More than a third of European road transport businesses that took part in a survey from legal firm DWF are thinking about expanding their operations into other countries, with the UK leading the list.

One Poll carried out the survey for DWF in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Germany and Poland. It found that despite the challenges of the last year – new regulations, the impact of Brexit and business disruption caused by Covid-19 – transport companies are positively looking ahead to expansion. 38 percent of haulage decision makers who transport goods to the UK said their company is currently considering relocating or establishing new bases there. 

The UK was closely followed by Italy (31 percent), Germany (30 percent), Poland (30 percent) and Spain (26 percent) as other destinations where haulage companies were considering launching or expanding operations.

While the desire to expand into other European countries may be partly driven by opportunity, some companies are being forced to reconsider their business models to deal with the changes to EU Drivers’ Hours’ regulations.

According to DWF, new EU regulations mean that operators will have to organise the workloads of international drivers to ensure they return home more regularly. An international driver can no longer spend weeks away from home. The survey found that 63 percent of those polled said they will arrange transport home to base for international drivers, while 36 percent of those surveyed said they will look to establish one or more additional bases with a view to drivers completing shorter legs of international journeys as a result.

Vikki Woodfine, partner and head of road transport and logistics at DWF, said: “Our survey clearly shows that European road transport decision makers are gearing up for expansion and change. There has been a period of consolidation and change in the market in this turbulent year, and as things settle down, opportunities from the reshuffle of the market emerge.

“It is positive to see a strong appetite to expand into the UK logistics market, despite Brexit and border concerns this year. Some of this will be driven by the opportunities arising from a post Covid/post Brexit market, others are driven by the need to react to EU regulation changes requiring drivers to return home more regularly.”

Despite optimism of some companies, some perceived barriers to the market remain. The survey found that Brexit and lack of free movement within the EU was a concern for 39 percent, while 42 percent of haulage companies consider the complexity of regulation involved in setting up operations in the UK to be a barrier to establishing a base here.