International hauliers who regularly use Calais are having to cope with the threat migrants pose to the security of their trucks. The law obliges them to take every precaution to ensure that lorries do not return to the UK with clandestine entrants onboard – illegal immigrants who have hidden in the cargo area.
Failure to do so can mean a fine of up to £2,000 for the truck’s driver, owner or hirer for every clandestine transported, warns the Home Office.
They are at the extremities when it comes to vehicle security, but the measures they are taking to protect their trucks and their drivers can filter out to all types of operators that have a need to prevent theft.
Suffolk-based Kersey Freight has taken delivery of 15 box-bodied Dry Liner semi-trailers built by Krone which have been designed to guard against break-ins.
Kersey fleet manager Robert Steele says the door locking bars are on the inside of the doors, rather than the outside, and the hinge pins cannot be accessed from the exterior. Furthermore, a stainless steel bar can be locked across the door handles when the doors are closed, which means nobody can get at them.
“We have found that, if the locking bars and hinge-pins are conventionally mounted on the outside, migrants can unbolt them, remove a door, and enter the trailer,” Steele explains.
“The door is then quietly refitted and re-sealed by accomplices. When the driver checks the following day he sees that the seal remains intact which means he has no reason to suspect that it has been tampered with.”
The sides of the trailers are solid, so there is no access for migrants there and Dry Liner’s roof is strong, Steele says. That makes it more difficult for a clandestine to cut a hole in it, having gained access to the top of the trailer and drop-down inside. “We have found roofs on other box vans to be flimsy,” he says.
It’s a security measure that has benefits for all types of fleet, undertaking all kinds of journey.
Kersey Freight is among several companies that have signed up to the Border Force’s Civil Penalty Accreditation Scheme. To be accredited, businesses have to show they have an effective system for preventing clandestine entrants and take reasonable measures to ensure it works, including training drivers. If an accredited firm operates in accordance with the scheme but migrants are nonetheless discovered in one of its trucks, it will not be fined.
Launched in the UK last September, Krone’s Dry Liner is also the choice of event and entertainment transport specialist Acme Production Services. The Bedford-based business has acquired two in order to protect the equipment it carries from theft.
“We truck everything from a single flight case to everything required for a complete music tour production,” says director Lance Lovell. “Our trailers need to be built to the highest standard to ensure maximum load security and the Dry Liners are virtually impregnable.”
Acme highlights not just the flush-fit steel back doors with their integrated double-locking, but the way the body is constructed, using galvanised steel cassette panels.
Haul munitions, explosives and other hazardous cargo and security has to be the top priority. That is the sort of work CTS Group handles.
“We specialise in consignments that are dangerous, delicate and difficult to move,” says commercial director, Doug Overett.
The Reading company has acquired a pair of Ekeri box-bodied semi-trailers which can be side- as well as rear-loaded and centrally locked and unlocked from the tractor unit’s cab and remotely from CTS’s traffic office.
All the doors are designed to resist attempts to pry them open, the floors are reinforced with 3mm hardened aluminium chequer-plate while the sides of the bodies have 1.5mm steel surfaces.
Each trailer is equipped with an alarm system which can send an audible and visual alert to the traffic office if it comes under attack. A tracking system is fitted which ensures that CTS can keep tabs on the trailers when they are uncoupled from the tractor unit.
Box-bodied trailers are heavier than curtainsiders and more expensive, but keeping a curtainsider secure is arguably more of a challenge. One option is to reinforce the curtains with an anti-slash backing to up to half their height.
Perhaps better known for its anti-diesel-siphoning devices, TISS offers this type of backing under the CurtainSafe banner. It uses Kevlar material which can be heat-welded to the inside of the curtains either as a retrofit or when the truck body or trailer is first constructed.
Available at heights of up to 3m, one of its big advantages is that it does not make it more difficult to open or close the curtains says TISS.
Reinforced curtains can be supplemented by a secure TIR cord. One end is plugged into the trailer’s air system, the other into a security seal and, if the cord is tampered with, an alarm sounds in the cab. An alert can be sent straight to the operator.
If somebody does manage to get into the cargo area then they need to be spotted as quickly as possible. Onboard CCTV, combined with CO2 monitors, can help.
That’s the view of AET International. For £999 its Driver Buddy 4 package includes four infrared cameras which can be monitored by means of a dashboard display. The location of the truck is monitored via GPS and clandestine entry can be recorded on to a restricted-access SD card.
Spend £1,499 and step up to Driver Buddy 4+ and the package can include higher-resolution cameras plus units that monitor rises in CO2 levels and detect motion using infra-red sensors. The vehicle is tracked continuously and an alert transmitted to the operator’s headquarters if there is a problem.
A Driver Buddy Defence smartphone app is also available which allows drivers to record tagged photographs of the security checks they have carried out and upload them to a secure server. They can then be produced as evidence should the authorities suggest that proper checks may not have been made.
Operators who never venture outside the UK are of course more interested in combating thieves than in dealing with incursions from migrants.
Reliable statistics on thefts of and from commercial vehicles are hard to come by, says Road Haulage Association security manager Chrys Rampley, but figures from Freight Watch International show that in 2014 Britain was the third worst place in Europe for cargo theft, beaten only by the Netherlands and Germany.
Attempts to combat it include the establishment of a full-time freight desk by the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) at its headquarters at the College of Policing near Coventry.
The desk gathers statistics and intelligence on crime that affects the road transport industry, raises awareness of the challenge posed and helps to coordinate efforts by police forces to combat the criminals involved.
Protecting against theft
Better physical protection can help frustrate the light-fingered. Maple Fleet Services offers the pneumatically-operated Freightlock, an internally-mounted slam lock suitable for both roller shutters and barn doors.
When they are shut, they lock automatically.
A variation on the Freightlock theme is one designed specifically for the sort of narrow-slat shutters fitted to, for example, lockers on fire appliances. Hit a switch mounted on the truck and all the shutters that are already closed will be locked. Those that remain open will lock automatically when they are shut again.
An alternative for fleets is to fit Maple’s mechanical SlamSecure lock. Externally-mounted, which means it can act as a deterrent, and compatible with the throw-over-style handles typically found on truck load area doors, its jaws clamp the handle into place.
Such secure doors must be opened by the drivers, of course, who must also be certain that they haven’t been unlocked during the journey. One obvious step is to restrict access to keys. Better yet, do away with keys completely and fit a combined electronic seal and lock which can be locked and unlocked by keying in a pin.
Go one stage further and you can lock and unlock the doors remotely, only unlocking them if there is an emergency or once you are sure the truck has reached its destination.
Maple provides just such a package under the Integritas banner, developed in conjunction with door manufacturer JR Industries. Launched at last year’s Commercial Vehicle Show, it offers the additional option of using touch keys which are issued to individual employees who can only use them on designated vehicles.
Every door opening is captured as part of an audit trail which can be uploaded to a remote server automatically. An alert can be triggered if the opening is unauthorised.
“If you rely on a plastic seal instead, there is always the risk that it will be carefully glued back together if a door is opened illicitly and the seal is broken,” says Maple marketing manager Paul Nunn.
Integritas costs from £500 to £700 depending on the type of door it is fitted to.
A problem for many operators is that they may need to leave the keys in the ignition with the engine running because they require the engine to power, say, a lorry-mounted crane. As a consequence, there is always the risk that somebody will jump into the cab and drive off with the vehicle.
In response, Maple has developed DriveLock. Authorised drivers are equipped with uniquely-coded transponders. If anyone without one tries to move the vehicle, it will immobilise and the horn will sound if they try to restart the engine.
An alternative approach allows the engine to be run without the key in the ignition. If anybody attempts to drive away with the vehicle the engine will shut down and will only restart when the ignition key is inserted. A transponder-based immobiliser can be fitted to vehicles that may not have a factory-fitted one – or need another layer of security – that arms and disarms itself as the transponder moves in and out of range.
Alarms can be added that can protect the cab or the load area, or both, with the possibility of having a text message alert sent to the driver’s phone if he or she is away from the vehicle and the alarm is triggered.
Maple also supplies a device that will gradually slow a truck down to near walking-pace if it is hijacked and which can be triggered remotely if required. Legislation forbids the installation of anything that will bring a vehicle to a shuddering halt.
The idea is that the device will start to slow the vehicle when it is some way away from the driver, who may otherwise be the victim of a revenge assault by the thieves.
Drivers should, of course, be instructed never to fight back against hijackers.
A number of suppliers, including Locks 4 Vans and Expresslock, offer additional locks for light commercials including deadlocks and slamlocks. Expresslock sells the £155 Snaplock which ensures a van’s side door automatically locks whenever it is closed. A version of the same lock for the back doors is marketed for £145.
One option worth considering is fitting reinforcing plates, designed to prevent the factory-fitted locks from being forced open. Armaplate is the most prominent supplier.
If a van, truck or trailer is stolen despite all these precautions then all may not be lost if a tracking device has been fitted.
Before Christmas, a new Citroën Dispatch taken by thieves who stole the keys from the owner’s home was recovered by the police within an hour of being alerted.
The van was equipped with the Teletrac Navman telematics platform Citroën fits to its light commercials and the Trackstar system included with the platform.
The majority of vehicles fitted with another system, Tracker, are recovered rapidly too, says Tracker’s head of police liason, Andy Barrs.
“We’ve just had a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter retrieved in London within two hours of being taken,” he reports. “We usually fit the commercial vehicles we protect with a VHF tracking system and the recovery rate is 95%,” he continues.
“A VHF system is extremely difficult to jam compared with those that rely on GPS/GSM.”
Prices start at £249, he says; a modest amount given the value of a truck and its load. “It’s also worth noting that we offer a tracking unit with a five-year battery life,” he says. “That makes sense if you want to protect a trailer that may be left parked somewhere for a while.”
Tracking systems, often part of a more comprehensive telematics system whcih will monitor driver behaviour behind the wheel, can have multiple advantahes –protecting both vehicle and the driver.
They can provide data ranging from simple location updates every few hours to real-time telematics which adds speed and fuel consumption to live location alerts.
Systems such as Quartix throw routing and scheduling into the mix allowing operators to identify the most efficient routes, particularly for multi-drop businesses. This can also include elements of security by avoiding accident or theft blackspots.
In addition, understanding truck and van positions enables you to locate the vehicle cloest to any specific job site. Despatching the truck with the shortest distance to travel not only reduces fuel usage, but also the chances of incidents by lowering total fleet mileage.
The more miles travelled, the greater the likelihood of being involved in an incident.
Accurately tracking your fleet with GPS means you will always know where your vehicles and drivers are. Should they suffer breadown or be invlved in an accident, you will be able to alert the relevant authorities quickly.
Anti-theft trackers are the simplest available and range in proce from £300-500 per vehicle.
More complex fleet tracking systems tend to be subscription-based. Expect to pay around £10 per month, with an additional fee to add or remove a unit of around £100.
However, all these devices may end up proving valueless if drivers fail to adopt a few basic security measures.
They should always drive with the cab and load area doors locked, remember to take keys out of the ignition and lock the vehicle when they are refuelling at a service station or making a delivery. If they believe they are being followed then they should alert home base and, if necessary, ring the police. If they have to park somewhere overnight then ideally they should do so at a secure truck stop.
If they have no other option, they should park in a well-lit area where other trucks are present. Parking back-to-back ensures that thieves cannot access either set of rear doors.
“It’s also advisable for operators to make arrangements with other operators so that their trucks can be parked at each other’s premises,” says Rampley.
Be cautious about divulging information on loads, routes and departure and arrival times that could be used to plan a robbery, and try to vary routes and times if at all possible.
Ensure that all corporate clothing, keys and identity cards are handed back when a driver leaves the company’s employment. And check licences, CVs and references.