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DB Schenker is facing further criticism over its decision to temporarily suspend services into the UK.
One source told The Loadstar the Germany-headquartered forwarder’s decision to cut the cord on clients with such little notice was “unbelievable”.
And it asked how a multinational conducting international customs clearance on a global scale had reached this point.
“If this was a company established post-1992 that had only ever operated trucking services through Europe, I could understand this,” the source said.
“A company like that would likely never have done customs clearance, but this is DB Schenker – it’s a major player. And, more worrying for them, their customers likely use them for imports from other regions, say Asia.
“To fail customers and ditch them overnight may result in clients saying ‘fine, I’ll ditch you for the rest of my business’. The number one rule is don’t blame the client.”
The Germany-headquartered forwarder announced on Wednesday it would suspend road freight services from Europe into the UK, advising customers to “postpone all business until further notice”, but has not yet advised how long the measure will be in effect.
In its announcement, Schenker appeared to level the blame at customers for incorrectly filling in customs declarations, noting that “only around 10%” were correct. A spokesperson told The Loadstar it had been observing the market since the start of the year, noting a “constant need for assistance” in completing customs declarations.
“We are offering our assistance to every exporter and every consignee, but this extra effort takes time; it is being done now because it has become necessary,” the spokesperson said.
“The main challenge remains the paperwork needed on the British side, which must be completed by the UK consignee. Consignees are more difficult to reach for our colleagues and they need to prepare a letter of direct representation, an import licence letter and confirm the right commodity codes, as well as the customs procedure code.
“The exporter in Europe is usually our customer and more easily guided. The consignee has not necessarily been in touch before and is, therefore, more difficult to guide.”
But DB Schenker is not alone in cancelling services. DPD has announced it too would suspend its UK deliveries for an indeterminate period, while The Loadstar this morning heard another major forwarder was set to apply a similar stop on continental Europe-UK road transport shipment.
Sources responded by asking how it was that other forwarders were able to keep goods moving, claiming it showed a lack of preparation by multinational companies.
“They should have led the way, engaging their EU exporter and UK importer to ensure all was in place before 31 December … everyone knew this was coming,” one source said. “There’s going to be a massive meltdown on UK-EU flows. I am hearing horror stories every day.”
A source at business process outsourcer DDC FPO told The Loadstar companies were likely not to have considered language barriers in filling in customs declarations.
“We provide services in more than 30 languages, which is potentially something many may not have factored-in,” said the source. “Troubles with misdeclarations may simply be the result of a language barrier. But our office in Bosnia is staffed by a team that speaks these languages – the level of skill in second, third and fourth languages in Bosnia is second to none.”
But another source said “language shouldn’t really be a problem”, and claimed the problem lay with a lack of communication between divisions within some multinational forwarders.
“So frequently we hear that ‘the end is nigh’ for small forwarders, but events like this show why such claims are rubbish,” the source told The Loadstar.
“It’s a business built on communication, but when companies get too big you see situations where departments don’t communicate, they don’t cooperate and they don’t coordinate. I think that’s likely to be exactly what is happening here.”