ATA Carnet Case Study: Stagetruck | Business West

An ATA Carnet serves as a 'passport for goods,' enabling duty and tax-free temporary movement of goods across international borders. Currently, the ATA Carnet system is operational in over 80 countries worldwide. This scheme has become especially vital for UK-based companies, facilitating the temporary importation of their goods into the EU under the new Brexit regulations. In particular, touring musicians and artists worldwide rely on ATA Carnets to seamlessly transport their equipment between shows and eliminate any delays to what are usually incredibly tight touring schedules.


Stagetruck, one of Business West's oldest ATA Carnet customers, is a specialist freight company catering to the entertainment industry. Established to provide comprehensive transport solutions for concerts, shows, and exhibitions, Stagetruck has over 40 years of experience. The company is known for their expertise in route planning, customs formalities and logistics management, ensuring seamless transportation of equipment for high-profile music tours and events across Europe.

Robert Hewett, Managing Director, Stagetruck 

Fiona Parsons, Senior Marketing Manager at Business West, visited Robert at Stagetruck's impressive seven-acre estate. Her goal was to learn about their thriving business and their experiences working with the International Trade Services team at Business West. 

Meet the Managing Director

I am Robert Hewett, the managing director of Stagetruck. I founded the company with my wife, Judy, in the late 1970s when it was just us, two trucks and a Portakabin. Together, we have grown it to the Stagetruck you see today, with bases and teams in Hampshire, London, Leeds and The Netherlands. We now operate over 200 trucks and employ over 300 people, all overseen by Judy and me from our main headquarters in Micheldever, Hampshire. We have a fantastic and dynamic group of employees working with us, and it’s an industry that’s constantly growing and changing. Hence, it’s a hugely exciting job that keeps me busy in ways I could never have imagined when, with a passion for music and a love of driving, I saw a gap in the market and decided to do something about it over 40 years ago. 

two men stood in front of a lorry

Photograph: Robert Hewett, Managing Director, Stage Truck and Robbie Jones, Stagetruck's longest serving driver

Who are your clients/which businesses do you work with? 

We provide entertainment transport to every corner of Europe by road and ferry, working closely with the artist's management and production managers by transporting their equipment as seamlessly as possible. We have the privilege of working with some of the most well-known artists and bands in the world, currently including the Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Justin Timberlake, Billie Eilish, and Ed Sheeran, and in the past, artists including David Bowie and George Michael. 

What is an ATA Carnet?

An ATA Carnet is a document used by the transport industry and provides freedom of goods movement between countries on the ATA Carnet scheme. It means that trailers don’t need to be unloaded and checked by customs each time they pass through a border, and every single item that a band is touring with - down to each individual wardrobe case and the number of items within it, for instance, gets listed on the Carnet. This saves a huge amount of time and hassle at borders and allows our vehicles to move from one venue to another quickly and for acts to play as many concerts and festivals as possible in an allotted amount of time. 

How long have you been using ATA Carnets? 

When the UK joined the EU in 1973, demand decreased considerably for ATA Carnets as they weren’t necessary for Europe, but most music tours went to Switzerland and Norway, so an ATA Carnet was still required. That meant we developed significant expertise in creating what are now vital documents for any tour venturing into Europe because since Brexit, there has been a need for Carnets in every European country being visited by a tour or live event. Post-covid, there has also been an explosion in touring, so their use has increased dramatically. Our well-established experience in creating these documents has been a significant advantage for us in anticipation of this change to European law and an upsurge in the number of tours we are doing. 

How do ATA Carnets benefit your business operations? 

Without the use of ATA Carnets in the countries where they are required, we could not move entertainment equipment fluidly across borders and plan these journeys in advance. 

truck being washed

Photograph: one of the Stagetruck trucks being cleaned on-site

What challenges have you faced while using ATA Carnets, and how have you overcome them? 

Since Brexit, drivers and customs officers are sometimes unaware of and have misunderstood ATA Carnets as a customs document. We have always trained our drivers and provide a driver pack and a handover to the driver or lead driver and pride ourselves on a fully trained workforce, but we have found this isn’t the case everywhere, which can slow down the movement across borders considerably. Every minute counts on a tour, and there are tens of millions of pounds at stake with these big artists, so it’s a big challenge to carry on delivering the gold standard of service we’ve always prided ourselves on with this change to the bureaucracy involved not being understood by everyone involved. The danger of losing time through this lack of awareness - and a concert running late as a result - is a constant threat to touring now, and we do everything within our power to avoid it with the stakes being so high. 

What advice would you give to other companies considering using ATA Carnets for the first time? 

Learn all about ATA Carnets and take it seriously. Understand the legal implications. There are lots of useful YouTube videos that can aid you.

How has your experience been with Business West ATA Carnet services? 

Business West were recommended to us when we moved our operation out of London. Business West has proven itself over many years - the staff are helpful and interested in what we do, and we have worked with some really good people there. The outstanding facet of the Chamber is that they are proactive, embrace new technology, and are interested in their services to customers and businesses. It is refreshing and aligns perfectly with how we operate as a business.  

And what is Stagetruck's vision for the future? 

We recently acquired a 30-year-old entertainment transport company based in Leeds, specialising in the movement of equipment for theatre, ballet, opera, and exhibitions. This strategic acquisition complements our touring business and balances our existing presence in the South of England. Our goal has always been to provide first-class service, ensuring we can transport our customers' equipment anywhere by road and ferry to their timeframe and as seamlessly as possible, with our well-trained, professional and personable drivers and logistics team representing the company wherever our trucks go. Our expertise is unparalleled, and our workforce is very loyal, which we are very proud of as a business. This is well demonstrated by our longest-serving driver, who just completed forty years with us this week. Most of our work comes from recommendations, and Stagetruck is fundamentally about its people and service. When we get that right, everything else follows. The road ahead is exciting for Stagetruck, with a boom in touring, our recent expansion into new areas of live entertainment, and a workforce that sees a bright future with us. 


Find out more about Stagetruck.

Find out more about Business West ATA Carnets.

  • Apply for an ATA Carnet today

    Start creating and submitting your ATA Carnets today. To apply for your carnet, you'll be taken to our easy-to-use export documentation platform, eCert.