Cllr Sarah O'Reilly (Aontú).

Supports a ‘farce’ for haulage sector

A Cavan councillor has launched a scathing attack on Government and its supports for the haulage sector to date, calling for increased financial supports to assist businesses upgrade their fleets to new greener technology.

Aontú’s Sarah O’Reilly highlighted “extremely challenging” conditions, with the cost of living crisis affecting millions in Ireland and inflation hitting a 38-year high in June and said the Government needs to be more “mindful” of those factors in its actions.

She fears that, if the required supports fail to fully factor in the pressures faced, it could hasten “the demise of many family businesses, which sustain and support employment across the country”.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of Cavan County Council, the Bailieborough elected representative pointed out that the licensed road haulage sector faces “significant adjustments”, arising from transitioning to a low carbon economy coupled with “an unavoidable dependence” at present on fossil fuels.

Her motion sought the offices of Cavan County Council to call on the Minister of State for Transport and Logistics, Hildegarde Naughton, to increase finance supports to help offset the impact of Brexit, fuel costs, and the upgrading of fleets to greener technology.

She is seeking the abolition of toll charges for green vehicles also.

“The sector remains under considerable pressures and demands from government and industry with regard the race to go green. I implore the government to actually listen to the voice of the Irish Road Hauler Association, and to follow evidence-based analysis on future reliable technologies that will reduce emissions at less cost to the haulier, rather than embracing extremely vocal lobby groups with vested interests, unproven theories and untested technologies.”

She gave examples to the meeting, the first of which was support for the purchase of heavy-duty compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. Cllr O’Reilly said that the uptake is supported through grants and reduced excise. The incentives have been available for around five years, however she claimed they had delivered “very little positive impact”.

There are currently only three fuelling outlets and only less than 100 CNG trucks operating in Ireland. Within that time frame, Mercedes, MAN and Renault have dropped their gas engine option with now only Scania and IVECO offering a CNG fuelled vehicle. “There are a few CNG trucks sitting in a yard above in Virginia; because of the increased price in gas, they have become unviable to run and are sitting idle at a huge cost to the haulage company,” she further claimed.

Her next point was with regard to liquefied natural gas (LNG), noting there were “no fuelling outlets” in Ireland and that Volvo, who sell this truck option, says there are “none operational” in the country and they have “no backup or service regime” in place either.

She added that the cost of an LNG truck is €45,000 more expensive than its diesel equivalent. “This vehicle also cannot travel on the Eurotunnel and certain ferries. This is therefore not a viable option. But there is a grant for it.”

Cllr O’Reilly called into question also the utilisation of a plug-in hybrid electric fleet, which she said was still being trialled, and pure electric trucks. “None of the mainstream manufacturers have an electric HGV arctic yet to market.”

Renault, Cllr O’Reilly said, has a “limited number” of 26-tonne rigid vehicles available, with a price tag of around €450,000 and an “additional weight penalty” of two tonnes. “Not an option yet.”

She therefore posed that the question “must be asked” why is the government “pushing, incentivising and offering grants” to an industry to purchase vehicles that, in some cases, “haven’t even been manufactured yet, or the technology hasn’t been proven”.

This, she stated, was “not helping the green agenda”, and in fact was turning the idea of incentivising change into a “farce and it is neither practical nor fair”.

“There are better, more reliable , cleaner, ready to go options available with Cummins a world leader in the drive to reduce particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by more than 90%,” Cllr O’Reilly informed the meeting. “But these better and immediate solutions are seemingly too easy for our government. They are reaching for the impossible, it’s nearly like they are aiming to fail.”

Calling for the retention and an increase in the Diesel Rebate Scheme in the next Budget from €0.07 in line with European norm, Cllr O’Reilly is also seeking a Brexit Adjustment Reserve Advance to make for the €310 additional cost for drivers no longer using the land bridge to Europe; relief for the increased cost of AdBlue; and grants for trucks that reduce harmful exhaust emissions.

“Every item we purchase has been on a truck at some stage in its journey to the customer, and any additional costs will be passed on to us. Therefore, it is in all our own interests to support the haulage sector substantially in this Budget. If that doesn’t come to pass, then we, the people will either have to go without or be supplied at an extortionate cost.”

Her motion was supported by Fianna Fáil’s Clifford Kelly, who highlighted additional costs for Adblue and tyres. “It’s a serious case for hauliers to be in this situation,” he said. “We can’t do without hauliers. We need them. We need them very badly.”

Fine Gael’s Peter McVitty, who owns McVitty Transport, agreed.

He predicted a lot of firms going out of business “if something is not done”.

“It’s great to talk about it, but what to do? It all boils down to costs.”

He concluded by saying he would support Cllr O’Reilly’s motion, but voiced after: “I wouldn’t like to hold my breath.”