Often, we circulate articles telling haulage operators and drivers how to get vehicles out of the UK in order to move goods internationally. However, as a consequence of Brexit, there are also additional requirements for getting vehicles back into the country. UK, non-EU and EU haulage companies should all be making sure that their vehicles are secure before they enter the UK. Whilst there are a number of reasons for doing so, for example, to prevent the vehicle being hijacked, to prevent accusations of smuggling, etc., one of the more widely communicated reasons for this security is to prevent infiltration from clandestine individuals.
Clandestine individuals are basically foreign individuals who hide in the back or possibly even underneath Heavy Goods Vehicles in order to illegally enter a country without the appropriate immigration status and/or paperwork. If a driver fails to secure a vehicle and is found with clandestine individuals onboard, then the driver of the vehicle, owner of the vehicle, or possibly even the hirer of the vehicle, can be hit with a £2,000 fine for each person found by the authorities. A useful video has been published to give some guidance on how hauliers/drivers should secure their vehicle, which can be found below:
Some key points to take away are a robust system should be in place, with written instructions issued to drivers on how that system is enforced and how such security systems are to be used. Any retained evidence of training provided to the drivers on how that system is to be used will also likely stand a haulier in good stead.
It should be reiterated to drivers that if they suspect that someone is attempting to enter their vehicle or that there is someone onboard their vehicle, then they should contact the local police as soon as it is safe to do so, and not look to confront whoever may be onboard. In the UK they should call 999 and in the EU call 112.
There is also the point of smuggling to consider when securing your vehicle. A driver and/or operator should always ensure that they know what has been put on the back of their lorry, even more so now that there are paperwork obligations in place and customs authorities have more of a remit to check and search trailers and vehicles.
If a vehicle is found to be carrying goods which have been incorrectly declared, or goods for which preferential rates have been inappropriately claimed, then the haulier and/or driver could find themselves on the wrong end of a smuggling charge or allegations of evading the payment of duties.
In the worst-case scenario, where a driver or operator has failed to secure their vehicle and illegal goods have been planted onboard, e.g., drugs, there is an increased likelihood that those parties will face some serious allegations.
Border Force have a Civil Penalty Accreditation Scheme (‘the Scheme’) for operators that are able to demonstrate that they have an effective system in place for preventing clandestine entrants. If a member of the Scheme is found with clandestine entrants on its vehicles, the member may avoid a fine provided that it can be shown that they were operating in accordance with the effective systems they have adopted.
Backhouse Jones frequently deal with operators that have incurred penalties as a result of clandestine entrants being found on their vehicles. Backhouse Jones are now offering a package to help operators to become accredited. As part of the package, Backhouse Jones will review the operator’s current systems to prevent clandestine entrants; offer guidance on how to improve these systems to the standard expected by Border Force and help operators to complete the application form to become accredited. Becoming accredited will not only assist operators in reducing the potential for clandestine entrants to be found on a vehicle but also increase the protection for drivers operating the vehicles across borders.
If you need advice on any of the above, please contact the Dispute Regulation team or the Regulatory team at Backhouse Jones on 01254 828300.