UK’ when driven abroad, with the exception of Ireland. This means that any GB stickers need to be replaced with UK ones, or UK identifiers can be incorporated into vehicle number plates.

Access to the EU

After Brexit, many hauliers were concerned that the new laws would restrict the access they have to the EU. Currently, UK operators can undertake unlimited journeys to, from and through the EU with up to two additional cross-trade or cabotage movements being undertaken within the EU following a laden journey from the UK. There is a maximum of 1 cabotage movement within a 7-day period and it must be within the same EU country where you dropped off your goods.


Some countries that you might be asked to travel to could be subject to sanctions or embargoes. These political trade restrictions might limit what you are allowed to export to that country, so you will need to do your homework first and ensure that you are not breaking any sanctions with your load.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCOD) is responsible for the UK policy on sanctions and the Department for International Trade (DIT) has overall responsibility for trade sanctions listings, so you should check with these if you are concerned or unsure.

Rules for drivers

It is also worth noting that drivers are subject to rules regarding their own personal goods, as well as the loads in the back of their trucks. For example, drivers cannot take products containing meat or dairy into the EU, so your ham and cheese sandwich and milky cup of tea will need to be left behind.

There are also some plants and plant products, including fruits, vegetables, flowers and seeds which require a phytosanitary certificate before being allowed into the EU. Carrying items which are banned, or not carrying the correct paperwork for them will mean that they need to be used or disposed of at the EU border to they may be seized and destroyed, with costs and penalties incurred.

There will always be rules and regulations around exporting goods from the UK, and these have seen some significant changes in recent years due to Brexit and the war in Ukraine. As a haulier, it is important to stay on top of any changes to these laws or sanctions to ensure that your loads can get where they need to without any unnecessary delays or penalties being incurred as these could have devastating consequences for your business.


For more information, read Brexit for businesses and do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer if you have any questions.

Andrea Easton