LONDON: Britain's Road Haulage Association (RHA) has urged trucking companies operating between the port of Dover and France to obtain UK Border Force (UKBF) accreditation to avoid fines of £2,000 per illegal migrant found in their trailers.
The RHA was reacting to news that penalties imposed on truck drivers and their companies have tripled in the past three years from nearly 1,000 to over 3,300 in 2014/2015.
The UKBF code of practice requires trucking companies to train their drivers, provide basic protection for vehicles and carry out checks. "Hauliers and drivers have to do the best they can in the face of an escalating crisis with migrants," said the RHA.
According to the association, the security requirements are well known to established cross-Channel trucking companies and are similar to what many firms would normally do to ensure their trailers are sealed. The RHA added it "very rarely receives complaints from members relating specifically to the UKBF code of practice".
"The broader issue of migrants is a complete nightmare for our members", declared RHA chief executive Richard Burnett. "We again call on the French government to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that migrants are separated from lorries in the Calais area; and we call on the UK government to support that more strongly in its dealings with the French government. For several weeks we have been calling on the French to deploy their military and the need for them to do so is now clear to everyone."
Burnett said it is impossible for drivers to prevent 5,000 determined migrants getting into their trucks whether they are following the UKBF code of practice or not.
"We need urgent action to protect drivers, their vehicles and their loads when moving through the Calais are and we are simply not getting that," he added.
"The authorities are failing in their duty of care towards our industry and the result is chaos in Calais, losses for transport companies that are simply trying to do their job, drivers increasingly refusing to do the work, the UK supply chain incurring massive costs that will drive up the price of food and goods in the shops, and massive disruption in Kent due to queuing lorries," Burnett concluded.
Meanwhile the trade association that represents companies responsible for handling much of the UK's visible trade has given a cautious welcome to the proposed use of Manston Airport in Kent as a truck park as an alternative to the M20 highway.
Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) said: "It's only a short term fix, and will increase fuel costs, but we understand that this is a site where 2,000 lorries can be held."
Keen added that his association was still insisting British and French governments "fulfil their obligations to let trade move unhindered before serious damage is done to this strategic freight route".