An international haulier is challenging immigration minister Robert Jenrick to travel with one of its truck drivers through Calais to see the challenges his drivers and the company face to prevent migrants stowing away in their trucks.

Kevin Hopper, MD of West Yorkshire-based Brian Yeardley Continental, has thrown down the gauntlet to Jenrick this week after the minister announced plans to fine lorry drivers and operators who inadvertently bring stowaways into Britain £10,000 per migrant, up from the current fine of £2,000.

Announcing the increase, set to come into force next month, Jenrick said the current fine of £2,000, levied under the Clandestine Entrant Civil Penalty Scheme, is not sufficient to incentivise hauliers and their drivers to properly secure their vehicles. New security standards for all vehicles will also be introduced.

Hopper slammed the decision to raise the fines and questioned the government’s understanding of the challenges hauliers are facing in preventing stowaways.

“I challenge Mr Jenrick to travel with one of my drivers through Calais to see what they have to face and to come to my yard and see the measures we have taken and the money we have spent securing our vehicles above and beyond what is required under the Border Force accredited scheme.

“There is nothing more we can do and yet we are now being scapegoated by the government and treated like common criminals with a fine which could send some haulage firms under. Is that what they want to do – destroy jobs and hard-working companies? I can only think that Mr Jenrick has no idea what is happening at Calais.”

Hopper said his company, which specialises in events transport, had spent tens of thousands of pounds on securing its vehicles but added that there was no guarantee the measures can prevent migrant incursions.

“Our vehicles have armoured curtainsides, armoured roofs and high tensile sealing cords. We have welded padlocks and have even welded the hinges on the back doors – as a haulier I would like to ask Jendrick, what more I can do?"

Read more

Hopper said the company has had to resort to welding the hinges on its box trailers after migrants recently broke into one of its high security box trailer, which resulted in its load of whey powder being rejected, after migrants urinated and defecated in the trailer during transit.

“We had an impregnable lock system on the back doors with an encapsulated padlock but they had managed to remove the bolts from the hinges,” he explained.

“We have also had a hole cut into the steel curtainside of a new £30,000 trailer. Maybe I should send the bill to the government,” he added.

“How dare Mr Jenrick imply hauliers are being negligent and need to be incentivised by a bigger fine to secure their vehicles? It just shows he has no idea what he is talking about, so I would like to see him come here so he can educate himself about the challenges we face.”

He added: “This is not the fault of hauliers. This is the fault of a government and a succession of ministers with absolutely no clue about this industry, that cannot get to grips with the problem and is now going to scapegoat and tax international hauliers to pay for the cost of their failed policies.”

Hopper said his drivers daily face gangs of migrants, some armed with machetes and knives, trying to get into trucks when they reach Calais.

“The government should be providing my drivers with protection, not fining them and me £10,000 per migrant,” Hopper said.

He added: “My drivers do not stop in Calais. It is not safe. Their last stop is four hours away in Rhiems where there is a secure truck park. But that means we lose four hours of productivity on each truck. That is 80 trucks a week and each truck runs at a cost of around £65 an hour.

“On top of that we have had the cost of setting up a customs department after Brexit which cost us thousands, plus border delays because the customs system goes down occasionally or because of understaffing. But do we get compensation for that? No, instead we are now being taxed £10,00 per migrant or something outside of our control.”