Imports and exports in the UK

The UK’s International Trade of Construction Equipment in 2022 

12 August 2022

The Construction Equipment Association has published a report examining the latest figures on the UK’s imports and exports of construction and earthmoving equipment, shedding light on how the industry has coped with the triple threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, and the supply chain crisis.  

The report, based on data from official HMRC trade statistics, offers a flicker of hope for one of the industries hit hardest by this new global paradigm and provides some insight into how these factors have influenced the new shape of the international construction equipment market. 

The UK vs the EU – How’s Brexit affecting the industry? 

In the first quarter of 2022, imports and exports of construction and earthmoving equipment both recorded very high levels of trade. Imports showed an exceptional 54% increase on the previous quarter; while exports saw a 9% decline in Q1, this was a comparison with Q4 last year, which saw the highest quarterly level reached since 2013. 

Imports from the European Union have seen an increase in value as well, but the export statistics tell a very different story. The EU share of total imports in Q1 saw a recovery to 69%, returning to the levels seen in 2020. This followed a reduced level of 63% in 2021, which was attributed to a post-Brexit effect.  

Exports of equipment from the UK to the EU fell to £377 million in Q1, down from £455 million in Q4 2021 but still one of the highest quarterly totals in recent years. However, the share of exports to the European Union remained on a downward trend, falling to 42%, down from 47% in 2021, the lowest value of the past four years. As exports to the EU have seen a rising trend over those years, this may be yet another effect Brexit’s having on the construction and earthmoving equipment industries. 

Exports of construction and earthmoving equipment were 40% higher in Q1 2022 than imports, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said; however, this was a much smaller margin than in 2021 overall, when exports were 64% higher than imports. 

How prominent is Russia in our economy? 

In Q1 2022, UK exports of equipment were shipped to over 140 different countries. The Top 20 countries (based on the weight of machines shipped since 2020) accounted for just over 80% of total exports on both a value and tonnage shipped basis. 

The USA remained the top destination for UK exports during Q1 2022 and increased its share of total exports to nearly 29%. However, the destination country showing the strongest growth for exports during the last year was Russia, reaching 5th place in the ranking.  

This position showed little change despite the imposition of sanctions over the last few months due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is probably due to shipments in Q1 reflecting orders placed pre-sanctions and is likely to show significant falls in Q2. 

In the first three months of 2022, on the other hand, UK imports of construction and earthmoving equipment came from just under 50 different countries. In Q1 this year, the Top 20 countries accounted for over 98% of total imports in both weight and value terms.  

Japan has remained the leading source for UK imports in Q1 on a tonnage shipped basis, while Germany is the top source on a £ value basis. Between them, the two global powers account for 30% of total UK imports. 

What does this mean for you? 

The next few months may prove particularly turbulent for the construction industry and its equipment, so it’s more important than ever to get started on planning your projects as soon as possible. 

Using a service such as PAL Hire enables businesses to access the UK’s largest network of equipment hire depots, meaning that every item of hired in equipment a company needs to operate can be managed for them.  

Whether you’ve got a single site or multiple going on at the same, one call to PAL Hire unlocks the ability to focus on the project. At PAL Hire, we look after every aspect of the hire: from booking, and checking ETA’s (to triple check equipment arrives when you need it) to the collection, when the hired-in equipment is no longer needed.  

No more late cancellations, breakdown of equipment or supplier issues. Call our head office for a quote on 0161 482 6200 for a hassle-free experience – PAL Hire, Equipment Hire Done Differently.