The Freight Transport Association (FTA), the trade body which represents half the UK’s road fleet, is calling on French authorities to provide more safe lorry parking for trans-European freight transport around Calais, following the closure of four rest areas on the A16 and A26.
This week’s announcement by Sanef, the French motorway operator, drastically reduces the number of stops where UK drivers can take their rest on their way to and from the port, the gateway to the continent for the majority of UK/European freight business. Sanef has confirmed that one rest area on the A16 at Aire Bois de la Commanderie and three on the A26 will stay shut until 30 June, due to problems with migrants returning to the Calais area after the closure of the notorious Jungle camp in 2016.
FTA Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham said: “Legally, drivers have no choice but to stop when it’s time to take a break and it’s vital that they can park in secure areas where their trucks will be safe. Closing these rest areas means that drivers will be forced to find alternative unsecured stopping points, which could put them at risk of migrants boarding their vehicles, potentially causing damage to their trucks, writing off their loads and leading to heavy and unnecessary fines for their employers. Drivers could even be at risk of attack from particularly desperate individuals.”
The French Government cleared the Calais Jungle Camp, which had been home to up to 10,000 migrants, in October 2016 and built a new wall along the port approach road to protect drivers as they queue for the ferry. Previously, FTA members had faced threats and violence, including burning blockades on the A16 and migrants breaking into the back of trucks and slashing curtain sides to gain access to truck heading to the UK.
Tony Henderson, who drives for Belfast-based Blair Transport, said the situation for drivers initially improved after the camp was dismantled. However, last week he witnessed signs that migrants were returning to the port in significant numbers, such as sleeping bags left by the side of the road. His firm has imposed a 50-mile no stopping zone around Calais to prevent migrants from getting on board its trucks, in an attempt to avoid the fines of £2,000 which are incurred by drivers for every stowaway discovered.
Mr Hookham said: “We advise our members to sign up to the Border Force Civil Penalty Accreditation Scheme which offers some protection if migrants are found on board vehicles, provided they have carried out all the recommended checks. But without safe places to park in the vicinity of Calais, drivers who may have been travelling long distances to reach the area are sitting targets for the migrants. It’s vital that the French authorities provide alternative facilities while these parking areas are closed.”