Four nights at a French truck stop: stranded by COVID border closure

Caroline Pailliez and Thierry Chiarello
·2-min read

By Caroline Pailliez and Thierry Chiarello

CALAIS, France (Reuters) - Ali Kansu, a 54-year-old truck driver from Turkey, was on Friday hunkering down for another night sleeping at a truck stop near Calais, one of the many truckers stranded by the halting of traffic flows from Britain to France.

Kansu arrived in Calais with a cargo from Germany, in preparation for a planned handover on Monday to a colleague who would take the consignment the rest of its journey, across the Channel and into Britain.

But with France - along with many other countries - stopping arrivals from Britain because of fears of a new strain of COVID-19 there, the colleague did not show up, and is now incommunicado.

Kansu now has to wait near Calais. He arrived on Thursday, and already spent the weekend at the truck stop, so Monday will be his fourth night there, sleeping in his cab.

"But it's not a problem," he told Reuters. "I'm okay in the truck."

When the border was shut, thousands of Europe-bound truck drivers were left stranded in Britain, some worried they would miss Christmas with their families.

Even though trucks are still allowed to cross from the French side to Britain, in many cases they are unable to make the trip because the complex logistics chain that keeps the goods moving has been thrown out of kilter.

Dmitri, a Ukrainian truck driver, had already given up waiting at Calais and was preparing to head back to Germany with his cargo undelivered.

He too had been due to swap his cargo with a driver coming across to Calais from Britain, but the border closure stopped the colleague arriving.

"It's not good for business, that's for sure," he said at the truck stop near Calais, before heading back.

(Additional reporting by Laurence Frost; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Giles Elgood)