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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 13 Mar 1986

Vol. 364 No. 9

Road Transport Bill, 1985 [Seanad]: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

The main purpose of the Bill is to eliminate the quantitative restrictions on the carriage of merchandise for reward which were imposed by the Road Transport Act, 1933, and so facilitate the development of an efficient road haulage industry which would be subject only to qualitative control.

Liberalisation of the industry has been in progress for some time. It was initiated with the enactment of the Road Transport Act, 1971, which removed from licensing control the carriage of cattle, sheep and pigs; abolished the weight restrictions on vehicles operated under merchandise licences thus enabling operators to use the size of vehicle most suited to their business; and removed the restrictions on area of operation and on commodities carried resulting in an increase from 100 to 841 in the number of licences authorising the carriage of general merchandise throughout the State.

That Act also provided for the grant of restricted road freight licences to foreign hauliers to enable them to transport goods to or from the State.

Further liberalisation measures were introduced under the Road Transport Act, 1978, which increased sixfold the vehicle capacity on existing carrier merchandise licences subject to a maximum of 80 vehicles for any one business. Prior to that more than 500 licences authorised the use of one vehicle only while about 150 licences authorised the use of two vehicles. In order to encourage the development of the Irish international road haulage industry and to lessen the country's dependence on foreign hauliers, the Act also extended to Irish hauliers the facility to get licences for international haulage provided they satisfied the EC requirements of good repute, sound financial standing and professional competence in accordance with the European Communities (Merchandise Road Transport) Regulations, 1977. Furthermore, the 1978 Act exempted from licensing control haulage in vehicles not exceeding 2.5 tonnes unladen weight and haulage of grain in the harvesting season.

Those measures were intended to give the existing licensed hauliers, who had hitherto been impeded by the restrictive nature of the legislation, an opportunity to expand their business and to prepare themselves before the industry was opened to new entrants. It was made clear during the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas that the ultimate objective was the complete removal of quantitative restrictions on haulage for reward. The phasing of the final step, which is the substitution of qualitative for quantitative controls with the effect of admitting new entrants to the market subject to a specific system of quality control, was considered in depth by the Transport Consultative Commission established by the then Minister for Transport in 1978. In their report of July, 1981, which was laid before this House, the Commission outlined the following course:

—A first phase restructuring of the existing licensing arrangements in a way which would permit existing hauliers entitled to operate under the Road Transport Acts to compete on equal terms as regards the area of operation and type of goods to be carried—this restructuring to take place during a two-year transition period commencing on acceptance by the Government of the Commission's recommendation.

—In the second phase, at the end of the transition period, general haulage licences to be made freely available to all applicants including own-account operators who satisfy the EC requirements for access to the profession of road haulage operator.

The frequent changes of Government following publication of the report have had the effect of deferring adoption of these measures and prolonging the existing restrictive regime, which is really of benefit to no one, least of all in my view the licensed haulier.

The decision of the Government was that the liberalisation measures should be implemented but with the modification, in response to representations from the Irish Road Haulage Association, representing the existing licensed hauliers, that the total abolition of quantitative control would begin two years after the beginning of phase 1 and not two years after the date of the Government decision, as recommended by the Transport Consultative Commission.

The developments within the industry such as employment growth as a result of the gradual easing of restrictions are a fair indication that the industry has had, and used, in its more businesslike sector, the opportunity presented to prepare for complete liberalisation. I believe that the further liberalisation measures we are now proposing will enable hauliers to develop their services in line with users' requirements. At the same time, the operation of quality controls will serve to raise the standards of safety and efficiency throughout the industry.

In the discharge of my responsibility in relation to road freight transport, I must do what I can to ensure that users of the service have the best professional transport industry that can be provided. I must also strive to ensure that, overall, national transport operates as efficiently as possible. In my view, one essential requirement for this is an increase in the amount of traffic carried by the professional hauliers and a fall in the own-account element. I am satisfied the liberalisation to date has improved the share of traffic handled by the professionals. Based on a survey carried out in 1964, the Central Statistics Office estimated that the licensed haulage industry, including CIE, accounted for only about 17 per cent of ton miles in that year. The next full survey was for 1980 when the estimated licensed haulage share had more than doubled to about 35 per cent. There was a further increase to over 38.5 per cent for 1984.

Nonetheless. I believe that professional hauliers have yet to reap the full potential of the market so as to reach the stage reached in several other EC countries where professional hauliers have, typically, a share of the order of 60 per cent of the traffic. The thinking of the Transport Consultative Commission was in line with this view. The commission observed that own-account transport was becoming more complex and costly to operate and that the willingness of own-account operators to reduce the level of their own commitment to transport offered an opportunity for the enterprising professional haulier. The intensely strict regulatory provisions which came into force over 50 years ago have been an impediment to the development of the professional haulage industry; the removal of those restrictions as provided for in the Bill should foster growth and improve efficiency and so enable the hauliers to achieve a much greater share of the traffic.

I have a responsibility too, to those hauliers who over all the years have served faithfully and in some cases with outstanding efficiency under a system which was so restrictive as to be almost punitive in effect. The livelihood of these carriers is something we have to take into account. I do not accept the argument that liberalisation will destroy that livelihood. The hauliers of long standing have an edge in the market. They are the people who have been in the business for years. They are on the ground floor. They have the contacts and they have the expertise. They have a head start on all potential new entrants and they must win out.

The livelihood of long established hauliers will not be protected by unthinking opposition to change on the part of either Government or the industry. Entrenched opposition to change in the past has resulted not alone in an unduly high share of the market for own-account hauliers but also in the growth of illegal operators. Their very existence is a symptom of the failure of the legislative system to keep up with market needs. Sad to say, licensed hauliers themselves have offered most resistance to the adaptation of the legislation to the conditions of today.

The licensing restrictions imposed by the Road Transport Act, 1933, are designed to protect the railways. They did not succeed in this and the road vehicle has long since replaced the railway as the favoured mode of conveyance for most goods. The trend towards greater use of road vehicles for such transport is not an exclusively Irish development; the same can be said of most European countries. We have to face the fact that the principle of quantitative control on licensed road haulage dates from the incredibly different world of over half a century ago. It has ceased for years to be relevant to our needs.

This Bill gives effect to the Government decision to implement the recommendations of the Transport Consultative Commission. Section 3 provides for placing all existing holders of haulage licences and all hauliers lawfully operating in the areas now exempted from licence control on an equal competitive footing with each other by standardising licences. It also contains the provision which after about two years will open access to haulage for reward to all qualified condidates. The purpose of the phased approach even in this final stage of the liberalisation programme is to give all existing lawful operators a further period to strengthen their operations. Furthermore, there would be an element of inequity in putting hauliers, who up to now may have been running illegally, on the exact same footing from the start of the new regime, as operators who have respected the law over the years.

There are three categories of licensee all of which will be entitled to get the new standardised licences, called road freight carrier's licences, immediately the licensing provision becomes operative, namely (1) holders of merchandise licences covering haulage of general merchandise throughout the State; (2) holders of merchandise licences restricted by area or type of operation, for example, Achill Island, car conveyors and (3) holders of licences restricted to international operations. Hauliers operating in the exempted areas, that is areas within a specified radius of the principal post office in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway, who when the Act becomes operative hold, as required by law, a current road freight certificate, being evidence that they have satisfied the EC requirements of good repute, sound financial standing and professional competence, will also be eligible for the new general standardised licences in the first phase.

The standardised licences will be classified as national or international licences. Both classes of licence will authorise holders to engage in carriage for reward within the State without restriction as to the type of merchandise carried or number of vehicles used. The international licence will be valid for international and home operations subject of course to compliance with the laws of any other State concerned. International licences will be granted only to applicants who satisfy the more stringent EC criteria for international operations.

Two years after the new licensing system commences any person or firm whose principal place of business is in the State will be able to get the standardised road freight carrier's licence subject only to meeting the qualifications laid down in the EC directive on admission to the occupation of road haulage operator. One of the consequences of this will be that suitable qualified own-account operators will be eligible for a licence to carry for reward. There is some apprehension on the part of the existing licensed haulage industry that this development would result in unfair competition. I do not think the licensed hauliers need have any fears in this respect: the present licensing system does not preclude own-account operators from holding licences to carry for reward but they have not availed of that facility to any great extent. In Britain, where own-account people have had for quite a long time now the facility to be licensed for reward, the swing by own account operators to professional haulage has been very limited.

The indications in Ireland as I have said and, indeed, as I read every day, are for a swing away from own account operation. In any case to exclude own-account operators from carriage for reward would run counter to the whole idea of full liberalisation of the haulage industry which is designed to achieve a more competitive, economic and flexible transport system. The existing high level of empty running of vehicles increases cost. While it will not always be feasible or desirable, back or forward loading for reward on journeys which are going to be unladen in one direction or the other, would help to reduce costs and improve competitiveness. Many own-account operators would find it utterly impractical to carry for reward of course. Nevertheless there is a lot of unladen mileage, for want of forward or back loads, in the own-account sector and the facility to put that mileage to use ought to be available to all involved as is proposed in this Bill.

In addition to restructuring the licensing system, the Bill contains a provision in section 9 whereby own-account operators would be able to use hired vehicles for carrying their own goods; this would enable them to avail, inter alia, of financial leasing arrangements from which they are excluded by current legislation. This facility to use hired vehicles will apply only where the vehicle is hired without a driver; where vehicles with a driver are to be engaged carriage for reward would be involved and the licensing requirements would apply.

Leasing arrangements for premises, plant and equipment are commonplace in all sectors of the economy. It is anomalous that they should not be allowed for vehicles. Leasing arrangements give the operator flexibility in settling the level of his own commitment to transport and relieve him of the need to have capital invested in spare vehicles to meet any short term upturns in business or emergencies. Long term leasing under contract has the further attraction that the leasing company relieves the operator of many of the operational problems associated with running a fleet of vehicles. I hope that this new facility will enable many firms in the industrial and commercial sectors who must for one reason or another have their own fleets, to release capital for productive investment rather than have it locked up in vehicles.

Under the new arrangements, where after about two years any applicant complying with the EC requirements will be entitled to get a general haulage licence, there will not be a need for transfer of existing licences and the existing transfer provisions are therefore being repealed. Special arrangements are, however, being made under section 12 to enable family businesses to be carried on where the holder of a licence dies or becomes incapacitated. In such cases a new licence may be granted to a relative of the licence holder or the husband or wife of such a relative, who has had three years experience in the conduct of the business and who meets the EC good repute requirement. Where even these requirements cannot be met by a relative and in other cases where a licensee, or the manager of a licensed business who is designated as the person who meets the professional competence requirement, dies or becomes incapacitated I may, if necessary to avoid hardship, grant permission to enable a business to be carried on for a maximum period of 18 months. This will allow for disposal of a business or give a relative or manager time to obtain a certificate of competence.

The Transport Consultative Commission recommended that penalties for offences relating to road haulage should be increased and that the question of introducing on the spot fines should be examined. The licensed haulage industry has also been critical of the penalties under the Road Transport Acts many of which have not been changed since they were introduced in 1933 and can no longer be regarded as penalties. Provision is made in section 14 of the Bill to increase penalties to a more realistic level and in the case of the most serious offences a maximum of £5,000 is proposed compared with £500 at present. I hope that these increases, combined with the recently increased penalties introduced by the Minister for the Environment for road traffic offences, will be a deterrent to serious breaches of the legislation and contribute to a safe and more efficient haulage industry. There is power under section 13 to introduce on-the-spot fines for certain offences to be prescribed by regulation. They would not, of course, be the major offences but rather those of minor character which could be established on the spot.

Section 7 is for the purpose of continuing in operation provision for the licensing of foreign hauliers who conduct part of an international haulage operation in the State. The existing provision relates also to Irish hauliers engaged in similar haulage operations. Such Irish hauliers will, under the new licensing provision subject to meeting the relevant qualifications, be eligible for the general haulage licence which will also entitle them to engage in point to point haulage in the State and therefore will not need the special restricted licence for international operation.

The repeals being provided for in section 15 are mainly consequential on the other provisions of the Bill. They relate to such matters as abolition of the exempted areas which are now being subjected to licence control, termination of the licence transfer arrangements because qualified applicants will be eligible for new general licences, termination of renewal arrangements because the new licence will expire after three years and will not be renewable and removal of the restriction on use of hired or leased vehicles by own-account operators.

To allay any fears that the proposals in the Bill will impose restrictions which do not now apply I with to explain that no existing doors to lawful haulage operations are being closed. Thus, in the two years after the new licensing code is introduced, restricted road freight licences will continue to be issued to persons wishing to engage in international operations and, also, persons wishing to commence haulage operations in the exempted areas may still do so subject as now to compliance in both cases with the EC requirements. This will be achieved by deferring the repeal of the relevant existing provisions until after the end of that two year period.

The Minister of Communications has said on a number of occasions that in parallel with the liberalisation of the road haulage industry there must be significant improvement in the enforcement of the law in that area. The need for more effective enforcement has been the subject of representations from public representatives and interested parties.

In the course of the debate on the Bill in the Seanad many Senators referred to the widescale disregard for the law in relation to haulage operations and the low level of enforcement. The Transport Consultative Commission had found also that the level of observance of the law was quite poor and said that there was an urgent need for a greater commitment to enforcement, particularly in relation to safety. The commission recommended an interdepartmental committee on enforcement to co-ordinate the activities of the various enforcement authorities. The Minister felt that an interdepartmental committee might not be the most effective instrument to achieve the level of enforcement required in line with the liberalisation programme. He has now got Government approval for the establishment of a multipurpose inspectorate in his Department and the appointment of multipurpose inspectors with powers to undertake enforcement of a range of legislative measures relating to the haulage industry and to bus transport. Enforcement teams comprising gardaí and multipurpose inspectors operating at roadside checkpoints will be the principal means of enforcement. Technical experts from other Departments, for example, Department of Labour inspectors in relation to the carriage of dangerous substances, will also be able to participate in the enforcement teams. Liaison with other Departments will form an integral part of the enforcement programme. Suitable provision, accordingly, will be made in the Bill by way of Committee Stage amendment and it is hoped that the enforcement arrangements, which, of course, will be additional to and not in substitution for the existing powers of the Garda and other agencies, will be operative well before the quantitative licensing restrictions end.

There is no doubt that this Bill is long overdue. It completes the process of liberalisation initiated 15 years ago. I believe it will be welcomed by people both inside and outside the road transport industry. I am confident that efficient and enterprising operators have nothing to fear and indeed much to gain from the removal of unrealistic and harmful restrictions which prevented efficient development of their businesses. I firmly believe that a more competitive haulage industry will develop, as a result of the proposed measures, to the benefit of the national economy. I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome this Bill which was envisaged from the time the Transport Consultative Commission reported in 1981 and the general principles of which had been accepted from that time. The commission were set up in 1978.

Professor MacCormac who chaired the commission and who is never mentioned nowadays in transport circles, deserves the gratitude of the House and of the country for the amount of work he did and for the speed with which he carried out that work. He produced sensible recommendations.

I must not let the occasion pass without commending the Minister of State on having an all woman team of advisers in the House. This is an indication of progressive thinking and it sharpens my desire to return to the Department as quickly as possible. However, this is not strange when we are dealing with the matter of mobility and we have all heard of La Dona e Mobile.

March madness.

I trust we can improve on the Bill somewhat, though substantively it is the Bill I envisaged as Minister for Transport. There is at least one amendment I intend tabling for Committee Stage and that is predictable for anyone who has noted the type of amendments I have been putting down to other Bills that were before the House recently. On the Canals Bill the Minister of State accepted one such amendment which in my opinion improved that Act and improved also the status of the citizenry vis-à-vis the law.

I shall begin by referring to the main recommendations of the commission. First, it was recommended that there be complete liberalisation during a period of two years and in two phases. As the Minister has said, it was envisaged that the two years would end after acceptance by the Government of the recommendations but wisely he changed that to two years after the process begins. The next recommendation is that licensing arrangements be restructured so that all existing hauliers can compete on equal terms. That reference is to all existing legal hauliers. It was recommended also that licences be made available to all suitably qualified persons. This involves, as is included in the Bill, a proposal for substituting road freight carriers licences of any long term. I suppose we could refer to that as RFCL, though that might sound like the name of a rugby football club. However, it is recommended also that own-account transporters be licensed to carry for reward or, as is referred to sometimes, backloading. Many of those involved in transport are concerned about the definition of backloading. Apparently the term can also mean forward loading. The Minister adverted to that concern. This is not seen as constituting competition to any serious degree for existing hauliers. The hauliers themselves do not think that but I will come back to the point again. It is recommended that leasing and renting of vehicles by own-account operators should be permitted. Licensed hauliers already have that entitlement. In relation to long term leasing the existing hauliers are not too worried but for short term leasing they feel that they may suffer from that provision.

The next section in the TCC recommendations deals with professional standards and states that existing standards should be raised in both training and examinations for certificates of professional competence with a view to improving the quality of services. I will comment on that later and I should like the Minister when replying to give a full list of the RTCs where the courses are available. It is recommended that a certificate of professional competence should be one of the requirements for obtaining a licence. That makes eminent sense in a situation where the emphasis is on removal of quantitative and the imposition of qualitative restrictions.

On safety and environmental aspects, the TCC recommended that measures were to be adopted to improve standards of operating practice, safety and road-worthiness. Everybody in this House will find it easy to accept that policy.

I should like to have had a more expansive report from the Minister on the implications in the international haulage area. He made quite clear what the new regulations will be but he could have linked it to an account of the present state of play in Europe with regard to both EC international haulage regulations and the writ of the ECNT which covers a wider range than the EC itself. The TCC recommend the extension of international haulage licences to cover general domestic haulage. The Minister has covered that point in the Bill, which allows also for point to point haulage within the country on an international licence.

The TCC also recommended review of roll-on roll-off shipping services in the interest of greater facilitation of international freight traffic. I do not know whether this Bill will help or whether it is within the bailiwick of the Bill.

The recommendations also cover the granting of tax allowances and reliefs from excise duties for international hauliers in order to improve their competitiveness with foreign hauliers. It is stated that loss of revenue to the Exchequer would be minimal in view of the small number of operators involved. It might be difficult to cover this matter in this Bill but it is a point we should not lose sight of as a potential development in the future.

The commission was set up in 1978 and reported on road haulage in 1981. I am giving the dates deliberately because I now turn to the section on law enforcement. The report recommends greater and more intensive enforcement of rules and regulations. The Minister referred to this point in his speech. I read the speech he made in Seanad Éireann and he has something additional to say here with regard to enforcement. I am glad that the penny dropped because this is the area of greatest concern and I will be doing a short tour through the recommendations, worries and suggestions of various people who are in the haulage business. I have got to know the Irish Road Haulage Association reasonably well over the years and I have the height of respect for their seriousness of purpose, the objectives of their organisation and the way they run their business. They are severely critical of the Department at times and always have been. I do not think they set out to be a grousing organisation but rather to protect the interests of their members. They are rational proponents of their own position.

The report also recommends increases in penalties for offences and the Bill caters for that point. The Minister referred to the establishment of an active inter-departmental committee for improving and monitoring of enforcement. I will be asking questions later about an inspectorate, a new departure he announced today. It is the hinge upon which the whole thing turns. The situation at present is chaotic with regard to enforcement. The Department of Justice are very important in this regard and Customs and Excise have been mentioned as well, but there will have to be a very serious facing up to the whole business of enforcement. Otherwise this Bill and this House will lose all credibility.

Another recommendation is that law enforcement and quality controls should be put into effect as soon as possible and before the process of liberalisation is completed. I am not at all satisfied that very much has been done in that regard. Throughout this discussion I will come back to that aspect through the eyes of various people who are interested in having a good Act on the Statute Book and an efficient and well run transport industry,

There is no mention in the recommendations of the cost to the Exchequer. There is no point in going into that now because the figures have changed since 1981-82. The commission recommended the immediate commencement of the drafting of legislation to amend the Road Transport Acts in order to complete the proces of liberalisation. That was five years ago and it shows how difficult it is to proceed with speed. If the interdepartmental committee on law enforcement has been operating effectively for the past five years it would have given a clear warning that we in this House were serious about legislation and that the rules and regulations under the laws would have to be adhered to.

Part of the timescale then was to have the legislation within 12 months, to issue the RFLC to existing hauliers, to introduce long term leasing and contract rental on a nationwide basis and the introduction of new enforcement arrangements, including roadside check teams at ports and other key locations throughout the country. Full liberalisation with the certificates is available to all suitably qualified operators including the own-account operators, which is slightly controversial. People in the industry have expressed doubts about the short term leasing as distinct from long term leasing as they feel they would suffer unnecessarily.

The magazine Management No. 6, Volume 31, published by the Irish Management Institute makes some reference to the difficulties which our hauliers have because of competition from Northern Ireland. I represent a constituency which borders on three of the Six Counties. I am aware from practical experience that what is stated in the magazine is a cause of worry to the transport industry in the South. The Confederation of Irish Industry estimate that two thirds of the trade is carried out by Northern registered vehicles. The article also points out that we have higher taxes in the South, much more expensive vehicles and vehicle parts and our fuel prices are much higher. There is no need for me to emphasise that in this House. I do not know whether the prices here will be brought into line with those in the North. When insurance and road tax are added to that they place a very heavy burden on the hauliers. I hope this House will address itself to that problem with a view to lessening the differences between North and South. The Government have a very strong hand in this regard if they wish to exercise it.

That same article covers, but not very extensively, the problems of the Irish Road Haulers' Association with regard to the own-account and empty-loading. It is evident to anybody who thinks about it that there is a big loss in economic terms if one travels one way with a loaded lorry and is forced to travel back empty. I do not know how transport managers and organisers of businesses will be able to take advantage of this. Suffice to say that existing licensed hauliers are worried about it. I find it very difficult to give my own view on this because from the point of view of liberalisation one would be compelled to accept what the Minister has said. On the other hand, in a different context the Minister indicated that people who had been conscious of their obligations over the years with regard to employees' hours of work, VAT, income tax and running their businesses fully within the law have been very reluctant to support anything that would put them in a false position at the beginning of this liberalisation process.

The state of the roads is another factor which must be taken into account. This article indicates that 6 per cent of the roads system is being used by 35 per cent of the traffic. That imposes an obligation on the Department of the Environment and the local authorities to see to it that the roads system is kept in reasonable repair, which it is not at present. The statisticians know which 6 per cent is carrying 35 per cent of the traffic. Those roads will need extra attention. An Foras Forbartha indicated that roads play an important role in the establishment of competitiveness in the industry.

As indicated by the Minister, we have the highest percentage of own-account transport in Europe. It is generally understood by anybody who is interested in transport that the reasons for this are historical. As has been said, the legislation of the early thirties was designed to protect the railways. As happened canals were replaced by railways, the road services, trucks and so on took the railroads by surprise. That was only beginning to dawn on people in the early thirties which was a period of great recession.

Fianna Fáil first came into power in 1932 and Mr. Lemass was responsible for legislation at that time. Nobody could accuse him of not being progressive. He had an obligation to maintain the railways and legislation failed to do that. It was a semi-luddite approach to the business. Nobody at that time could envisage that there would be such an acceleration in the provision of road transport. This caused a huge increase in own-account transport. It is also responsible for the colossal illegal transport system — I say system because that is what it almost is. There are a huge number of illegal hauliers on the roads today.

The Central Statistics Office 1984 survey gives an indication of the division as between hauliers and own-account. The figures require much interpretation. The Road Freight Transport Survey, 1984 of the Central Statistics Office states:

the main use of vehicle classification (which is independent of the type of owner of the vehicle) showed that vehicles used mainly for own-account carriage accounted for 77 per cent of total vehicle kilometres in 1984. This compared with their 74 per cent share of tonnes carried and 56 per cent of share of tonne-kilometres.

That makes the point which is really the most interesting and the focal point in the whole scene. Professional hauliers are looking at these figures and they are examining this Bill trying to calculate how much under the new regime of what is now own-account will be transferred in the short or long term to the professional haulier. If every own-account operator as of now applied, as he will be entitled to apply for the RFCL, then the professional hauliers would in fact lose heavily by the new legislation.

The arguments used to persuade them, and the Minister also uses them, are that this will not happen because it will not be economic for many own-account operators to start into the licensed haulage business. This is self-evident. They instance that happened in the UK, and this is mentioned in the Minister's speech, that when the facility became available to own-account operators in the UK there was not a big switchover. The licensed hauliers will accept that, but they call attention to the fact that we should not look at the UK situation only but that we should look at the situation in Europe where there are centain restrictions in this regard.

I had occasion recently to meet a Mr. Kinnear at the Chartered Institute on Transport seminar in Jurys and he sees growth coming from these new regulations and he sees it as advantageous that the empty running which is by definition uneconomic will be improved. He envisages an improvement in efficiency all round and a reduction in road haulage costs. He envisages the objective of business and industry as being increased competitiveness. It is as well to advert to the fact that the experts here estimate that the cost of transport, say, for manufacturing industry is 12 per cent, which is almost one eight of total costs. Therefore, any attempt to make industry more competitive and reduce that 12 per cent is welcome in our economy.

As the House knows, a new hauliers co-operative was established some time ago and Mr. Séamus Cleere the secretary of that co-operative does not think that this Bill alone will achieve very much in that regard unless Government taxation is reduced. I have run through a number of factors, road tax, insurance, cost of vehicles, fuel and so on which are important and which are under the control of the Government. Mr. Cleere says that transport will not become cheaper and that the 12 per cent will not be reduced until such time as the Government look at their taxation of the industry. As well as that — and this has been referred to in all writing about the matter over the last number of years — there is doubt and even cynicism about a proper effort at qualitative control. Qualitative control hinges on enforcement. I will be dealing later on with the new departure by the Minister. The thrust of it is in that direction but I will need more details about it before I am satisfied that it is sufficient to ensure that there is enforcement.

I will quote some of the points that Mr. Cleere made about own-account fleets in Management No. 6, volume 31, page 43 where he says:

Own-account fleets can operate seasonally, he explained. In low season, there is spare capacity. He believes that their involvement in to the road haulage business could destabilise the whole structure of the transport industry in this country.

Elsewhere in the EEC, the average ratio of road haulage companies to own-accounts is 50:50. In this country, the professional road haulier has only 20% share.

There seems to be some room for disagreement with regard to the actual shares of the market but in this country it is true that we have a remarkably low percentage being carried by the professional haulier. Mr. Cleere says that

The Department of Communications' stated objective was to improve the balance in this respect. His association finds it peculiar, therefore, that they are to create greater opportunities for own-account companies to be involved in road freight transport.

It is difficult to come down sharply on one side or the other but the Department have a case to answer there with regard to the own-account companies. To balance that view there is a view by Mr. David Isaacson of Transport Brokerage Services Limited. He does not anticipate — and this would be in line with the Department's thinking — any great takeup of the backloading option by own account companies. His reasons include incompatibility and the likelihood that backloading will cost too much by way of disruption to own transport operators schedules. He said:

The UK left this open some years ago and there was no great takeup in the own-account sector there,

Mr. Isaacson thinks that the road hauliers' worries in this respect are groundless on UK statistics. I would like the European dimension to be put in there when the Minister is answering this Second Stage debate and perhaps the still wider area of the European Committee of Ministers for Transport which is one of the more effective committees in the EC. I will quote again Mr. David Isaacson of Transport Brokerage Services Limited:

"We do not see people in this country parcelling out their business to others in the field".

The honorary information officer of the Chartered Institute of Transport in Ireland said: "Provided quality control of entrants into the business is monitored it will be to the overall advantage of the transport industry". The Irish Road Haulage Association are a very active professional group. I have met them very often in the past four or five years and have grown to respect them and their views. They are not a hyper-critical body but they are very chary about parts of this Bill. I have notes from a meeting I had with them on 28 November last and I intend to go through them because I think they are worth listening to.

They made the point that transport is the second largest industry in Ireland and that we in this House have not given it the attention we should have, seeing that it is our second largest industry. They made the usual point about what has happened through keeping the thirties legislation for too long and they dealt with the 1971 and 1978 liberalisation Acts which were milestones on the road that we are now travelling. They made the point, which has been made over and over again, that when the 1978 Bill was introduced, "Apart from the increased number of trucks, there were latitudes allowed, subject to certain conditions". I have underlined one passage: "These conditions were never enforced and have led to widespread and indiscriminate abuse of the system". They went on:

Our association have for a long time campaigned for greater enforcement, and while we accept and welcome fair competition we totally and absolutely oppose the widespread growth in illegal activities which have escalated in the transport section.

I do not think anybody would challenge that. They continued:

This escalation has taken place because of total lack of commitment and desire on the part of the authorities to implement and enforce regulations.

We are all guilty in that respect. They made the point that when they reported the TCC — they were set up by Deputy Faulkner in 1978 and reported in 1981 — advocated total liberalisation. They quote from the commission's report:

However, it also stated that liberalisation must be coupled with proper policing of the regulations.

Indeed the Transport Consultative Commission went so far as to say that, "Without effective structures to police the regulations then no changes in legislation should take place." The haulage association went on to say, and this is their bête noire:“As enforcement of Road Traffic Acts and Road Transport Acts is almost nil, illegal haulage and illicit operations are now prospering”. Ironically, they say there are illegal haulage associations. The haulage association argued that the shackles of the 1933 legislation and the sloth in liberalisation, for instance the sloth in introducing this legislation, were the causes of the rapid growth of an illegal transport system.

We must listen to them because they know what they are talking about. For quite a long time the haulage association have been complaining about operators who have no licences. They have complained about transport companies using the rebated diesel, or the red diesel as it is called. Occasionally people are caught and we see them occasionally in the courts. The haulage association complained about widespread abuse of the Department of the Environment tests, failure to return VAT, income tax, etc. If they feel frustrated there are very solid reasons for it. They pointed out the anomalies, the lack of enforcement and they stated:

It means that the legitimate operator is competing with grossly unfair competition. There is a large black market.

Senator Lanigan, speaking in the other House, said that people get phone calls at 2 a.m. to be told that a lorry load of produce is being delivered to them. This is not by accident: such an hour of night is chosen because those people have no proper licences and are operating at that time for that reason.

One of the criticisms the Irish Road Haulage Association have made is that this Bill fails to specify the rules of new entrants but provides that they must be of good repute and of sound financial standing. I do not think that is fair criticism because these conditions are outlined and everybody knows what they are. I agree that we do not have enough information about the education courses and the certificate of competence courses in the various RTCs.

They are of the opinion that the Bill ignores enforcement. From a careful study of the Minister's speech today I do not think they can validly claim that. I will not be satisfied, until I have been given more details about the inspectorate and the liaison with the Garda, that the enforcement aspect has been adequately dealt with in the Bill. What happens when the Bill is on the Statute Book will be the real test as far as the world of transport is concerned.

The association are worried about the definition of back loading. The CII are very keen on this and recommended it strongly to the TCC — I will be dealing with the CII comments later. The professional hauliers are worried about definitions. They are opposed to the definition provisions in the Bill on the grounds that they would deregulate and destabilise the transport industry.

There are some industries with heavy demands on their fleets seasonally, particularly in the agricultural world. After this they have a slack period and then they flood on to the market. The danger is that they will dislocate the market. This is a difficult area to assess, but we should look at more markets than the United Kingdom. We should examine the situation in the EC and ECNT countries when we are coming to a conclusion. Perhaps we could let the terms of the Bill float, let it become law but keep an open mind on what we do with regard to regulation later on in the light of what obtains in the European Community. There are restrictions apparently in other countries.

I have said already that long term leasing finds favour with almost everybody — CII, IRHA and so on — but the professional hauliers are worried about short term leasing. The CII have a different view but I shall come to that in a moment. The hauliers think this may lead to indiscriminate renting of trucks between one firm and another and they say that as professional hauliers they are well equipped to satisfy this haulage sector. The CII, on the other hand, even want an extension of what is in the Bill. The Bill restricts to leasing of truck without driver but as far as I remember the CII are anxious that the Minister should extend the facility to leasing truck with driver.

Another suggestion coming from the professional hauliers which might be worth consideration is that a bonding system should be developed in order to cater for the sound financial standing part of the necessary qualifications under the new law. I had the privilege of putting through the House the Tour and Travel Agents Act which is now on the Statute Book and which incorporated the very necessary bonding system to save the public from disasters which had occurred to a number who in good faith had booked with tour operators and travel agents. I ask the Minister to comment on that. As in other areas of our national life, one can have a very bright, sharp witted, intelligent person who has taken the course in the regional technical college, got his certificate of competence, has ambition but has not the cold capital to satisfy this regulation with regard to financial standing. In these circumstances it would make sense if a bonding system could be developed.

I am sure, from the frequency with which it occurs in all submissions, that there are people in the transport area mumbling in their sleep — and perhaps in their waking hours also — enforcement, enforcement, enforcement. I repeat where the hauliers want enforcement. These are, first, tax and insurance. They complain to me, viva voce that there is a very slack approach to the taxation and proper insurance of vehicles. In recent years the numbers of the Garda force have increased but unfortunately the situation in my province has diverted far too much of the energy of that force into that area. If we are serious about this legislation, we shall have to see to it that the inspectorate which the Minister has announced today and the gardaí are available in sufficient numbers and with sufficient commitment to see that in the areas from (a) to (f) in this submission which I received the law is enforced. These areas are: Tax and insurance, the Department of Environment test, the use of red or rebated diesel oil, overloading — that is very important and I have made a note to mention it later on. The list continues with the provision of proper weighbridges, which is also very important with regard to the implementation and enforcement of legislation.

Many drivers get into trouble in Britain or on the Continent because of overloading. The drivers have to suffer as a result and many of these are anxious that the person who actually loads the truck should also be joined in responsibility with them for what is done. There has been some weighbridge trouble down in Cork, but I just call the attention of the Minister to this subject lest I forget it later — which could easily happen as there is such a multiplicity of detail with regard to this Bill. It is important that the regulations for drivers with regard to loading should be enforced. It is all part of this whole system of good repute, sound financial standing and competence as duly certified.

Another point which was made and which I am afraid is true concerns "unemployed drivers", the use of drivers who are drawing unemployment benefit or assistance and consequently are paid less by those indulging in the illegal exercise. Again, there is no way in which the licensed haulier who takes due cognisance of the regulations with regard to properly paid staff, PRSI, VAT, income tax, proper trucks, proper diesel oil and so on can compete in that kind of jungle. So anxious were the road hauliers to see that the law is enforced that they even offered to pay so much into a fund to be used for the enforcement of the law. The figure which they gave was the availability of £800,000 per annum by putting a levy on the commercial vehicles. The Minister indicated — and I think this was added since the Seanad debate because I saw no mention of it in that debate — that he is addressing himself to that problem, how effectively we shall not know until we know more about what is contained in his speech.

It is an earnest of the seriousness with which the people in the business are taking this that they are prepared to subscribe that large sum per annum to establish an inspectorate, a traffic corps, whatever name it will be given, to see that the law is enforced, so important is it for them in conducting their legitimate business.

There are a number of points in that submission which should command the attention of the House. I said I had some notes from a meeting I had on 28 November 1984 — single line notes — and I will go through them very briefly. A traffic corps was mentioned as essential. The Department of the Environment, testing enforcement and uniformity of testing were also mentioned. I have already mentioned overloading and that drivers particularly were worried about that.

They also mentioned something about which I should like to alret the House and that is the danger of covert subsidisation and in particular as this relates to semi-State subsidisation. The chairman of CIE, Mr. Conlon, said he was going to abolish the road freight section of CIE if it did not pay its way. If I recall correctly, he made an announcement after the first year of operation that he was satisfied that section was paying its way. We must insist that the full costing of the operation is up front and it must be clear what is earned and what the costs are. That is the only way we can know whether, as a specific separate business entity, it is competitive and making a profit, or if there is covert subsidisation taking place.

This morning I got a copy of the Transport (Reorganisation of Córas Iompair Éireann) Bill, 1986. I did not get time to look at it and I do not know what is in it but I have a suspicion. There was no mention of this Bill on the radio this morning, although there may be some reference to it in the newspapers but I did not have time to look at them. In the context of this Bill, we should pay particular attention to covert subsidisation.

In my constituency at one time a legal private transporter came to me and indicated in a very convincing way that he was being discriminated against in competition with a subsidised CIE operation for a particular contract. Such a happening is a cause for concern. Being a Cavan man, he was not afraid of competition, and he was not complaining about fair competition, but he did not want CIE getting a covert half subsidy.

Is the Deputy referring to covert competition from the Irish Government or from any or all of the EC Governments?

In that instance I was talking of covert subsidisation of a CIE transport freight undertaking in competition with a private citizen in my constituency. EC business comes up for consideration at Council of Ministers level or at the European Committee of Ministers for Transport, which is a wider grouping.

I was asked quite bluntly if there was the political will to see that that law is enforced. I am not claiming any virtue in this regard. Obviously if this system has developed over the years we are all to blame. Now we are being given an opportunity in this new Bill to commit ourselves to enforce that law.

It was suggested that there should be regional teams of gardaí for enforcement. Perhaps the Minister would indicate if this would find favour with him in the context of his new inspectorate. The operation of the inspection of the tachograph was instanced as something which left a lot to be desired. I know there is a separate EC monitoring of the use of the tachograph but I would like to know how satisfied the Minister and the Department are with the enforcement of the tachograph regulations.

An instance of the kind of trade which is very damaging, and which we hope will be brought to an end, was given to me by that deputation with regard to the transport of forestry production in the north-western region. It was indicated that there was no licensed carrier involved in this area and that new lorries were being bought by people who did not have licences to transport the timber produce of State forests from the Republic to the Six Counties.

What kind of powers are needed for enforcement? Should the Bill include power to impound? Some of our people have had their trucks impounded in the United Kingdom, and in France at one stage — I put down a question to the Minister about that. We have already dealt with overloading and the necessity for the weighbridges.

Another point was made about the accountancy end, the reckoning of assets. It was said that in certain instances there was a write-off of 100 per cent — I am sure that is what I have written down here — of new machinery under plant and machinery for accountancy purposes, but there was only a 20 per cent write-off in the case of trucks. Perhaps the Minister would look into that in the future. I should like to ask the Minister also: what is the position about licences? Are they to be renewed annually or, when one of these licences has been granted, will that last indefinitely? What is the period for which they will be valid?

I have already mentioned to the Minister for Communications the position in which some of our hauliers find themselves in England. The Irish Road Hauliers' Association have complained at their annual meeting about an element of what they called Paddy bashing by the authorities in the United Kingdom as far as Irish hauliers are concerned. I asked my secretary to convey to the Minister an account of their annual general meeting and the allegations made, for example, that somebody who was overloaded to the point we have mentioned already was arrested, handcuffed, that his watch and ring were taken from him. He was held in jail some distance from the port until somebody arrived from Ireland to have him released and, I presume — though it is not actually contained in the account — pay an on-the-spot fine. It is something that comes under the surveillance of the Minister for Communications. Probably I will be receiving a letter from the Minister about it.

Another point I raised at that time was the demand for a Six Counties licence from a truck driver who has an Irish licence, a demand that he should produce a licence which I think would require him to expend, he told me, £600 or £700 — he may be exaggerating. I presume he meant he would have to do the course in the North and all that kind of thing, that he was told this if he wanted to operate in the North. I do not believe that is the position and I told him so. I said I would make inquiries from the Department with regard to it.

In passing I have referred to some of the CII's views on the Bill. In general they welcomed the Bill to liberalise road freight transport. From them I think I got the information, that the percentage of total cost that transport accounts for is 12 in manufacturing industry. They are anxious that professional hauliers should have a larger share of the market. They too emphasise very strongly, in their submission, the importance of enforcement, and here I quote:

Enforcement of the regulations must be applied universally so as to ensure fair and equal competition, improved services and lower costs.

They are all linked into that.

A piecemeal enforcement would hamper the achievement of the objectives of the legislation.

I mentioned that they wanted to extend the leasing. The Irish Road Hauliers' Association wanted to confine the leasing to long term leasing and to exclude short term leasing. But the CII had a different view, which is as follows:

The Confederation would, however, point out that where an operator wishes to hire a specialised vehicle, requiring specially trained drivers or operators, the legislation should allow the inclusion of a driver with such vehicles. In such cases the hiring company may not have a driver with the necessary skills for this type of operation.

Of course the licensed haulier will say: "We will provide the service with a fully skilled driver. We are fully involved in this and there will be no need in such circumstances to lease at all."

There is one CII submission on section 5 with which I find myself in total agreement. As I have already indicated, I will be putting down an amendment to section 5 because of it. I might put on the record of the House what the CII have to say about section 5, which is connected with the revocation of licences and reads as follows:

The Confederation is concerned about the possible effect of this section. The section provides for the Minister, at his own discretion, to revoke or suspend a licence...

As I indicated to the House, when the Canals Bill was going through and on Committee and Report Stages of the Road Transport Authority Bill — as far as we have gone — I am anxious that the Minister should not be given power, or claim for himself power where there is no right of appeal. The Minister did say in the House — it may have been the Minister of State — that, of course, in law, on the basis of justice there might lie an appeal at any given time. In section 5 I should like to see specific provision for an appeal. In this connection the Confederation of Irish Industry said:

The provision is contrary to the main objective of the Bill, i.e. to liberalise road freight transport.

I am not so sure of the argument there. They continued to say:

The granting of a licence should be subject only to the three conditions set out in the European Communities Act, 1972, i.e. professional competence, sound financial standing and good repute.

Professional competence to be assured by the earning of the certificate, the financial standing either standing on its own or, as I have suggested, being made amenable to a possible bonding system. Then "good repute" is good repute. I do not suppose anybody could define it any better than the use of those simple words. The CII claim that those should be the only reasons for the suspension of a licence.

I do not want to go into detail on any particular section, as that is the business of Committee Stage. But I must refer to section 5 which reads:

The following subsection is hereby substituted for subsection (2) of section 24 of the Principal Act:

"(2) The Minister may at any time on his own motion and at his discretion revoke or suspend for such period as he shall think proper a merchandise licence—

(a) on the ground that, in his opinion, there has been a breach of or a failure to observe or comply with a condition attached to the licence,

(b) on the ground that the holder has been convicted of an offence (whether under this or any other Act) in relation to the business to which the licence relates or a vehicle used in such business,

(c) if the holder ceases to comply with any relevant requirement specified or referred to in regulations under the European Communities Act, 1972, or

(d) on the ground that, in his opinion, there has been a failure to comply with a relevant provision of this Act or of regulations made thereunder.".

Prima facie that is a very strong, bald arrogation to himself of powers without any appeal. I will not labour the matter now because I intend tabling an amendment to it for Committee Stage. I can see why the Minister should have certain powers but I can see no reason whatever why the Minister should have autocratic powers in this regard without the right of appeal to anybody either in the country or in the EC.

I should like to deal with the reference to "Paddy bashing" which was in Transport and Materials Handling, May-June 1985. It was:

One Irish driver who was "pulled" near Bristol was one tonne overweight on one axle. He has held for 48 hours and handcuffed. His boss arranged for a courier to bring the expected fine over to the court. The fine was £850 Sterling

When there was a delay in the fine arriving the driver was brought back to the prison which was a good distance from the court (another town) and sat down beside a convicted murderer and a child molester. He was stripped off and had his wrist watch and wedding ring taken. Then his measurements were taken. Only then did the fine arrive and the driver was freed.

As the drama was developing there one would get the impression that if the fine had not arrived in time they would hang the man before help could come to him. That is a serious business.

Deputies Yates, Browne and Ahern know of the President of the Irish Road Haulage Association, Mr. Jim Walsh, and when I met him he was concerned about enfocement, six garda teams in different parts of the country. He mentioned officials and that links in with what the Minister said in his speech today. He mentioned the willingness of the industry to provide the funds. He mentioned the own-account problem. I mentioned the seasonal people in this regard and the large transport fleets owned by co-operatives who would find themselves in the position where they would be very busy for a part of the year — probably more even where liquid milk is involved. There is a worry there that there would be a distortion in the industry as a result. Mr. Walsh suggested that I should study the position in the Netherlands where licences are not issued without regard to the market. They take cognisance of growth or otherwise in the market. We are all aware that there is an economic recession here. We are all waiting and hoping it will lift some time and despite Patrician euphoria there is no evidence that the demand for road haulage is increasing at any significant rate.

The Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party had a long discussion about this matter and I was agreeably surprised at the number of people who were interested in it. Overloading, bridges and weighbridges were referred to time and again in the discussion. The European weights, and our permitted weights, were also raised. The importation of secondhand trucks was mentioned. With regard to the granting of a certificate of competence to a person who has not been in the business already but is of good repute and financially sound. I was asked if such a person was entitled to import secondhand trucks to start up a business. Some members of the parliamentary party indicated that local authorities were not staying with the fully licensed hauliers for some of the work they contract out. If that is so it should be condemned by the House and discontinued. The people indulging in that practice should be taken to task. The whole area of the sand and gravel business needs careful attention in the light of the new Bill. In my area, for the reason I have outlined and because it is adjacent to the Six Counties with all the disadvantages that brings to owners, there are particular problems. One thing that has developed recently — I do not know if CIE have indulged in this — is that workers have been left off and given the truck so that they can start on their own. That aspect will be covered by the Bill.

It was suggested to me that some truck companies are already putting speed limiters into their trucks. In other words, the truck cannot travel above a certain speed. The state of our roads is a speed limiter enough without installing a mechanical one but, as far as international people are concerned, we should take cognisance of that type of development. The Bill refers to international licences. From what I can see of it the provision for international licences is a desirable one. The holder of the international licence will be able to operate within and outside the State although outside the State that person will be subject to other regulations that obtain in the Community or the country the person is operating in. The Minister should let the House know a little about how the Bill impacts, if at all, on the present position with regard to the EC and bilateral agreements.

I know what the scene was like when I was in the Department but I want to know if there has been any kind of development with regard to the EC and transport. The Treaty of Rome lays down that there should be a common transport policy and I want to know what type of developments, if any, have taken place with regard to road transport within the EC in the recent past. There was a quota system and, if my memory serves me right, we were doing reasonable well out of it early on. I should like to know if the quota system still obtains or if it has been superseded or improved upon. How are we getting on under it? I presume that the holders of new international licences issued following the passing of this Bill will be in a position to take advantage whatever transport developments take place in the EC.

When I was Minister for Transport there were certain proposals — I remember one in particular — that truckers would be asked to go piggyback on German trains. This is quite logical because the Germans build good roads and huge trucks from many other countries are driven on them which does not bring any economic advantage to West Germany. Their trains were lying idle and they thought this would be a worthwhile development. Have we any obligations in regard to through transport with the Federal Republic of Germany? I also know that the ECNT had certain arrangements in regard to licences and perhaps the Minister, when replying, could link the international scene to the provisions of this Bill. For the past 50 years we in this House have adhered to legislation and a system of transport which forced certain developments, although hauliers operating illegally claim that they were forced into that position because of the heavy restrictions in the law. However, this is a quasi excuse which we could not accept but under this legislation if they qualify for a certificate of competence, are of good repute and are judged to be of sound financial standing, the licences will be available to them.

I was disappointed that the Minister did not devote part of his speech to certificates of competence because the House would be interested to know how the courses are structured. I asked already where these courses would be available. Are they available in all the RTCs? Could the Minister also outline the length and content of the course and the IQ necessary to cope with it because I have been told it is quite demanding? I can understand that someone advanced in years who is not a licensed haulier, because if he was there would not be a problem, and wanting to make an honest man of himself, might find it hard to get through the course for the certificate of competence. To what standard is it geared? I should also like to commend the system of education which has structures ready to take on something like that, something new, to provide intending hauliers with a course which will equip them on the competence level.

I already mentioned that I intend to put down an amendment to section 5. I am also interested in a little more information regarding the inspectorate because I have documentation here which indicates that there is an existing inspectorate of three members, which is ridiculous in this context. It is very important for the Minister to let us know how many inspectors he intends to appoint to monitor this legislation when it is on the Statute Book.

It would also be interesting to know whether the Minister for Justice has indicated any new moves in regard to the enforcement of this law. Is it intended to set up traffic corps on a regional basis in the north, south, east and west, possibly with a heavy concentration on the east, because the credibility of the whole operation depends on the decisions taken with regard to the inspectors employed by the Department, what kind of powers they will have, what their qualifications will be and how they will liaise with the Garda.

I made some notes when the Minister was speaking and I am fully in agreement with him when he said that there would be an element of inequity in putting hauliers, who up to now may have been running illegally, on the exact same footing, from the start of the new regime, as operators who have respected the law over the years. The Minister also said that international licences will be granted only to applicants who satisfy the more stringent EC criteria for international operations. That puzzles me because I thought that the certificate of competence, the sound financial standing and the good repute were sufficient to cover all aspects both for internal operation in Ireland and for international business operation also.

The Minister devoted a good part of his speech to the own-account operators. It is important for him to take cognisance of what happens in other EC countries and not to forget that there is still a recession here and that the issuing of too many licences could cause chaos. I have already queried the leasing without a driver and I should like the Minister to justify this because the Irish Road Haulage Association do not want it and the CII want it extended to the leasing of vehicles plus a driver.

The Minister rightly makes provision for the carrying on of the business in the event of a death. He said that in such cases a new licence may be granted to a relative of the licence holder or to the husband or the wife of such relative who has had three years experience in the conduct of the business and who meets the EC good repute requirement. The CII add something to that when they indicate the difficulties that would arise in the event of the company being a public liability company. The question is to whom the licence would be granted in the interval? I am sure the Minister has received the recommendation from the CII.

What the Minister had to say at the second last page of his speech was not included in his speech in the Seanad and the typing on this page is different from the typing on the earlier pages thereby indicating that this was a codicil. At that stage in his speech the Minister said:

In the course of the debate on the Bill in Seanad Éireann many Senators referred to the widescale disregard for the law in relation to haulage operations and the low level of enforcement. The Transport Consultative Commission has also found that the level of observance of the law was quite poor and said that there was an urgent need for a greater commitment to enforcement, particularly, in relation to safety. The Commission recommended an inter-departmental committee on enforcement to co-ordinate the activities of the various enforcement authorities. The Minister felt that an inter-departmental committee might not be the most effective instrument to achieve the level of enforcement required in line with the liberalisation programme.

Perhaps in the Seanad the matter of the urgent need for a greater commitment to enforcement was not emphasised adequately. There is no reason given for the opinion that such a commission might not be the most effective instrument and I cannot see how anything can be effective in this area if it does not involve the ministry of Justice as well as the ministry of Communications and also the Customs and Excise area.

The Minister of State went on to say that the Minister has now got Government approval for the establishment of a multipurpose inspectorate in his Department. I am glad to hear that, but that development should not allow the Minister to hive off responsibility to link in with the Garda in this matter. The Minister went on to say that multipurpose inspectorates should be appointed who would undertake enforcement of a range of legislative measures relating to the haulage industry and to bus transport. I do not know what the significance of bus transport is in that context. When we hear how many of these inspectors the Minister intends to appoint we will have an indication of how serious the enforcement proposal is.

I should like the Minister, too, to indicate how he envisages the link up arrangement between the Garda and what is to be a multipurpose inspectorate. We are told that technical experts from other Departments will be able to participate also in the enforcement teams, that suitable provision for this will be made in the Bill by way of Committee Stage amendment and that it is hoped that the enforcement arrangements will be additional to and not in substitution for the existing powers of the Garda and other agencies and will be operative well before the quantitative licensing restrictions end.

The House can only welcome that announcement. We welcome also the report from the interdepartmental committee with the Departments of Justice and Communications being the large contributors and with the involvement also of Finance in the context of their responsibility for Customs and Excise. The process that was set in motion in 1978 by the then Minister, Deputy Faulkner, resulted in excellent public service by Professor MacCormac. It is seldom that reports are issued so quickly and so precisely as happended in this case. Successive Ministers have worked on the report and the result is a Bill which, though not perfect, is substantially what was desired by all those interested in this matter. I assure the Minister of our co-operation in putting the Bill through and in improving it, if he allows us to do so, by way of amendment to section 5 on Committee Stage.

When the Minister has expanded on the notion of a multipurpose inspectorate he will have our co-operation in so far as the amendment which he intends introducing is concerned.

I very much welcome the Bill though I regret that it has taken so long to reach the House. I say this because of the importance of the haulage industry in which there are more than 1,000 operators and more than 5,000 people employed.

A CSO breakdown of the transport industry in 1981 showed that own account operators — companies with their own vehicles and who do not hire private hauliers — account for 59 per cent of licensed hauliers while the figure in respect of unlicensed hauliers was 37 per cent and unlicensed independent hauliers made up 4 per cent of the total. While there is no figure included for CIE I understand that it is about 10 per cent. Up to now the legislation which restricted the operation of private road freight haulage was the 1933, 1971 and 1978 Acts. The basic thrust of these Acts was to prop up the freight services, both road and rail, provided by CIE. That policy was wrong. It has had a very detrimental effect on the professionalism of the road haulage industry. It was merely propping up a dinosaur which failed.

The last of these Acts provided for an increase from one to six in the number of vehicles permitted in respect of each existing merchandise licence and it widened the criteria in terms of those exempt from restriction. The effect of the 1978 Act was to reduce involvement in CIE and there has been a trend away from own-account transport. There is intense competition now between international hauliers, Irish private hauliers, CIE and the black economy. These are the four segments of the Irish industry. As Deputy Wilson said, there is a perception that CIE make for unfair competition in so far as they are subsidised by the taxpayer. The same can be said of the black economy competition because people operating in that sector do not pay the full overheads that the licence holder must pay.

There has been much concern about the extent to which the specialised haulage business has moved into the hands of Northern Ireland and British operators. This is due almost singularly to the combination of excise duty and VAT on vehicles, spare parts and fuel. These factors result in these outside operators having an unfair advantage over the Irish operator. I understand that the operating cost of the outside operator is about 30 per cent less than the cost of the Irish operator. As transport costs represent approximately 10 per cent of manufacturing costs, it is very important that we bring down this element of cost, not only for the sake of repelling Northern Ireland or British based competition but in order that we might remain competitive in terms of the overall cost of manufacturing and exports.

One can be critical of the road hauliers for their not having overcome the protection mentality which resulted from the 1933, the 1971 and the 1978 Acts. They have something to answer for in that they are responsible for not repelling that competition by being more professional. There is need for new professionalism in the industry to grasp the opportunities that are undoubtedly there. We need more comprehensive training programmes and a positive attitude by the hauliers in responding to change.

The road hauliers have a number of valid complaints in relation to cost structures, poor roads and the enforcement of existing regulations. Roads in Ireland are at a deplorably low level in terms of international standards. This results in wear and tear on vehicles and increases travel time per mile. We must ensure that the moneys provided for the road plan are fully expended. There are EC regulations in relation to laden weights, tachographs and so on, but we must remember that we are not relating them to EC road networks. Full recognition must be given to that. There is a justifiable feeling among reputable hauliers that the existing legislation, both national and EC, governing vehicle maintenance, testing and so on is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. This is obviously unfair to those who are abiding by the law. One can only conclude that there will be an increased demand for the services of private hauliers and it is most important that the State does not determine the number of operators but that this should be done by the market. That is the principal purpose of this Bill. We should not have artificial restrictions on the number of operators but instead should have a quality regime and subsequently let the market decide the number of operators.

The problem is that because this legislation has been promised since the TCC report of 1981 people have been in a limbo. Mantlepiece licence plates could not be leased or rented to those who wished to have them because they were not adequate if they were stopped by the gardaí. The only way a person could operate was by buying a plate but plates were very expensive. It was ridiculous that people could make money out of outdated legislation because of licence plates on a mantlepiece. The gardaí were in a limbo because people knew that new legislation was coming in and were not prepared to spend £10,000 on a licence if they could get a new licence from the Department. It is scandalous that this legislation has been so long in coming.

I welcome this liberalisation but we must deal with other aspects of the difficulties relating to the Irish roadhaulage industry, such as indirect taxation and the state of our roads. The biggest problem relates to law enforcement. The small businesses committee produced a report on this sector and strongly recommended that a special traffic corps for commercial vehicles, trained in national and EC laws, should be financed through a levy of £10 per annum on all commercial vehicles. The levy would be collected through motor registration offices and the country would be divided into six divisional areas, each of which would have the necessary manpower to ensure the full, universal and equitable enforcement of regulations regarding insurance, certification of the Department of the Environment test, vehicle testing, maximum load, vehicle maintenance and so on. This is the only way to ensure this legislation is enforced on a fair basis. At present there are widespread complaints that foreign operators here are treated in a different way from Irish operators abroad. It is something of a joke that foreign operators are allowed to get away with so much. There is also a blind eye approach to CIE vehicles.

I welcome the abolition of the present licensing system and I hope the two-year period can be cut to one year. There is no reason to delay the introduction of open and free licensing based on the criterion of two years' practical experience. The certificate of competence should only be awarded to an applicant when he has completed two years' practical work in the field of driving and loading. The licence should be open to annual review and the applicant should be registered for all taxes. The system should be the same as that for bookmakers and many other sectors who have to advertise in the newspapers annually when reapplying for a licence, giving people a right to object if they have had any difficulties.

There is a need for the introduction of a certificate of competence for the transport of dangerous substances. This should be driver-related. The driver and the haulier should be equally liable to prosecution for an offence in this area. The Government should ratify the ADR agreement covering international carriage of dangerous goods by road. Nearly 100 per cent of the carriage of dangerous goods — principally chemicals in this country — is done by outside operators. It would be no harm to set up an advisory group of representatives of the haulage industry to liaise with the Department of the Environment and set out priorities for road allocations and ensure that the vital routes are expeditiously dealt with in regard to traffic flows, speed limits and so on. Capital allowances should be increased from 20 per cent to 50 per cent to allow fair competition between the Northern Irish, British and Irish operators.

The new opportunities for the haulage industry, both at home and abroad, should be worked on by the State agencies such as CTT and AnCO, so that we get the right training and professionalism into the industry. To date there has been a very haphazard approach by the Department of Communications because they have not looked at the haulage industry as a growth sector with potential for job creation. They have looked at it in terms of regulating it. I ask the Minister to examine the report of the committee and to act on it immediately.

Perhaps the Minister could clarify two points in relation to the Bill. Regarding people who have had previous convictions under the 1933, 1971 and 1978 Road Transport Acts for not having a licence but were found to have everything else in order, will they be allowed to get licences? I would not tolerate cowboys getting licences but if the only offence was that they could not by a licence those independent hauliers should be allowed to operate. The Minister might give a commitment that overseas operators working here will be dealt with as stringently as anybody else. I do not believe an inter-departmental committee solves anything. There is endless analysis and consultation. I should like to see this matter being put in the hands of the gardaí and a special traffic corps developed through the Department of the Environment.

There have been references to the shift away from own-account transport. Many manufacturing industries do not want to operate own-account. The capital cost tied up in vehicles is immense but the big problem is trade union resistence. Employees are part of a large firm and want to retain the transport within the firm. That is the reason the shift away from own-account will not be as rapid as the Minister anticipates. Every encouragement should be given to the growth of a professional industry by dismantling own-account transport which I do not believe is as efficient as the private haulage sector.

We need to solve other problems of the industry such as our road infrastructure and law enforcement and State agencies must look at the growth potential of the industry. We must also deal with the particular issue of derestricting the level of licences. I welcome this Bill. I would like the Minister to go further to ensure that it would come into effect in one year and that there would be a total, free market situation once they had established certain criteria. Those criteria must be related to two years practical experience. I commend the Bill and wish it a very speedy passage so that we can get away from the current ridiculous legal limbo that apparently arises in the Irish road haulage industry.

This Road Transport Bill is, as has been widely accepted, long overdue. It is basically bringing up to date the position of road haulage in this country vis-à-vis other countries in the EC. It has been continually stated that the road transport business was ruled under the 1933, 1971 and 1978 Acts. The 1933 Act was set up to bolster CIE, which was a good thing at that time. As the world has developed and as times have changed we have had to bring up to date legislation to face the realities of the situation. I am glad to see that this Bill has been brought before us at this stage as I feel that the liberalisation of the road haulage business is necessary in order to ensure its professionalism and to ensure that the users of transport get the best possible service from the industry.

Transport is the second largest industry in the country both in its employment content and in its effect on the economy. Over 90 per cent of goods are moved by road. It is important that they are efficiently carried by professionals working in a fair environment. This has not been the case for many years. The result has been that many legitimate professional hauliers were forced out of business. The registered and licensed professionals have come under severe pressure from "cowboys" who have availed, among other things, of the use of people on the dole. They use them as drivers or helpers and are therefore able to under-price the legitimate operators. Operators have used rebated diesel oil and thus have been able to reduce their costs, again hitting at the people who have been keeping the law. Many road hauliers come in from Northern Ireland and England and can easily afford to undercut the prices of our home based hauliers. Their vehicles cost considerably less and diesel in the North is much cheaper. Some of them bring diesel with them which means that they do not have to buy it down here. Tyres are also cheaper in the North. It is reliably estimated by the industry that the operating costs for a Northern Ireland or British operator are at least 20 per cent less than those of an Irish based road haulier. It would be very interesting to find out how much of the profit from business carried on in the Republic by hauliers from outside the State is returned to the Inland Revenue Commissioners north of the Border, or across the Irish Sea. Not very much, I would think. When one does not have to pay tax one can undercut the legitimate operator who pays tax.

Trucks from eastern bloc countries also operate in this country. They do not comply with many of the regulations and laws. When they were caught they just disappeared off the scene and did not return. They should have been treated in the same way as illegal fishermen. They should be brought into court and held until they pay their fines. One aspect in regard to hauliers from Northern Ireland, the UK and other countries which needs reflection is the manner in which they flout the laws. Anyone who travels the roads will have experienced the frightening spectre of speeding juggernauts. Most of these large vehicles come from outside the State. On apprehension by the Garda these people, even if they are charged in court, seem to carry on with their misbehaviour. The impounding of vehicles would be the only action that would be able to stop this behaviour. The manner in which our people are treated when they break the law in some other country is, as was stressed by Deputy Wilson, quite rough, even though the offences may not have been very serious, such as overloading, having bald tyres or defective lights. We can be sure that if this happened to any of our drivers in England they would not be allowed to drive until all of these defective matters were put right. The same should be applied in this country. It would help to make the roads safer.

It would be ridiculous to think that all the local hauliers are whiter than white regarding the rules and regulations. A major threat to the efficient, legitimate haulage industry comes from the numerous hauliers, both licensed and unlicensed, acting illegally. Many of them run dangerous, uninsured vehicles on red diesel without paying road tax, PAYE, VAT or any other form of tax. Last week I spoke to a garage owner who had a client who traded in a lorry which was five years old. He was amazed to see that that lorry had never been registered and was not in very good condition. From my information, quite a number of hauliers operate two lorries on the one licence plate and one tax disc. It is difficult for the Garda to catch these individuals. It is those people who are putting at risk the livelihood of those who try to keep the regulations. These people should be made toe the line or be put out of business completely.

The effectiveness of the enforcement of regulations is vitally important. The Garda and the Transport Consultative Commission admit that, for the safe, reliable and efficient movement of freight by road, there was an absence of effective enforcement and accept that effective law enforcement is not only necessary for the future development of the road freight industry but for the safety of other users and the benefit of the community generally. This statement by both the Garda and the TCC is widely accepted. We frequently read in the papers about serious accidents occurring due to speeding lorries. Some manner of control should be enforced to stop this danger. The TCC recommend that more liberalisation should be accompanied by stricter enforcement measures.

Many people claim that stricter enforcement is not being implemented and this can undoubtedly be attributed to the pressure on the gardaí occasioned by the great increase in crime and other duties such as Border security and the pressure engendered by the style of life developing here. In east Cork the hauliers continually complain that they are over-zealously checked compared with those in other areas especially with regard to overloading. This is borne out by the figures of those who have been charged and convicted for overloading. Last year there were about 180 cases of overloading during the beet season in east Cork whereas in west Cork there were about ten convictions for overloading. The law should be applied equitably in all areas. The hauliers in east Cork have a grieviance when they see that other parts of the country are not being as well policed and when they see others getting away with infringements. This problem should be seriously considered by the Minister.

This Bill recommends the total liberalisation of the road freight business over a two year period and after that licences for road haulage operations will be available to all applicants who satsify the EC regulations of good repute, sound financial standing and professional competence. Will the Minister be more specific in regard to those requirements which are quite nebulous? No doubt the Minister will define good repute and sound financial standing in his reply.

Many businesses have gone to the wall over the past number of years and this applies also to road haulage businesses. It would be worth considering some form of bonding which would not only benefit the creditors of the company but the State because often when businesses go into liquidation there are huge amounts of VAT, PAYE and PRSI outstanding and these outstanding amounts are often the greater part of the company's debts. The Minister should consider bonding in this industry which is quite volatile and where companies can go out of business quite rapidly.

Section 9 causes a few problems for the present road haulage operators. It relates to own-account operators and enables them to rent, lease or hire vehicles for use for carriage of their goods provided the vehicles are hired without a driver. This is causing great concern to professional hauliers. If allowed, it could lead to a deregulatíon and destabilisation of the transport industry due to the fact that large fleet operators during off peak season could and probably would flood the market and they will be able to operate on marginal costs thereby forcing the professional hauliers out of business which is rightfully theirs.

It is interesting to note that Britain is the only country within the EC which allows own-account operations. It is not a practice we should follow and I strongly request the Minister to delete this section from the Bill especially as this is a time of recession when many hauliers are finding it extremely difficult to continue in business and are charging prices at 1970 rates just to keep going. If many of the large co-operatives are allowed to backload it could be the death knell of many hauliers. Grants are paid to co-operatives and these grants could conceivably be abused — not misappropriated but abused — so that they could give an edge to these businesses which could then destroy the people who are not in a position to get grants.

To be really effective the Bill must be accompanied by a strict enforcement of the laws. The present laws need to be enforced more strictly, the laws relating to taxation, insurance, to Department of the Environment tests, to the use of red diesel, to overloading, the use of "unemployed" drivers and in relation to illegal haulage. The gardaí are overworked at present and cannot really cope with the position. However, the Road Haulage Association are willing to finance a special traffic corps to ensure the enforcement of the law and they suggest that the country be divided into six areas, each area having the necessary manpower to ensure the full and equitable enforcement of the regulations. I had hoped to hear the Minister speak on this suggestion but the Minister of State pre-empted my speech by saying that a multipurpose inspectorate had been set up. Can the Minister tell us how many inspectors he intends to appoint? It is no use setting up an inspectorate and failing to staff it adequately so that the necessary work can be done. We can discuss this further on Committee Stage when we have the necessary information from the Minister.

The Bill recommends the granting of licences to all who satisfy the required conditions. This could lead to chaos in the industry and serious consideration should be given to the setting up of an authority or council to screen applicants for entry to the industry and to oversee the industry generally to ensure that proper standards will be maintained. Such an authority could monitor the market in regard to the supply of licences because it is no use flooding the country with licences. That could be fine when things are going well and when everybody would want to go into the market, but oversupply can be as detrimental to the business as a recession.

Section 14 provides for increased fines from a maximum of £500 to £5,000. This is very welcome because many of the fines imposed were not realistic vis-à-vis the profitability of operating illegally. We hear much about lorries breaking speed limits and perhaps the Minister would consider the installation of speed limiters in lorries, particularly because our roadways throughout the country are completely unsuitable for large juggernauts: indeed, at present most of our roads are not suitable for any type of traffic because of their condition. Some form of speed control agency besides the Garda should be considered.

More weighbridges should be provided throughout the country to control overloading, but in line with this I suggest that four wheel axle trucks should be allowed to increase the gross weight up to 36 tonnes. Then enforcement of overloading regulations should be adhered to strictly. It is ridiculous to see lorries going about practically empty, especially the four wheel axle trucks, due to limits on the weights they can carry.

I should like to comment on the depreciation allowance on lorries. It is 20 per cent at the moment. Those vehicles are plant and should be put into that category and allowed up to 100 per cent depreciation. We cannot compare those lorries with other motor vehicles which they are now lumped in with for the purpose of depreciation. It is a matter in which the Minister for Communications should have some say.

The Bill is going in the right direction to put the road transport industry on a more professional basis, but the Minister must ensure that the law will be enforced fully. He should delete the own-accounts section and set up a system of monitoring the market to ensure that the number of licences issued will not have a deterimental effect on the market. The points I have made, if accepted, would help to consolidate the growing professionalism of the industry.

This legislation will have a more far reaching effect on the business community and on life in general in Ireland than would appear at first sight. I hope Members have not overlooked the fact that this legislation will affect the entire business life of the community.

I listened carefully to Deputy Wilson's contribution. He laboured many points but I think it was necessary to do so because of the history of this industry and because the Bill essentially will transform the industry irrevocably. The Bill will affect business throughout the country and those involved in transport for a long time, among whom there has been some disquiet.

It is important that we understand the difficulties experienced by operators. A commission with a certain amount of expertise was established and the Irish Haulage Association have made a contribution which must be taken into account. I have not been influenced by them because I have not studied their contribution, but I wish to make my views clear from the commonsense, business point of view. I hope the Minister will bear them in mind.

It is very easy to undertake an overhaul and an updating of any sector in the economy but it is not easy to go back on legislation that is in force because if mistakes are made now we may not be given an early opportunity to straighten them out.

The Bill sets out to liberalise the road haulage industry. At the same time, it can damage that industry if the liberalisation should turn into a free for all. If we are depending on controls that cannot be enforced the intentions of this House in regard to this legislation will not be carried out. No given area of our society has experienced controls that would encourage us to encourage enforcement of rules and regulations in any sector. In this Bill we are endeavouring to get rid of restrictive quantity controls and make available to all applicants requirements which will rely more on qualitative controls to satisfy EC requirements which could improve their financial standing and professional competence.

The Road Traffic Acts have been the least enforced in this State. People are outraged when there is a fatality or a series of fatalities due to terrorism or some abuse of the law but there is not the same outrage with regard to fatalities on the road. The annual number of such fatalities is frightening and because of lack of control over drivers and our very bad roads these fatalities are on the increase. Generally speaking, the Acts have not been enforced, at least since around 1970. That is what has caused the deterioration in the standard of driving and the increased incidence of traffic accidents. It has also caused a huge increase in the cost of insurance premiums. At one time there were up to 60 per cent of drivers driving while uninsured. This can happen only because the law is not being enforced and the same applies to people driving untaxed cars. People are able to drive defective vehicles only because these regulations have not been enforced.

Of all the types of vehicles on our roads, those which are least checked belong to the haulage business. How many of us have come across overloaded vehicles, lopsided, swinging from side to side on our main roads with bald and flat tyres and smoke bleching out? I am surprised that we have not available for the House statistics given for the number of accidents in which such vehicles have been involved. How many fatalities have haulage vehicles caused? We have not a road network suitable for juggernauts. It is very difficult on narrow second class roads to drive against oncoming trucks. Even on first class roads which are winding, how many cars have smashed into the fronts of such vehicles in the darkness or in rainy weather?

With legislation such as this there must be stringent regulations and co-operation between the Minister involved, the Minister for Justice and the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána in ensuring that the body of the inspectorate co-operate immediately with the gardaí. As in every other sphere, we will not do anything about the problem until it gets out of hand and is at a critical stage. Even with the new regulations in place, I would have no confidence that the controls would be put into force because we are lazy in this respect. We may enforce controls for a short while, but then relax. As a community, we cannot take on board legislation such as this. The record is there to prove that we do not apply regulations tightly enough.

We would not have the present insurance problems, with premiums costing four to six times what they would cost in Britain, if we paid enough attention to the enforcement of the legislation. We would not have the worst drivers in Europe on our roads, people who do not know how to drive and do not obey the rules of the road. When people pass a simple test they can continue to drive for the next 40 years without any review of their driving skill. We do not drive in correct lanes unless they are marked because we are used to driving on the crown of the road in the sparsely populated countryside.

The results of this Bill will be very farreaching. They will be frightening for somebody like me who is very safety conscious, both from experience in industry and elsewhere. Too many will feel that it is just the responsibility of the inspectors and the gardaí to see that the regulations are enforced. There are no better people than the Irish for getting around regulations or restrictive practices. We have had the experience of the Border areas to which I have referred already.

The haulage business is very competitive at the moment, in fact, cut-throat. Owners have invested heavily in their trucks and these are the sole source of livelihood for them. They will now undercut each other and that will lead to a whole range of problems. However, the entitlement to undercut competitors is to be welcomed and protection such as that afforded to CIE up to now will be abolished. But the same Minister does not feel that the regulations should be relaxed in the case of Aer Lingus, which company enjoy the same monopoly as CIE have enjoyed in haulage over the past number of decades.

The policing of this Act will be the problem. I shall be giving some suggestions in this regard later, but I put the House on notice that we have an appalling record as far as the control of abuses under the Road Traffic Acts is concerned. We allow a higher rate of alcohol in the blood than does any other country before a breach of the Road Traffic Acts takes place. We have grown up with drunken driving, seeing daily hundreds of cars outside public houses which people who are well over the alcohol limit will drive around our roads. We have had lip service paid to the resolution of that problem by those in authority and ourselves and what is being done about it? Where is the man who will say, "This carnage must stop. From tomorrow it just will not happen because we will not allow it to happen. Not one more child or mother will be maimed or killed because of an irresponsible driver having consumed 15 pints and ten whiskeys"?

This has been happening here for decades. It is a major blot on our reputation; it is a scandal but very little has been done about it. The Road Traffic Act has not been enforced and people are risking their lives every time they get into their cars. It could happen that, even in the middle of the day, a person who is blind drunk could be driving down the street. An attempt has been made in the last few years to remedy this situation but in other countries the problem of drunk driving has been eliminated. If the will is there if we really are the caring humane Christian society we claim to be that can happen here. Why should innocent people be killed or maimed on our roads by selfish people who do not remember their responsibilities to the rest of the community? We have no right even to talk about legislation like this until we address that problem and this House would receive the applause of the nation if we tackle it.

When I was living in Canada I remember the police commissioner appearing on television a couple of months before Christmas. He made it very clear that the law would be enforced if a person was found driving a car under the influence of alcohol. The police were very strict about enforcing this law and the citizens got used to the idea that if they wanted to drink they would have to get somebody else to drive, get a taxi or even walk. On Christmas Day the police commissioner again appeared on television and told the people that as a result of the measures the police had enforced, although they may have inconvenienced some people, every parent was able to have Christmas dinner with his or her family.

We spend our time here talking and rarely being listened to and people do not use sense. It is only commonsense that that problem should be tackled, and that is the basis of this legislation. I am surprised that the regulations have not already been brought in before this legislation was introduced. We should enforce whatever legislation is needed to eliminate this carnage for all time. If contact has to be made with other Departments, then that should be done. I do not want to hear any Minister or Deputy say that this legislation will be coming on the Statute Book and that we will make sure it is enforced. I want to see living proof of that. I cannot continue to speak on Bills like this when I know that on our roads today there is a possibility that an innocent family will be wiped out, that a mother driving her children to or from school will be killed, or that a father on his way home from work will be killed by some fellow who has been drinking since the pubs opened this morning. That is the kind of lax society in which we live and in which we are introducing these regulations.

With respect to Deputy Ahern, he made contradictory statements when he spoke about the strictness with which these regulations were applied when hauliers are driving in Britain and elsewhere. The truth is that standards are higher elsewhere and the hauliers would not get away with the same standards that apply here. If one drives along the highways of Britain one will frequently see the police stopping vehicles and checking them very carefully for overloading or for abuses of any kind, but we do not do that kind of thing here. In fact, our roads have been ripped to pieces by heavy axle vehicles. It is some time since I checked the regulations in this area, but we know that a ten tonne lorry going over one spot is the equivalent of 10,000 cars going over that same spot. We have substandard vehicles on our roads, and now we want to liberalise the regulations and go for quality. I say good luck to that, but that will not happen. We will not enforce these rules.

I have not yet mentioned the effect this will have on businesses and the unfair competition that will result. I thank the Minister for this very helpful and good explanatory memorandum because we do not want to go into too many details on Second Stage, but there seems to be a certain lack of understanding about the industry — what is going on and who is going into it. We hear nice innocent phrases like "you have years to get established", "you have an edge if you are already in business" and so on. That is naive. Obviously the people who make these remarks have not been in a competitive cut-throat business and do not know what it is like to have the rug pulled from under them by somebody taking away their plum customer by under-cutting to such an extent that no one can compete. When that happens to too great an extent everybody loses.

While the Minister is removing controls in favour of CIE, who probably can no longer compete, and the protections that were there, there are other semi-State companies which are doing enormous damage to the private sector because of State subsidies. These State companies are preventing dozens of private companies for competing because of their under-cutting methods. These State companies are subsidised by the taxpayers. This means, for example, that a private individual whose only source of business is a tractor, costing £40,000 or £50,000 has to compete with a State company, a non-profit making company, who are under-cutting all private firms. Nobody in the country can compete with these semi-State companies, yet they are not making a profit. That must be taken into account also. The Minister will have to redress that imbalance. I am sure if it is pointed out to him that he will agree to do so.

There is much talk and concern about the new licences that will come into being and there is a holding operation until that happens, a period of two years to elapse before anybody can apply. I suppose the answer there for anybody concerned is: "It gives the others a headstart; if you meet these regulations then you can come in too". However, these regulations do not take into account the plight of people who have not got any work, who may have a small amount of money they received as a result of being made redundant. Neither do the regulations take into account the entrepreneurial spirit there is in a free enterprise, mixed economy like ours, people who will invest their £8,000 or £10,000 redundancy money into a truck or tractor, set themselves up, hoping they will get some business.

Such people probably will not have placed themselves in the position of competing for business against perhaps 100 other companies. Investing at such a low rate means that a driver must break every regulation contained in this Bill in order to make the operation profitable. He will be forced to drive well beyond the hours of human endurance in order to reach his destination on time to make that extra bit of money. Because he cannot afford to pay somebody else to drive his truck, he will drive for perhaps ten, 12 or 14 hours and risk crashing, causing a pile up or even carnage on the roads. We are all aware that trucks like these, when they jack-knife on a highway, can involve up to 20 vehicles with ensuing carnage. Those things are not taken into consideration.

The method of introducing licences, of making them freely available to all, appears reasonable except that it does not take into account the effects. I am sure the Minister and his advisers, before introducing these provisions were satisfied that the effect of liberalisation would be to render road freight haulage a more equitable industry. I am questioning the effect of this liberalisation. Certainly I am not one to advocate the holding up of enterprise or business. I am in favour of creating opportunities. I know there is a levelling out point in any business, which is usually free competition. But there are certain disadvantages for this industry which should be ironed out first. I have referred already to some of these.

The main disadvantages are the controls and the provisions of the Road Transport Act. I know the temptation will be for the Minister to come back into the House and say: "Well, the law is there. If it is applied this will be the effect". In this respect I do not think the Minister can isolate himself from his Cabinet responsibilities. The Cabinet must draw their own conclusions as to the effect of the legislation.

When we are introducing legislation such as this there is a moral obligation on us to ensure that we are not doing something which will lead to increased traffic accidents and risk to the innocent on our roads. It should be remembered that practically every family in the State possesses a car and drives on our roads. We must remember that the liberalisation of these regulations will lead to increased traffic. It should be remembered also that we are not doing a sufficiently good job under the provisions of the Road Transport Act in relation to ordinary saloon vehicles and everyday driving. There is no doubt that the biggest problem of all is that of people drinking and driving. Had the provisions of this Act been enforced for the past 15 years we would not have had a fraction of the problems obtaining. It all arose because people came to believe that they could get away with it; that one can get away without taxing ones car, without insuring it, that one can drive bangers with bald tyres and that one can drink and drive.

In that respect in this country over the past 20 years crime has paid. There is no question about that, crime does pay. It was only the FBI who used to tell us, by way of their propaganda programmes, that crime did not pay and that the crook was always caught. The crook is not always caught. In Dublin city crime pays. That is why we have had a phenomenal increase in the rate of crime. It is the reason also that the Road Traffic Act is in shreds; its provisions just do not work. There are already 11,400 gardaí on the roads. It would not matter if another 10,000 were put on duty unless one really intended enforcing the law. The best city in which to drive — perhaps the best worldwide — is Toronto whereas in the neighbouring State, in the city of Montreal, they have a problem similar to that in Ireland, where people drive through red lights, take off at orange lights and where motor insurance premiums are colossal. Next door, in Toronto, with over two million people, the standards adhered to are amazing. When I was there last year on holiday I spoke to members of their police force. I asked them; how is it so good? I have driven there myself for years. Their standards are so good that one can turn right on a red light because one can be sure there is nothing coming; they allow that. For example, one cannot turn left on a red light here. The reply I was given was that these standards obtain because of enforcement of the law. If anybody attempts to break the provisions of their Road Traffic Act, within seconds, he will be waved down by a police officer on a motorbike or a squad car. Nobody there parks on yellow lines or where they should not because they know they will be fined on the spot. Again, if one overtakes somebody within 100 yards of a traffic light, one will be stopped immediately.

Here it is so bad that while going through traffic lights one can be overtaken. We could do something for this nation if we all decided for one day to leave our cars behind as a protest at the appalling standards obtaining here. People park wherever they like and drive however they like. In the midst of that dreadful mess we are introducing legislation which will enable a free for all in the transport haulage area. We should remember that we are talking about ten tonne vehicles and heavier, about loads of 30 tonnes trundling along our roads at 65 miles an hour, and that on very bad roads. They can have appalling consequences if they are not properly checked and controlled.

Section 3 provides for the granting of licences two years after the commencement of the Act to all applicants who comply with EC regulations. They must be of good repute, sound financial standing and be professionally competent. That is a good check because standards in the EC are higher than they are here. Qualified operators in the exempted areas will be eligible to get the new carrier licence on the commencement of the new licensing arrangements. Now we know what will happen before the two year run-in period.

I should like to ask a simple question: how does one establish oneself in business during the transition period and then be insulated against other competitors coming into the trade? Licences under the existing legislation restricted to domestic haulage and haulage to and from the State will continue to be granted as at present during the two year transition period and new operators may establish themselves in the exempted areas during that period provided they comply with the regulations. This industry is very competitive at the moment. Ordinary hauliers compete very well domestically and have greater international experience. One can be quoted very good rates by them. I do not think they have anything to fear from the own-account operators. Own-account operators, in my view, will not be able to compete with a professional industry because of the specialisation of those in the haulage business, their experience and the fact that they are prepared to work for reasonable profits. One cannot get the same type of service and one will not witness the same type of energy or drive from an own-account operator as one gets in a professional business. Contrary to what Deputy Ahern said, there are very few own-account operators still in business.

I was surprised to learn that Smurfits who used outside contractors are now reverting to own-account. I have no doubt they will change after a couple of years when they lose heavily with their own vehicles. One company that concerns me a lot is the B&I. That company have been operating at a loss and received a subsidy last year of about £12 million. I know hauliers who can win business on the domestic market and internationally but cannot win business to the UK because the B & I are prepared to transport goods from here to the UK for almost nothing. They even transport some goods at a loss. I understand that for every three containers coming back only one is any way full. That company are competing with the help of taxpayers' money, against the people the Bill is intended to benefit. That is grossly unfair. If a subsidy is to be given to B&I to keep that concern going, in fairness a subsidy should be given to all other operators in that industry. Otherwise the subsidy should be removed from B&I. If that occurs we will have real liberalisation, just as if we removed the protections from CIE. I know what I am talking about in that regard.

I have seen many examples of other haulage contractors being able to quote 15 to 30 per cent below the B&I. It is because that company are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer that they are prepared to transport goods to the UK at a very low cost. That is unfair competition. We cannot on the one hand liberalise an industry and on the other hand give subsidies and protection to an inefficient loss-making semi-State organisation. I hope the Minister takes those comments into account and takes action on the matter. I hope an investigation is carried out into that before the House deals with Committee Stage of the Bill.

The method of introducing the new licences is skilfully accomplished in the Bill in that the revocation under section 3 (8) and (9) takes place two and three years after the new licensing arrangements commence. Section 14 deals with the scope of licences. There are three things involved. The text removes all restrictions on area of operation, the type of merchandise to be carried and the number of vehicles which may be operated under the new carrier's licence. A whole new ball game will start in this industry when all those restrictions are removed. I presume the reason for the removal of the restriction on the number of vehicles which may be operated was because originally the intention was to keep companies competing against CIE small. However, it will be difficult for the small operator, the person with the redundancy money, to set up his own business. If we are to improve the employment position we will be depending on small businesses.

There are many problems associated with small businesses, the one-man-truck operator. I should like to draw the Minister's attention to this problem. It appears that because of the cost of running such an operation it is tempting not to provide parking space for such vehicles. I do not know the extent of the problem throughout the country and my comment arises from what I read in newspapers. They are in use during the day and only require overnight parking. There has been a proliferation in the number of trailers and tractors parked all over the streets in estates in Dublin and on the main roads of towns all over the country. It is very easy to remember when someone last ploughed into the back of a truck or trailer which was parked unlighted. Indeed, this happened to a Member of the House on his way to the Dáil a couple of months ago. Many complaints have been received from residents' associations and it causes hardship and embarrassment to those who park their trucks and trailers because they do not want to cause trouble. Local authorities will have to consider providing car parks around the city and perhaps as many as a half dozen could park in the same area.

The roadway between Heuston bridge and Watling Street bridge is a parking spot for as many as 25 trucks every night. I do not know if this is done with the approval of Dublin Corporation, perhaps they turn a blind eye to it. I can give innumerable examples of abuses of the Road Traffic Act. Sometimes an individual with a tractor and two trailers leaves one of the trailers parked on an unlighted section of road. It is very easy to plough into these trailers. Many deaths have been caused in this way but we will not do anything until the situation is so bad that there is a public outcry. We did not do anything about the Naas Road dual carriageway until there were about 15 people killed. We have not done anything about the Lucan by-pass which was opened last year although eight people have been killed.

We complained to the Minister for the Environment about the new sections of roads leading into bends but nothing has been done about them. People do not know the stretch of the road coming into the city and not long ago two young people coming to Dublin for interviews were smashed to death as a result of crashing into one of these trucks. There was a previous similar accident and yet nothing has been done about it. We are now discussing a Bill which says that regulations will ensure that the new standards will be enforced and that that is why we should liberalise the regulations in relation to haulage contractors. Until we have a very high standard in regard to regulations this Bill should be kept in abeyance, as was the case in the Criminal Justice Act where certain sections will not be enforced until the Complaints Bill is passed. We have a roads programme which will cost £580 million, the biggest expenditure ever undertaken in this area. We are building stretches of new highways between towns with dual carriageways which are suitable for heavy vehicles. However, our ordinary roads wind and twist and are very dangerous, especially in wet weather. When long vehicles go round a bend they have to cross the white line and many people have crashed into the front of them when that happened. A woman and her whole family in Swords were killed when their car slid into one of these big trucks.

Perhaps the Minister has done us a favour by introducing this Bill and enabling us to highlight the terrible abuses of the Road Traffic Act. Every year about 600 people are killed on our roads, not to mention those who are maimed or seriously injured. It costs the State £220,000 every time there is a fatality on our roads. I bet that Members did not know that. If you multiply that by 600, it is a very significant figure. It means that it costs the State about £100 million per year. It costs £67,000 for every serious injury, not to mention hospital and other costs. We are laying down regulations for a very dangerous animal, we are talking about a colossus, a monster. Every tonne is equivalent to 1,000 cars so if a ten tonne vehicle goes over a small pothole it is equivalent to 10,000 cars driving over it.

Many people dream of running their own business and they are putting all the money they can save or borrow into a tractor or two. They carry on until they have bags under their eyes and they go out of business within a few months. They are trying to compete with State companies like the B & I who are subsidised to the tune of £12 million. We must do a little more research on the basis of what has been produced in the Bill. The format for liberalisation has been skilfully accomplished. To be fair, the responsibilities are really not of the Minister's making because he depends on — as the economists say — all thing being equal.

If the Road Traffic Act was in order, if the law was properly enforced and if we had the road conditions that we should have, then we could bring in this legislation. Perhaps the Minister is ahead of his time. This cannot be a leap in the dark because there are lives at stake. It never fails to amaze me how there can be an outpouring of love and support which is admirable, such as in the case of Colin McStay. A tremendous contribution was made in that case. On the other hand we do not have the same sort of outcry in relation to the daily carnage that takes place on the roads, the abuses of the Road Traffic Act and the non-implementation of regulations. We are paying a wage bill of £227 million per annum to keep 11,400 people employed in carrying out our instructions. The message from the Cabinet should be loud and clear that we cannot reform, liberalise or advance our economy until these regulations are applied vigorously, equitably and immediately. There should be a period of grace in order for this to happen. I would gladly support the Minister if he decided to do that.

The Minister reserves rights of suspension and revocation. I cannot complain about that unless it becomes too bureaucratic and is not fairly and equitably applied. I presume the Minister will appoint experts in his Department to ensure that these revocations are carried out. Section 11 empowers the Minister, where a licensee dies or becomes physically incapacitated, to grant a licence to a relative of such licensee who is not fully qualified provided certain limited conditions are fulfilled. Section 12 empowers the Minister, where a licensee or the designated manager of a business dies or becomes physically incapacitated, to grant temporary permission to a person to carry on the business for a maximum period of 18 months, where he is satisfied that such permission is necessary to avoid hardship. The usual conditions would not have to be met.

I applaud that attempt but it just would not work in practice. Somebody else would decide that in 18 months a person could sort himself out or sell a business. Between now and Committee Stage I might make some suggestions on that, but I do not know how it can be enforced. Perhaps it should be left open-ended with no time limit. Perhaps the licence should be left to the person concerned for a longer period. If the period was extended it would probably sort itself out. Eventually a business dies when one gets out of touch with one's clients and it is very hard to resurrect it.

I agree with section 13 which provides for on-the-spot fines for offences under the road transport legislation which the Minister may, by regulation, prescribe. These should be specified. In Britain vehicles are stopped and inspected. If companies are legitimately in business and the safety regulations are being enforced they will not overload. That is often the cause of accidents and also of damage to roads. As long as the regulations are generous in that they enable the haulier to make a profit on his loadcarrying capacity and is not carrying at a loss, then that can be agreed with the industry. The only way we can avoid the temptation to overload is to ensure that the haulier will be absolutely terrified to even dream of taking out his vehicle overloaded or with faults in the vehicle. In the same way a person should be terrified to take a car out on the road without having it insured. It is necessary to spell that out.

I have an objection to all legislation that goes through the House which leaves it to the Minister to bring in regulations in the future or to add to or take from regulations. This means that the Minister will not have to bring the legislation back into the House. It removes power from us as legislators and it also knocks another chunk off democracy. I do not think that is what the intention is. The Constitution is set up in such a way that we should have power to legislate. There should not be any derogation from that power.

The increases in fines were welcomed even by road hauliers because they were well outdated. The Minister for the Environment increased the fines last year from £500 to £5,000. That was very necessary. It was no great disadvantage to the hauliers concerned because we are talking about very extensive loads which may travel from any part of Ireland to the south of Spain or Portugal for one, two or three weeks. There may be £30,000, £40,000 or £50,000 worth of merchandise on board. Therefore, it is ridiculous to have small fines in a situation such as that, just as it is ridiculous to charge Windscale £10,000 for a breach of regulations, or to charge some company who are making huge profits a pittance when they break regulations. If the fine for breaking regulations is only nominal it encourages people not to bother about the regulations. We are talking here about regulations in an industry which really is a number of businesses on wheels.

Debate adjourned.