Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Protests Fizzle Out as Road Haulage Groups Vow to Fight Cabotage by Alien Freight Firms

Foreign Drivers Causing Irish Operators to Lay Off Workers
Shipping News Feature

IRELAND – FRANCE – It seems protests aren’t what they used to be, the much vaunted strike by four separate Gallic unions over pensions which threatened to bring ports and airports to a standstill this week fizzled out with barely a hold up, whilst yesterday’s protest as members of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) staged a blockade last night preventing trucks from entering the country through Foynes Port in Limerick seems to have suffered a similar fate – for now. Local reports say that the attempt to prevent movement of freight faded after just an hour or so when local gardaí assured pickets the lorries could not move without an escort.

The protest was an effort to ‘eradicate alleged illegal haulage activity’ that the IRHA say has been going on for a number of weeks. The IRHA accused the garda of collusion last month saying that EU drivers were repeatedly breaking cabotage regulations when delivering parts for the wind farms springing up around the country. Under the regulations, overseas registered trucks travelling internationally are allowed to deliver only three contracts locally within a week before they have to stop work or leave the country.

Yesterday IRHA President, Eoin Gavin was quoted in local media saying that operators from the Netherlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been contracted to deliver to Munster wind farms but twelve Irish trucks intended to blockade them until at least midnight. Contrary to this, the protest apparently ended at about 9pm, an hour after it had started, following the assurances from the gardaí. A recent survey by the IRHA estimated the exchequer loses out on €15 million of revenue each year by letting foreign vehicles undertake such business in Ireland and avoiding the €4,500 registration fees that Irish hauliers pay.

Last month, the IRHA made representations to both the police and Department of Transport that the gardaí were facilitating the overseas hauliers breaking of the law, and that trucks were arriving in the country empty thereby breaching the legislation and causing native operators to lay off drivers for lack of work. In a statement released yesterday, before the blockade, the IRHA confirmed once again that it had already informed both the gardaí and the Road Safety Authority about the alleged illegal goings-on, but their attempts had been for naught, Gavin added:

“Irish hauliers feel discriminated against in favour of out-of-state operators. The Association has provided intelligence led information to the enforcement agencies to assist their efforts to combat this practice and nothing has been done. This alleged illegal activity has been on-going for a number of weeks and we, as licensed haulage operators, will no longer stand by and allow this practice to continue.

“I am aware of a number of local haulage operators in the Limerick area who have been forced to put their drivers on notice as haulage work is being undertaken by out-of-state operators. It begs the question that if the Government of today are not prepared to defend the licensed haulage sector in Ireland, where is the value and benefit in holding a road haulage operator’s licence.”