Whilst I sit down to write this month’s column for The Mover magazine, the trucks that have been stuck on the M20, are starting to move again after several days of being held in ‘Operation Stack’ and things will probably be back to some sort of normality again by the time you read this article.
Yet, this is nothing new. We sold our company in 2004. We specialised in European work and I can remember my own crews and trucks being held, on many occasions, sometimes as long as 2 weeks in remote areas of France as a result of ‘blockades’ - even way back in the 70s.
Little has changed barring the number of trucks now involved in European work. News of trucks being blockaded and attacked happens all too frequently and, dare I say it, - generally as a result of grievances in France which, usually, have no direct link to the trucks, the employees or the companies operating the vehicles.
Whether it irks you or not, the withdrawal of labour is a recognised form of protest be it legal or not but this should not be an excuse to allow for the blockading of the roads - or the ports and seaways which are just an extension of those routes.
It is inhumane to allow crews to be held ‘hostage’ in places without adequate facilities in temperatures up to 37°C, and this, before even considering the loss of earnings and the strong risk that some companies may go by the wayside as a result of the cost.
If an animal was left in such conditions arrests would be made! And, with an economic loss up to an estimated £1billion pounds this form of ‘highway robbery’ makes Dick Turpin look like a saint! But this is not the 17th Century.
Unacceptably, the crews and indeed members of the public caught up in such action become sitting ducks as far as their safety and welfare are concerned. It’s reported that 4,000 illegal migrants are currently crammed in a camp site near the port, branded ‘the jungle’, with nearly 400 more reaching Calais every week: all intent on getting aboard vehicles going to the UK. With the migrants seemingly being allowed to swarm around waiting vehicles – it must be terrifying for all involved, especially families with young children.
The risks of attacks on drivers increase as migrants become more and more desperate – not forgetting the heavy fines if caught with migrants on board.
The combination of blockades, economic loss, lack of facilities and desperate migrants might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in bringing politicians together to solve these totally unacceptable 21st century problems once and for all – but I doubt it.
Perhaps the answer is for the politicians to be made to sit in a lorry cab for 3 days with little food and water, in scorching temperatures, while desperate people brandishing weapons try to get inside.