The budget has done little to help a haulage industry that is close to collapse amid a “perfect storm” of challenges, according to Ger Hynes, President of the Irish Road Haulage Association .
Speaking to the Offaly Express on Budget Day, Mr Hyland welcomed the move to defer a planned increase in fuel excise that was due to come into effect at the end of the month. The restoration of excise amounts of 8c on petrol, 6c on diesel and 3.4c on Marked Gas Oil will now come in in two equal instalments in April and August next year.
“We’re glad to see that request has been listened to, but that’s about it,” he said.
Mr Hyland said “myriad” issues, including an acute shortage of both drivers and mechanics, “over-regulation” of the industry, rising fuel costs, disrupted supply lines, and uncertainty about the transition to greener fuel sources was heaping intense pressure on the industry.
The haulier said he was particularly disappointed the budget did not include any measures to help “green” the sector.
“It’s a giveaway budget but there’s not much in it for us as a sector,” he said.
Mr Hyland, who is president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, added: “Our industry is very close to collapse, we have the perfect storm.”
He said he was concerned for the future of his own business.
“We’re 90 years this year, but I do fear for the future,” he said.
Mr Hyland said hauliers across Ireland were finding difficulty finding drivers. He expressed hope a plan that would offer recognition for licences of Georgian drivers could ease some of the pressures.
“Our costs are escalating nearly on a weekly basis at this stage,” he said.
“We’re lucky enough we have a full complement of drivers at the minute but we would have colleagues and friends not far from us who are suffering very badly for drivers, they don’t have them, they have vehicles parked up because they have no drivers.”
He added: “The majority of transport companies in Ireland we’re all local, family-based, country-based businesses, still the same today.
“But we don’t have any of our young people looking or wanting to come into our industry. We have hauliers out there that have built up businesses over a long number of years, worked very, very hard to build up businesses and their family is not following them into the industry because of regulation and because we’ve no clear line as to what our industry is going to be in 10 years’ time.”
Mr Hyland questioned whether the Government was prioritising hauliers as he claimed industries like aviation were given preferential treatment.
“If you bring a tanker of aviation fuel from Dublin port to the airport, the lorry bringing the fuel from Dublin port has more in excise on the diesel that he uses to get the tanker load of fuel from the port to the airport than the whole tanker load of fuel going into the aeroplane,” he said.
He also claimed there was a lack of clarity from the Government on how it wanted the industry to transition away from diesel.
Mr Hyland said hauliers were spending tens of thousands of euros greening their fleet with eco-friendly engines and technology to clean exhaust fumes.
But he said there remained confusion on what the long-term solution was.
“Essentially we don’t know here in Ireland whether it’s going to be electric trucks in the future or whether it’s going to be a hydrogen trucks,” he said.
“We have no real guidance. One week it’s one, the following week it’s the other. We have no real guidance as to what way the industry is going.”
Mr Hyland continued: “As an industry we will embrace a green initiative when it comes. But at the minute there’s only diesel there to give us the propulsion we need.”
He added: “And that’s why we are calling for help to help us green up our sector.
“We’ve done as much as we can ourselves, but we do need help.”