Calais scenario – are our drivers just sitting ducks?

General Manager | Transmec UK

As a company that has been operating trucks around Europe for many years, the issue of migrants attempting to access trailers in and around the Calais area is nothing new.

However since the beginning of the year the situation has progressively deteriorated resulting in companies such as ours having to constantly review security measures in an effort to safeguard not only our customers' freight but also our equipment and the welfare of our drivers.

Transmec are probably in a better position than many of our competitors as around 80% of our trucks have a two-man driving team.  This gives added security to the clients whose products are entrusted to us.  Despite that, the last two weeks have seen unprecedented levels of attempted entry onto trailers, damage to trucks and physical intimidation to drivers.

Tuesday’s strike by the MyFerryLink workers and the queues resulting from the blockades left drivers and their trucks as ‘sitting ducks’.  The French authorities clearly had a no-arrest policy and the migrants were playing a game of cat and mouse with the French police who could cope.

Twenty-five of our trucks were blocked in the Calais area and given the seriousness of the situation we instructed all drivers en route to the port to stop and await further instructions.  In total, around 100 Transmec lorries were affected by the disruption on both sides of the Channel with considerable cost implications.

Drivers who were in the queue in Calais were seriously worried as they witnessed gangs of migrants roaming from truck to truck, some armed with knives deciding on their next move.

The situation has concerned me for many weeks now and I fear that it is only a matter of time before a driver is dragged from his truck and beaten or even worse killed.

I am not placing the blame entirely on the French authorities because clearly they are having to deal with a very difficult situation, but the EU must now make a clear decision and stop the internal bickering otherwise there will be tragic consequences.

The additional security measures confirmed by the Government, which include new fencing on the road leading up to the port of Calais, do not solve the problem and given how desperate the migrants are will not stop individuals continuing to attempt to climb on board UK-bound trucks.

Whilst the new proposals may ensure that less migrants do actually succeed in doing so and those who are successful may well be caught, the threat to the drivers and operators' equipment increases as they are likely to resort to more violent actions to achieve their goal of reaching the UK.

Until a decision is taken with regards to the migrant camps around Calais, drivers remain at risk and as far as Transmec is concerned we will continue to instruct drivers not to park anywhere near Calais.