A Croydon intermediary, part of the Hanover Group, has been quick off the mark to launch a scheme that protects truckers caught with illegal immigrants onboard against civil penalties following the introduction in April of £2000-a-head penalties by the Home Office.

Truckinsure's Dene Cridge and Lee Scott were still finalising the policy but said cover would be for a specified vehicle and probably be sold in £10,000 blocks.

The haulier would have to prove the Home Office's Code of Practice had been obeyed and put in an appeal against their penalty before they could claim.

A Home Office spokesman said 451 lorry drivers had been fined for bringing in more than 2,500 illegal immigrants in the past six months.

Cridge said stowaways used ingenious methods to outsmart drivers, such as cutting the tilt cord and then resealing it with superglue or creating a space to crawl under by using a bottle jack on the slack in the cord.

He said RHA Insurance Services were working with an insurer on a similar product at present.

A Freight Transport Association (FTA) spokesman said the association had had to drop its own similar cover after finding it wasn't commercially viable.

"We would be very interested in seeing how someone else does it," he said.