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Hauliers launch campaign to highlight growing safety fears for HGV drivers using French border crossings

  • 15 July 2014
  • By Hayley Pink

A group of hauliers has launched a Facebook campaign and e-petition to raise awareness of the increasing safety fears HGV drivers face at French border crossings from migrants determined to enter the UK

“We need to make the public aware of what’s really going on: the daily threat of damage to our trucks; the daily threat of losing our livelihood; and the £2,000 a head fine to us and our companies,” said one of the campaign’s co-founders Tommy Harrison.

Enough is Enough was launched last Saturday (12 July) and had already amassed nearly 2,000 online members to UK European Lorry Drivers Safety At Or Near French Ferry Ports group in just four days.

The campaign wants to highlight the lack of control it claims is exercised at French border crossings and surrounding routes. It urges the government to step in and help hauliers by exerting pressure on the French authorities to take more action to assist drivers, as well as abolish the substantial fines levied if drivers are found with clandestines on board.

“We’re just looking to be safe in our workplaces from violence and paying fines even after we have done all we can – checks, sealing trailers and checklists,” the e-petition states.

Fellow co-founder Mark Smith said: “This group has been set up for us all to stick together and try an cure the problems we’ve dealt with for way too long,” he added.

Commercial Motor revealed in April that the number of clandestines caught trying to cross the Channel by hiding in lorries had jumped by more than a fifth in 12 months, according to the Home Office. In the year to April 2012, Border Force officers prevented 9,000 individual attempts to cross the Channel illegally, but by April this year, this figure had risen by 22% to 11,000.

Border security

A spokesman for UK Border Force said: “Security of the border is our priority and basing UK immigration controls in France enables us to stop illegal migrants before they reach our shores. We have already bolstered security in Calais, upgrading technology and equipment and are increasing joint intelligence work with the French.

“Drivers and hauliers, both from Britain and overseas, must also play their part. We require them to take adequate steps to secure their vehicles from illegal immigrants trying to smuggle themselves across the border. If a driver does not take these steps – and is found with people hiding in their vehicle – they will be issued with a civil penalty.”

He added that port security at Calais is provided by and is the responsibilty of the French authorities, with UK Border officers based there to operate UK border controls and prevent people enterting the country illegally.

Not a happy situation

Road Haulage Association head of international affairs Peter Cullum told that he has been dealing with the issue on behalf of members, by liaising with the Home Office to try and get them to put pressure on their French counterparts to secure the highways on approach to Calais.

He added that the warm summer weather always leads to higher levels of migrants, with the knock-on effect meaning that tourists will get caught in the crossfire during the holiday season, not just hauliers who face the problem 365 days a year.
“It’s not a happy situation,” he said.

Cullum recommended that drivers should talk to their companies first, who have a duty of care to not put them in danger, and haulage firms should in turn speak with the RHA for advice.

It is also essential that drivers and companies still do all they can to ensure their vehicles are secure, with robust systems in place to be able to show UK Border Force officials a credible defence if clandestines are found on board. It will not be enough to simply declare there are stowaways on board at the border without being able to prove drivers have gone through proper measures to prevent this happening.

Going to extremes…

Smith, who has been undertaking international haulage work since 1988, told that the situation in Calais has become extreme, with migrants’ desperation reaching a head and taking extreme measures to board UK-bound lorries.

“You are heading towards the ports and they are throwing missiles and bricks at your lorry, causing you to stop,” he said.

“There was also an incident a couple of weeks ago where some immigrants got underneath the trailer, strapped themselves underneath the chassis, and then realised the vehicle was veering towards Germany away from the ports. The immigrants – who all carry knives so they can slash the curtains – cut the brake pipes on the trailer. Somebody is going to get killed. That’s why we’ve brought it to light.”

International HGV driver Harrison added that one of the latest methods used by migrants is jumping off bridges or fuel forecourt canopies and cutting a hole in the roof to enter the vehicle, which happened to him recently when refuelling en route to Spain.

“I was approached by a gang that came out of the trees. They had a knife and said ‘where are you going?’, so I said Spain. They wanted to see my paperwork, and I showed them, then they cleared off,” he said. “I finished filling up and I had to adjust my suspension to get the filler neck in. Felt the truck rocking, because you can always feel if they are in the truck nine times out of 10 if stationary. So I pulled off at cash and carry for assistance. They had jumped in from the canopy at the filling station.”

Harrison also highlighted incidents where drivers board a ferry having undergone security checks that confirm their trucks are clear of stowaways, only to be boarded by migrants that have been hiding on another truck already on the ship.

He hopes the Enough is Enough campaign will spur the UK government to put more pressure on  French authorities to assist hauliers, not just at the terminals, but also along approach  routes.

“If you are queing for the boat, and sometimes this can take two or three hours down the motorway, it can be a free for all, as the migrants are everywhere. We’d like upgraded security. But the main thing is we’d like is for our own border force to protect us and not just fine us. We’re just normal blokes earning a living.”


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