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This summer has been especially difficult for lorry and coach drivers crossing the English Channel by way of Calais. Between an escalating migrant crisis and employment actions undertaken by French port workers, getting from France into England has become a real nightmare. So much so, drivers are now taking matters into their own hands.

HGV and driver CPC training may dictate how a driver safely operates his/her vehicle, but it never addresses which routes must be driven. Therefore, hauliers and their drivers are increasingly leaving Calais behind and seeking new routes by way of the North Sea and England’s east coast. The optional ports are proving to be especially important for imports that are deemed time sensitive due to spoilage and other concerns.

One ferry operator, P&O Ferries, says it has seen a significant increase in HGV traffic at all three ports from which they operate. On the Teesport-Zeebrugge route, for example, P&O has experienced 172% growth year-on-year this summer. The Belgian port is about 130 km from Calais.

What is not yet clear is whether drivers and their employers are willing to spend more money on fuel and drive time in order to avoid Calais. Given how long it now takes to cross there, and the trouble of having to deal with the migrant situation, companies might actually save money by driving north to Belgium.

Doing Whatever It Takes

At the HGV Training Centre, we have a great deal of respect for dedicated drivers willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. It is not easy being put in the position of having to deal with all of the trouble at Calais every time a load has to enter or leave the country. It might also not be worth the risk drivers take in terms of inadvertently carrying migrants into the country.

Over time, we do expect the situation at Calais to settle down by itself. Nevertheless, how long that will take is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, HGV and coach drivers looking for an easier and safer crossing may lead to P&O Ferries accommodating even more traffic.

The HGV Training Centre includes driver CPC training for all of our new students looking to earn a commercial driving licence. As part of that training, we cover the driver’s legal responsibility to take every reasonable step to prevent migrants from sneaking into England on their vehicles. Ultimately, the lorry or bus driver is responsible for everything found on board.

If taking a new route across the North Sea enables the driver to better meet his/her obligations, then it may be an option worth considering. It will be up to each driver and his or her employer to make a decision based on everyone’s best interests.

As officials attempt to sort out the problems in Calais, we will continue to train the next generation of HGV and PCV drivers. We hope you will consider training with us in the future.


  1. Lloyd’s Loading List – https://www.lloydsloadinglist.com/freight-directory/news/Hauliers-turn-to-English-east-coast-ports-for-UK-Europe-crossings/63815.htm?#.W_ZYWegzbDd


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