Feature, Freight News, Road

Warning to truckers as customs get tough

[ March 21, 2012   //   ]


UK transport lawyer Anton Balkitis

A UK transport lawyer has warned that hauliers can lose their vehicles through ignorance of smuggling and is calling for more definitive ways for companies to defend themselves as Customs appear to be taking stricter measures against errant operators. Anton Balkitis, a partner at Rothera Dowson solicitors, told a International Road Transport Union (IRU) conference in Geneva recently that truckers can face penalties of around £30,000- £50,000 to get back impounded lorries whilst drivers can be sacked, even if they have no knowledge of the smuggling. Where it can be proved that the carrier has made previous smuggling trips Customs will also as a matter of course seek a compensation order for the revenue evaded.He explained that being ‘innocent’ of the crime of smuggling does nothing to protect companies or drivers from “extremely robust” Customs protocol.
He added: “The best protection is to have an accurate and comprehensive paper trail to prove the thoroughness of every step taken to prevent smuggling and find irregularities. Drivers must also prove that they checked all the paperwork both against the actual load of the vehicle and against the destination, to ensure all the records are credible.”
Mr Balkitis said that drivers are also responsible for finding more obvious smuggled goods by checking load compartments and load amounts. However, they are not expected to find goods such as those hidden inside tyres and other sophisticated concealments.
To prove that the drivers themselves had no part in smuggling, companies must obtain a reference from either previous employers or the driver’s agency.


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