An open letter calling for the end of the HGV clamping trial in Kent and the provision of secure parking facilities for the nation’s lorry drivers has been circulated online. The letter’s author is campaigner and FACTS columnist Karen Roberts

The clamping of lorries in Kent is still a hot topic of conversation. I can see the divide: the lack of parking in the area on top of port delays is causing major problems for our lorry drivers, whilst the unsightly scenes of rubbish are an understandably unpleasant sight for residents. What has since added to the confusion is that the lorry drivers are permitted to park in laybys during the day, but not at night when secure parking is so limited. With this in mind, I have raised a lobby letter to Ashford Borough Council requesting that the trial be postponed until adequate secure lorry parking is provided, along with additional waste bins to be placed at the laybys in question.

I encourage drivers and members of the industry to send this letter to their local MP to hopefully achieve the support for drivers that is so desperately needed.

Here are some comments on the situation and the lobby letter Karen has received from lorry drivers across the country:

“By banning parking [in laybys], the Council are just passing the problem on to the next county; you also have the obvious issue of tired drivers. There is a lot of money to be made out of drivers if you provide good facilities.”

“The lobby letter is just a small start through legal means to get our point across to the powers that be, whether that is Ashford Borough Council, the Government or Joe Public on the way back  from Sainsburys. Short of France-style blockades and strikes, there is not much that can be done legally. A lobby letter to the right people may juststart rolling a small snowball that may grow or just melt away…time will tell.”

“Kent County Council should spend more time and resources on preventing freight crime rather than cashing in on drivers that need to take legal rest breaks. Crime has only been made
worse by Kent County Council closing existing truck stops and laybys.”

“I would not like to have to clean some of the laybys in Kent honestly…this war will continue until both sides see the others needs and perspective. Drivers need overnight parking facilities with
good amenities and security patrols. As well as that, the Council should be able to fine the drivers/operators for littering if they have sufficient evidence. Drivers need to show some respect to their facilities but if we are [treated this poorly] with abysmal facilities, what sort of behaviour can you expect? Both sides need to calm down and work together.”

Karen continues…

When tackling any issue, the bigger picture must always be examined. Since the trial has been instated, drivers have been forced to stay overnight in Calais more to avoid fines once back in the UK. Consequently, drivers have had to contend with travelling through the migrant camps and not getting sufficient rest due to concerns for their safety. Additionally, on Thursday 25 January, French fishermen blocked entry to the ports at Calais and Boulogne. This created massive queues and delays on both French and UK roads; in Kent specifically, freight traffic for both the tunnel and port was backing up on the M20 approach roads.

Speaking to Kent Live, Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: “This [protest] underlines yet again how strikes in France can cause chaos on our roads in Kent. President Macron urgently needs to get a grip of the situation and put a stop to the disruption – which is damaging for both the French and British economies. This shows why we urgently need more investment at the Dover frontline and in the roads that lead to the ports.”

Clamping lorries who are unable to find secure parking is hardly supporting MP Charlie Elphicke’s statement. Lorry drivers may soon have the opportunity to pre-book a parking space at Ashford Truck Stop, but it is rather difficult to do so when, according to my driver contacts at the scene, there is no information displaying when the trains will depart. Furthermore, this  clamping trial will be actively discouraging new drivers from joining the industry. New drivers are now required to spend around £3000 to become professionally qualified; to then be treated in this way would be a massive deterrent. Lorries are on our roads 24/7 and are essential to the UK economy. It is time that we all supported each other; by working together, we can resolve issues rather than creating new ones.

For a copy of the lobby letter, go to: bit.ly/FACTSLobbyLetter

Follow Karen on Twitter: @KarenRo57045350