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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 Feb 1999

Vol. 499 No. 5

Road Transport Bill, 1998: Second Stage.

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

The road haulage industry in Ireland was liberalised in the late 1980s arising from European Union directives which were adopted in the 1970s. Ireland was somewhat behind other developed western economies in introducing liberalised competition in the haulage market. One of the consequences of such a restrictive policy has been a sector that has been slower to develop than elsewhere in western Europe. We see, therefore, an industry which in large part is made up of micro enterprises. Up to 70 per cent of the sector comprises one or two man operations. In many instances, people are coming into the business without a proper business plan and it would appear that, in many cases, they live from day to day with little planning or thought for long-term viability.

The inevitable outcome is fierce competition and downward pressure on rates. I stress that there is nothing wrong with the latter provided that it is achieved as a result of efficiencies and is not done through working at cost or below cost or, indeed, by skirting the law. Recent years have seen troubled times for the sector. First, we had the collapse of Bell Lines with consequent losses to many hauliers. We then had the very serious difficulties at Dublin Port. The catalyst at the port was the major delays being experienced at port terminals leading to a drop in productivity. Equally, working conditions in the port were not good and there was a perception among hauliers that they were being treated badly.

Since then there has been some improvement in both conditions and rates. An independent facilitator brought in to my Department played a vital role in bringing the dispute to a close but also in righting many wrongs in the treatment of individual hauliers and in conditions generally in the port. I hasten to add that we are not out of the woods yet. The threat over the magnificent Tall Ships extravaganza last summer was a timely reminder of that for us all. In advance of completion of the Port Tunnel, traffic congestion in and around the port remains a problem which is adding to the reduction in productivity of hauliers using the port.

On the international front, it has also been a very difficult period for Irish hauliers. There was the disruption caused by the French drivers' strike in 1997. There were strikes by hauliers in Spain and Portugal. Subsequently, we had the problems created for hauliers by Welsh farmers who pursued their grievances with the British Government by blocking Irish hauliers at Holyhead and other Irish sea ports to the United Kingdom.

Clearly, there are problems in the sector which this Bill is, in part, addressing. On another front, colleagues will be aware that in the published Statement of Strategy of my Department, it was anticipated that a major review should be conducted into the haulage sector, including the potential for the application of intelligent transport systems, in co-operation with the industry itself, other Departments and Forfás. Following a competitive tendering process, a consortium of consultancy firms with extensive national and international expertise was appointed to carry out this review. The consultants commenced their work in July last year.

I will set out the context in which this review is being undertaken. The report of the Forfás Transport and Logistics Group published in March 1996 placed emphasis on an integrated approach to infrastructure, transport services, logistics and warehousing-distribution. It saw transport and logistics as crucial elements in improving the competitive position of Irish firms. The Forfás report made it clear that it was not enough to simply improve our capabilities in the transport and logistics area. If we were to improve our competitive position, we would have to do better than competitor economies which are seeking to enhance their capabilities. The report's assessment was quite blunt. It stated:

If Ireland fails to cope with the more demanding market and logistics environment which is rapidly emerging, exporters will lose competitiveness and market share and the longer term industrial development objectives will stand little chance of being achieved.

That is the broad policy context within which the review of the road haulage industry is being initiated. However, the serious difficulties which have emerged in recent times gave the proposal to review the sector added urgency .

It might be useful if I inform Deputies of the terms of reference for the review which I am sure they will agree are comprehensive. The mandate to the consultants was to review the road haulage industry under a number of headings and to propose a coherent strategy for the development of the industry which would encompass: a clear vision for the future development of the industry in the context of Ireland's wider economic requirements, supported by concrete aims and objectives and a clear and precise medium-term and long-term strategy for the future development of the industry, identifying in particular those strategic matters which need to be urgently addressed. The development of the strategy should take account of the fact that the road haulage sector is not a single homogeneous industry, but a range of discrete subsets serving different market requirements.

The consultants were also mandated to identify any institutional and other constraints to the effective implementation of the strategy and propose measures to effectively address those constraints.

I am glad to say the report is now nearing completion. This is the first major review of the structure of the Irish road haulage industry ever undertaken. The outcome will provide an informed basis on which to plan for the future of a sector which, in itself, is a major contributor to the Irish economy and is vital to the interests of Irish industry as a whole. To propose action on the basis of anything less would be irresponsible. This is the background against which we are embarking on this Bill. Inevitably, the Bill will not address all the issues. It will, however, put in place significant statutory measures of concern to the sector. I will give a general outline of the main objectives of the Bill.

The Bill is both timely and desirable in the context of existing forces impacting on the road transport sector. The main elements of the Bill are the introduction of a licensing regime for both haulage and bus operators involving the issue of licences of up to five years' duration, instead of the current three or five year maximum duration; the replacement of a previously cumbersome vehicle plating procedure, involving my Department, the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda, with a transport disc regime provided solely by my Department and the application of that disc regime to the passenger sector for the first time; measures designed to ensure compliance by out of State hauliers with Irish road transport legislation; the introduction of a requirement on both haulage and passenger operators to provide adequate parking space and operating facilities for the vehicles to be operated under their licences; the amendment of the provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, to provide for consignor liability in the case of overweight vehicles; the amendment of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, to extend from five miles to 25 kilometres – over 15 miles – the distance a driver can be directed to a weighbridge for weighing; and to bring in other changes of a technical nature to the Road Transport Acts, 1933 to 1986.

It would be useful at this stage to outline the background to the regime for haulage and passenger operator licences. We are not dealing here with route licences, which are a matter to be considered under the Road Transport Act, 1932, but with those licences which allow access to the profession of road passenger operator.

The most recent amendment to the Road Transport Acts was the Road Transport Act, 1986. This Act and a series of EU directives which came into effect over the past decade have amended the basis for admission to the road haulage and bus operator sectors. The directives also began the process of harmonising the regime pertaining to the regulation of the haulage and bus transport sectors throughout the EU and liberalisation of access to those sectors.

Prior to the passage of the Road Transport Act, 1986, access to the road haulage industry in Ireland was restricted on a quantitative basis which effectively excluded prospective enterprises from setting up in business. The opening up of access was prompted partly by domestic policy considerations, such as the need for growth in the sector and the desirability of a more competitive environment to provide the manufacturing and trading arms of the economy with modern, professionally-run services at reasonable cost. The development of a common European Community policy aimed at allowing open competition on a quality control basis gave an added impetus to the liberalisation process.

Access to the road haulage and bus operator sectors is now regulated solely on the basis of qualitative requirements set down in European Union directives. Entrants to the business must satisfy the licensing authorities in member states that they are financially sound, of good repute and under competent management. It should be noted that there has been further raising and harmonising of the standards for access by virtue of a directive adopted in 1998. The new stricter criteria will take effect for new entrants in October this year. Under the directives any person who meets the criteria for access must be issued with a licence. Currently, both the criteria for obtaining a licence and the issuing of a licence are set down in statutory instruments made pursuant to the European Communities Act, 1972. It is intended to continue that arrangement and to consolidate it by revoking the licensing procedures in primary legislation and incorporating them in comprehensive regulations following enactment of this Bill. This should make it easier for intending applicants to ascertain the statutory licensing requirements.

Existing enterprises are periodically assessed for their continuing adherence to these standards. Until now, this reassessment has been automatically triggered on a three or five year basis – three in the case of domestic haulage operators, five in the case of international hauliers and all bus operators. The aim is that all enterprises will obtain a five year licence with a requirement to renew after that period. It is thought that this would be more rigorous and effective than a continuous regime which was mooted in the 1997 Transport Bill. This change in policy has the approval of the main representative organisations in both the haulage and passenger sectors.

Section 13 is designed to ensure that breaches of the Road Transport Acts or regulations relating to the carriage of merchandise or passengers under the European Communities Act, 1972, can be prosecuted against out of State carriers in the course of a journey within the State. This is achieved by arresting any driver who a garda has reason to believe is committing or has committed an offence and who in the opinion of the garda has not given a satisfactory address for service of summons. The Bill defines what constitutes a satisfactory address as an address at which the person will be for a sufficient length of time for it to be possible to serve that person with a summons, or an address of some other specified person who will accept a summons on the first person's behalf. In such cases, the address of a firm of solicitors in the State which undertakes to accept a summons on behalf of the driver will satisfy this provision. The section is similar to a provision in the United Kingdom Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984, which is used extensively by UK police authorities to deal with out of State hauliers in breach of road traffic and road transport legislation in Britain.

In the case of a driver of a vehicle being arrested under this section, the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967, as amended by section 3 of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1997, come into effect. The following is the procedure: the arrested driver is brought to the nearest Garda station; he is brought as soon as practicable before the District Court of the district in which the person has been arrested or he is released on bail to appear at the next appropriate sitting of the District Court; bail can be set by the station sergeant in accordance with section 31 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967; bail can be in the form of recognisance or a sum of money, and it is lodged in the relevant District Court to the court clerk; and if the driver fails to appear before the court at the appointed time an application can be made under the relevant District Court rule to entreat the recognisance or to forfeit the sum of money.

Another initiative in this area is the proposal in section 16 to introduce on-the-spot fines in respect of offences under the Road Transport Acts or under regulations made pursuant to the European Communities Act, 1972, relating to road transport. This section is an enabling one and it will be a matter for the Minister to prescribe the class of offences which will be dealt with under this section.

A transport officer or a garda who has reasonable grounds for believing that a person is committing an offence under the regulations may issue a notice to that person stating that the person is alleged to have committed the offence; the person may make a payment of £150 without delay to the inspector; and a prosecution will not be pursued if the payment is made to the inspector without delay.

This provision is significantly different from the existing on-the-spot fines as we know them. The current system is an invitation to pay a certain amount of money within 21 days and, if payment is made, no prosecution will ensue. The system proposed here is an invitation to pay a sum of £150, without delay, to either a garda or a transport officer. If the driver refuses to pay and does not have a satisfactory address for service of summons, the provisions of section 13 can come into play. If the driver has a satisfactory address for service of summons and does not pay the fine he can be prosecuted in the normal way.

The fine is currently set at £150. However, the Minister may vary this amount by regulation at any time in order to take account of inflation or if it is felt that a fine set at this level is not a sufficient deterrent or that the offences being committed demand greater fines. Flexibility is provided in the Bill as to currencies and the methods of payment which will be accepted.

An important feature of the Bill which is timely are the provisions of section 17 which amend the Road Traffic Act, 1961, in two ways. First, section 12 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, is amended to include the consignor of the load as one of the persons liable to prosecution in the case of overweight vehicles. The section also provides for two good defence clauses which are common sense. I am pleased to bring forward this provision.

The current statutory position under the Road Traffic Acts is that only the driver and the owner of the vehicle are liable to prosecution for overloading. It is my belief, however, that drivers are often pressurised to carry overweight loads given the competitive nature of the haulage sector and the possibility of losing business if they refuse to carry the loads consigned. By making the consignor also liable to prosecution, the Bill will reduce the pressure on drivers to carry overweight loads. Clearly it is not in the best interests of either the driver or the owner of the vehicle to carry overweight loads. First, there is the road safety aspect, the danger to the driver and other road users is inevitably increased from overweight loads, second, there is the question of increased damage to road infrastructures and third, overloading exposes expensive equipment to a burden for which it has not been designed, with long-term damage as a possible consequence.

The second amendment to the Road Traffic Act is the proposal to extend from five miles to 25 kilometres, about 15 miles, the distance a driver can be directed to a weighbridge for weighing. I have long been of the view that some drivers regularly use unsuitable back roads in order to avoid known weighbridges. I hope this new provision will put a stop to this practice and, importantly, will be an additional incentive for drivers, owners and consignors to avoid carrying overweight loads.

A provision I am also pleased with is contained in section 11 which requires that all licensees, both haulage and passenger operators, must provide adequate parking spaces and operating premises for the vehicles operating under the licence. The objective of this provision is twofold. First, it is an effort to ensure that vehicles operating under a licence have adequate parking space. The provision is not designed to compulsorily require the owner to park the vehicle at the premises, nor does it prevent owners-drivers parking vehicles at unsuitable areas such as housing estates. This is best achieved by local authority by-laws. However, it ensures there are adequate parking facilities available at the site.

The second objective is to ensure that there is a premises at which the licensee is located. In recent years there has been a tendency, albeit by a very small number of licensees, to have accommodation addresses. These addresses can often be the offices of a solicitor or accountant where visits to inspect tachograph charts can be difficult and frustrating. There is a concern also that persons refused licences elsewhere in the European Union can apply for licences in the State and use accommodation addresses to facilitate their applications. The section also provides for a three year breathing space for existing licensees to meet the requirements for adequate parking spaces and operating premises.

Regarding the provisions in the Bill relating to transport discs, the objective is to establish a one-stop-shop for the issuing of such discs. In the past vehicle plating was regarded as overly bureaucratic by the haulage sector. For instance, the plating procedure involved the following for each vehicle: the operator obtained his licence with the vehicles stated on the licence, he then went to the Revenue Commissioners with the licence document to pay for the plate and then took the receipt to the PSV officer in the local designated Garda station where he obtained the vehicle plate. This procedure was rightly deemed cumbersome in this day and age. Subsequently, my Department, by means of a statutory regulation, reduced the number of transactions to two by accepting payment for the plate along with the licence fee, thus removing the Revenue Commissioners from the loop.

The new provisions provide that my Department will accept the fee and issue the new transport discs. Transport discs in respect of each licensee will be generated from the computer records of vehicles in my Department and issued directly to the licensee. As each disc is expected to last on a vehicle windscreen for five years it will be made of a durable material. The disc will contain relevant licensing and vehicle details to aid enforcement of the legislation governing licensing. A notable feature of the transport disc regime is that it will apply to the passenger sector for the first time. It has been the policy of the passenger operator associations to have an official regime for plating buses put in place. The new transport disc meets that demand.

Another significant element of the Bill is contained in section 9 which amends section 36 of the Road Transport Act, 1933, the principal Act, relating to the prohibition on unlicensed haulage. The existing provision provided that it was not lawful for any person to enter into an agreement for the carriage for reward of merchandise by any other person unless that person was licensed. This prohibition has proved less than effective as the proving of an offence could require proof of the existence of a formal written contract between the consignor and the haulier. The provision in the Bill will enable prosecutions to be brought on the basis of advice notes or evidence of the driver or operator. This provision is expected to be effective in the overall fight against unlicensed haulage within the State.

An opportunity is being availed of in the Bill to address a difficulty that has arisen in relation to one of the CIE salaried superannuation schemes. The legal basis for the existence of the Salaried Officers and Clerks (Great Northern Railway, County Donegal Railway and the Irish Railway Clearing House) Superannuation Scheme, 1977, is currently in doubt because the order enabling it was based on section 14 of the Transport Act, 1950, which was repealed without a saver by the Transport (Reorganisation of Córas Iompar Éireann) Act, 1986. Section 18 of the Bill provides a solution to the difficulty by restoring the status quo ante to orders made before the passing of the Transport (Reorganisation of Córas Iompar Éireann) Act, 1986, by deeming them to continue in force as if made under section 25 of that Act. In this way the doubt as to the legal basis of the superannuation scheme will be removed.

The Bill contains a number of other minor provisions of a technical nature such as amendment of section 8 of the Road Transport Act, 1971, as inserted by the Road Transport Act, 1986, to facilitate the appropriate recognition in Ireland for licences, permits or authorisations issued by other states arising out of international agree ments to which the European Communities is a party, or such authorisations issued by other member states arising out of acts of the European Communities. The updating takes account of liberalisation of haulage markets within the European Union and beyond.

Section 10 amends section 5 of the Road Transport Act, 1978, to include international road transport agreements entered into by the European Communities or any acts of the European Communities. The section provides for the exemption of specified classes of international transport by road from the licensing, transport disc regime and the prohibition on the importation of vehicles provision of the Road Transport Acts. Section 12 creates an offence of falsifying or altering a licence document and of using a falsified or altered licence document for the carriage of goods or passengers for reward. Section 21 provides for an extensive schedule of repeals in order to revoke spent or replaced sections of the many Road Transport Acts.

The Bill is a significant step forward in road transport operator licensing and, in particular, brings in a very important set of amendments to the Road Traffic Act, 1961. I commend the Bill to the House.

Second Stage of the Bill gives a timely opportunity to review the current state of the road haulage, road passenger and bus transport industries. We will not oppose the Bill on Second Stage but we have some serious criticisms of the way the Government is proceeding in both these areas and the lack of affirmative action in dealing with many issues which appear to be stuck in neutral in the Department. There are some welcome minor changes in relation to the administration of road haulage and passenger services.

On 25 March 1997 this Bill was produced by the Minister's predecessor. We were told it could not be proceeded with because this Minister wanted a bigger and better Bill. The explanation I received was that the question of consignor liability was being dealt with. Section 17 which deals with this matter is one of the most ingenious shams I have ever seen. I will deal with that later. It introduces into Irish law for the first time a blatant out clause, further to representations from IBEC and industry, which nullifies the effect of what we have been waiting for over the past two years.

The road haulage industry has not got the proper acknowledgement or understanding in the political arena, the media and Irish life in general of its important role. I welcome the review, given that much of the industry is experiencing a hand to mouth existence and is suffering from illegal competition and huge competitive pressures. The erratic nature of the unstructured industry has led to fundamental problems such as the protests at Dublin Port.

Leadership must be given by the Department in supporting the Irish Road Haulage Association financially over a set period to get it on its feet. One of the purposes of unionisation is to bring order. I hope the review will favour the orderly development of structures.

Over 70 per cent of all EU goods are transported by road. Irish industry and the Celtic tiger are dependent on the success of the road haulage sector. We are an island economy and transport costs are about twice the EU average as a proportion of total manufacturing costs. Therefore we must establish our haulage industry on a proper footing. Ireland's exports account for 70 per cent of GDP compared to a figure of 10 per cent in the US. Imports and exports combined account for 140 per cent of GNP. The percentages in terms of road and ro-ro freight are virtually 80 per cent and 90 per cent.

The IDA should market Ireland as a high speed, cost effective export centre in terms of transport. It is critical that we get that right. Hundreds of heavy goods vehicles are going by ro-ro to the UK or by ferry services to Europe. The contribution of the industry in respect of road tax, PAYE, PRSI, excise duty and VAT on fuel and trucks amounts to literally hundreds of millions of pounds. There are some 140,000 heavy goods vehicles and between 4,500 and 5,000 haulage licences. Some 6,000 trucks per day entering Dublin Port gives a clear profile of the industry.

The sustaining of the Celtic tiger boom depends on getting haulage right, with a reasonable profit margin. Everything from tax treatment to the enforcement of the law against illegal haulage needs to be put at the centre of the political debate.

The Minister of State announced on 1 April 1998 a crackdown on illegal haulage, plans to hit rogue operators within the haulage industry and visitations of premises of transport managers. Perhaps the Minister will let us know the result of the crackdown. There are provisions for penalties of £1,000 on summary conviction. How many people have been convicted of illegal haulage? The allegation by the IRHA is that 20 per cent of haulage is illegal. I would like a progress report.

I wish to refer to the French truckers dispute. France accounts for 10 per cent of our total exports or about £3 billion in 1997. This dispute cost hauliers large sums of money. There were claims for some £6 million. The Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, who saw the publicity opportunity was meeting Commissioner Kinnock and so on. What happened since then? Who picked up the Bill? Once the blaze of publicity died down were any claims met? In its representations to the French authorities has the Government obtained any recompense for those who were put out of business?

I assume the report of the review group will be published. If so, what is the date of publication? I hope it will set out a proper basis for the industry to proceed. The handling of the issue of illegal haulage and enforcement of existing legislation does not inspire confidence as regards ensuring a level playing field.

Section 17 attempts to deal with the issue of consignor liability. The argument is simple. Hauliers bear total responsibility for breaches of the limits of laden weights that can be carried. Frequently the haulier is the victim of pressure by the consignor, whether a gravel pit operator, a person in the construction industry or someone who is putting pressure on margins. I understand the maximum tonnage weight is of the order of 40 tonnes. The gross limit is 38 tonnes, the EU directive stipulates 44 tonnes and the UK figure is 41 tonnes. Given that the EU figure is 44 tonnes, I understand a little leeway is given. Prosecutions are taken against those who have over 44 tonnes. Following the Minister's commitment to the IRHA and receipt of representations from the construction industry and IBEC, to ensure their members would not have to pick up the bill which the IRHA was shunting in their direction and to obviate the need to breach these regulations and thereby release the pressure on the haulier, section 17 was drafted as follows:

(1)Section 12 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, is hereby amended by the insertion of the following subsections after subsection (4):

"(4A) Where a person contravenes subsection (3)(b) of this section and the load or loads were consigned to such person by one consignor alone, that consignor shall be guilty of an offence.

That is what I call consignor liability. We then have the ingenious political stroke which would do "Yes Minister" proud in any episode:

(4B) In a prosecution under subsection (4A) of this section it shall be a good defence for the consignor to prove–

(a)that it was not practicable for the consignor to estimate the laden weight of the vehicle or combination of vehicles, or

(b)that an estimate of the laden weight of the vehicle or combination of vehicles carried out by the consignor prior to the dispatch of the goods indicated that the weight of the vehicle or combination of vehicles did not exceed the maximum weight laden specified by a regulation under this section applying in relation to the vehicle or combination of vehicles.

On a point of order, is the Deputy quoting from the 1997 Bill or the 1998 Bill?

I am quoting from the 1998 Bill.

They are both the same. The Deputy approved the first one.

I will come to that. The representations I received from the IRHA did not indicate that. Is that the Minister's position on that?

Are we embarking on Committee Stage business here?

No. I will put it like this: will the Minister nod agreement? I am not looking for a detailed contribution from him.

I will nod. My predecessor and I had extensive consultations on the same issue with the people to which the Deputy referred, the IRHA, throughout the preparation of this Bill.

Section 11 of the previous Bill is the parallel reference. That out clause gives the effect of ensuring that the consignor would not be liable. Essentially, that whitewashes the provision. I will table an amendment on Committee Stage to have that reversed because it will be impossible for the DPP or anybody else taking a District, Circuit or High Court case to obtain a successful prosecution and conviction because of that out clause.

One possible way of dealing with this pragmatically is that it shall, by law, be the case that the gross unladen weight of the vehicle shall be displayed prominently on the vehicle. This would allow a situation whereby there would be no out clause for the person loading the lorry to state that he did not know the weight, as I understand that the defence would be that they did not know the previous unladen weight of the vehicle and, therefore, how would they know if a 30 or 40 tonne load would put it over the limit. The point of the law – we are making law here – is to be certain and clear so that a judge in a court can interpret it. This is unclear and unsatisfactory.

On that specific question, it would be unfair if the employees of companies like CRH, which are involved in a great deal of loading of sand, gravel and other building products, were liable under the EU directive on laden weights which comes into effect on 1 January 1999. In some companies a circular has been issued to the staff to the effect that the front line troops, who may be acting under instruction, are liable. In all cases it should be the commercial entity and not the employees who are liable. I want to make it clear that I am not satisfied with section 17.

A section of the Bill relates to the parking of vehicles and the obligation to provide a space. I am sure every Member of this House from time to time has received representations, particularly from residents in local authority and private housing estates, about the parking of huge 40 foot trucks in densely populated housing estates in the evenings and at weekends. When these complaints are made by residents who literally cannot see out their door because of these monstrous vehicles, local authorities shrug their shoulders and state that it does not require planning permission to park a vehicle there, it is not blocking the road even though it may be a cul de sac, etc. That parking provision should be properly implemented so that people are prevented from parking such unsuitable vehicles in confined spaces.

My greatest criticism and angst about this topic relates to road passenger transport services. If ever there was a minimalist level of reform of bus passenger services, it is this legislation in terms of the administration of route licensing. I appeal to the Minister to get someone to take political ownership of the time warp of legislation and regulation relating to the licensing of bus passenger services since 1932. I have discussed this at public meetings with Bus Éireann drivers and ICTU people working in CIE groups as well as FOTO, PAMBO and the management of Bus Éireann. Nobody is prepared to defend the current legal framework.

The situation is analogous to that which existed in independent radio where there were illegal pirate stations and nobody could develop their business. The Independent Radio and Television Commission was created and now there is successful national independent and local radio. It is providing a service which is badly needed and it is properly regulated.

Similarly, the services which are competing with Bus Éireann on the radial routes to Dublin from Rosslare and Belfast and all points in between, from Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Tralee, County Kerry, Ennis, Galway, the north-west, Sligo, Cavan, Monaghan and Drogheda, are illegal and unlicensed. They operate under a misnomer of travel clubs and they provide a de facto scheduled service. Those services are illegal and the Minister's Department and the country turn a blind eye to it. All buses are full. I was at the Bus Éireann launch just before Christmas of nine day-return services from Rosslare to Dublin. Ardcavan Coaches provide six or seven return services per day.

We need to properly license this service. We need to take it out of the hands of the Department of Public Enterprise because obviously there is an inherent conflict in being the sole shareholder of CIE and the licensing authority. The position, the policy and the law is clear. Where anybody, be it a private operator or Bus Éireann, has an existing licence, nobody else can get a licence. This must apply with the implementation of the EU directive on cabotage vis-à-vis road passenger services from next June. Leaving aside the fact that Europe is obliging us to do this, we need the orderly development of bus passenger transport services. With the advent of public service contracts, it is necessary to develop new transport services, commuter links and orbital routes. Perhaps there is a need for a service from Tuam to Mountbellew.

A new transport licensing commission, like the Independent Radio and Television Commission, should be set up under legislation with a board of ten persons. I am quite happy for CIE and all the vested interests, including the consumer, to be represented on the board and the commission should have a chief executive. I am not talking about the UK example of the mid-1980s whereby there was a free for all, everybody went on particular routes, there was huge attrition, fares were slashed, companies went bust and in some cases there was less public transport. I am talking about the orderly development of the service, assessing the provision and recognising the need. In some cases there is no service in rural areas. Many people have one car only and the main bread winner uses it for work. How do people transport themselves? What about the drink driving regulations? Buses which are on school bus runs in the morning and evening and are idle for the rest of the day could be better used.

There is the question of telematics. In Finland, for example, with the implementation of the EU directives and the SAMPO programme, they have developed telematics where there is modal shift ticket information and computerised databases. If one wants to go from Enniscorthy to Enniscrone, these systems give information on how one might do so through public transport. Ticket sales systems have been integrated in tourist information offices. There is a need for orderly development over a five year period – I would be happy to write off CIE's debts – a crackdown on cowboy operators, minimum standards in terms of seating arrangements, insurance obligations, company law and tax compliance. It would suit the illegal operators to have a level playing field. There should also be a rolling subsidy as it is sometimes necessary to kick start a new service to make commuters aware of its existence. It would not be impossible, therefore, to design a blueprint but nothing is happening.

I am not representing any interest group. I am considering the needs of consumers – students, pensioners and so on. The use of bus lanes and the free travel pass on all licensed services falls to be considered as part of an integrated transport policy. As in the case of independent local radio, someone will have to be told to devise such a policy. The Finnish model is the best in terms of being fair to everybody in what is an important industry.

There are huge economic benefits to be gained in encouraging commuters to use public transport. The lack of such a service in rural areas is a factor in social exclusion. The area partnerships have done much work in pioneering new services. While hackneys which are expensive are better than nothing, there is no scheduled minibus service in my constituency worth talking about. I am not out to screw anybody; I wish to ensure a fully integrated public transport service is provided. Existing services need to be regulated. Local Bus Éireann managers have informed me that there is cut-throat competition from unlicensed operators. One can obtain a day return ticket from Cork or Wexford for £10 which is exceptional value.

It was my hope that the Minister of State would have said that, while the legislation does not deal with route licences, it is the intention to introduce major reforming legislation. It is my experience that, if given clear instructions, civil servants are the best in the world. There is, therefore, a need for political direction. If necessary, consultants should be appointed to advise on the best route to take. Something has to be done as we are not being fair to compliant operators or commuters dependent on public transport.

To monitor compliance with road haulage legislation, I understand a triangular symbol is on display on vehicles. I also understand that if one is carrying a load for one's own purposes, one is exempt. The introduction of transport discs will level the playing field.

We dealt comprehensively with the matter of enforcement measures on Committee Stage of the Carriage of Dangerous Substances by Road Bill. I am satisfied that, as a result, it will not be possible to leave the jurisdiction while on bail. I cite as an example the case of the Italian in the Minister of State's constituency.

I welcome the Bill, although I am not happy with section 17 which deals with liability. What is the current position on the review groups, support for the Irish Road Hauliers Association, a specific structure to allow the industry to grow, the French dispute and the crackdown announced last April? I deplore the absence of a policy initiative, not to mention legislative proposals for reform of the bus transport sector.

It would be remiss of me not to welcome the Bill which differs in two respects from the Bill I published during the term of office of the previous Government with the full approval of the then Minister, Deputy Yates. It provides for the introduction of five year renewable licences and – this is a major change – seeks to deal with out of State hauliers. I attempted to do this but despite my best efforts and those of my officials we failed to come up with a wording that would satisfy the Attorney General's office from which we received no positive assistance. It was a major omission.

I am not certain why the Minister of State wishes to alter the current system of permanent licences with provision for review, to one of five year renewable licences. We can tease out the reasons on Committee Stage. We should seek to avoid bureauracy. The introduction of a disc as opposed to plating will be welcomed by the Irish Road Hauliers Association.

Out of State hauliers are a source of great angst among Irish road hauliers. It is the responsibility of the Garda Síochána to monitor breaches of the legislation. When an out of State operator thunders down the road, the gardaí must wave him on because he is exempt from the law. This is an extraordinary situation. Out of State hauliers operating here are effectively exempt from the law because a summons cannot be served on them. Regulations regarding tachographs, weight limits and a range of non-arrestable offences do not apply to them. They can undercut Irish operators because they enjoy all the benefits of non-compliance with the law. A very simple wording has been found to deal with this problem. Where a driver cannot give an address at which a summons can be served, he can be arrested and held, either on bail or on remand, until he can be brought to court. The amount required for bail in such cases is not specified in the Bill but it should be an amount equivalent to the maximum fine for the offence in question. Of course, if the driver is not convicted subsequently he will get his money back.

The problem of out of State drivers is not confined to the road haulage area. Four million tourists come to Ireland every year. They too are exempt from our laws unless their offence is one for which they can be arrested and detained until their case comes to court. They certainly may park wherever they like. The worst they can expect is a parking ticket if they are outside Dublin and they can drop that into the nearest litter bin, assuming they do not wish to litter the streets and break another law. Even if they did so they would not be liable to punishment for that offence either.

The area of consignor liability is very important. Given the number of road hauliers who are owners of only one or two lorries it is important that a consignor who insists on placing an excessive load on a lorry should be legally liable for the excess weight rather than the driver or owner of the lorry. The law as proposed is very good. It may be that it can be improved. Nothing that has been invented is incapable of improvement and I look forward to hearing some gems of wisdom from my Fine Gael colleague on Committee Stage. There are many difficulties in the area of consignor liability. For example, where there are two or more consignors, perhaps five farmers consigning one ton of potatoes each, it is not clear who is liable for the consignment. Situations such as this had to be provided for.

I am aware of cement companies – I will be no more specific than that – who have contracts with their hauliers which oblige them to carry excessive weight on every load. Very few of the cement companies own their own lorries. They insist on owner-drivers. When the drivers are caught with an excess load they are liable as drivers and owners. If drivers do not accept these contracts which oblige them to take excessive loads they get no more work. It is high time that cement and gravel companies in particular were held liable for overloading the lorries which carry their goods. That will be to the benefit of the road haulage system in general. I agree entirely with what the Minister said about damage to roads, road safety and damage to vehicles. The cement companies do not care about damage to the owners' lorries. An owner will often spend Saturday and Sunday under his lorry repairing the damage caused by overloading and trying to keep his vehicle on the road. I am pleased with this measure.

I welcome the provision regarding parking of lorries. If someone who has only one lorry is to get a licence for road haulage he should have a place to park it. A haulier who has 20 lorries should have a place to park them also. That should be a condition of the road haulage licence. Lorries should not be parked outside their driv ers' doors. It is now legally possible for local authorities to introduce by-laws excluding commercial vehicles from any housing estate or indeed from any area. Many local authorities have implemented that law. They have certainly done so in parts of my constituency. This measure was badly needed and is very welcome.

The extension of the distance within which lorry drivers can be brought to a weighbridge is a badly needed measure which is long overdue. Lorries have been using rat-runs around minor roads to keep outside the maximum distance from weighbridges. That was a regular feature in County Kildare. Lorry drivers avoided weighbridges by using back roads and did very serious damage to roads which were not designed to carry heavy vehicles with large loads. It will now be possible for gardaí to bring lorries a distance of 15 miles to a weighbridge. That should cover almost the entire country. If it does not, there is a need to provide sufficient weighbridges to do so.

I find myself in the strange position of almost making a Second Stage speech in support of the Bill. I was directly involved in drafting most of what has been presented to the House. Well done, to the Minister for finding the formula which I failed to find and for finding parliamentary time to introduce the Bill. I will be supporting the Bill wholeheartedly and I will be glad to support any improvements which can be made on Committee Stage.

It is necessary for the Minister to create a regime where lorry drivers and hauliers are more likely than not to be caught if they break the law, whether with regard to tachographs, excess weight or any other matter. We need a degree of enforcement which creates a level playing field for those who comply with the law. The Minister must increase the number of inspectors in his Department. While those inspectors need to be fully versed in this area, there must also be training courses for gardaí to ensure they are fully familiar with the very technical regulations regarding tachographs and other matters.

We must press, at European level, for a tachograph system that is tamper proof. The Minister, his Department, the Garda and I know all the tricks available to drivers to ensure that tachographs do not tell the true story. When drivers cross borders they often throw out the old tachograph and replace it with a new one. These abuses can be dealt with by the electronic tachograph which is proposed at European level. I understand the system is being held up because the Germans and French disagree as to which of them will manufacture the electronic equipment. The introduction of the electronic tachograph is very much in the interest of drivers who are being obliged by lorry owners and by those who hire them to drive in excess of the legal number of hours. This is creating a time bomb which could go off at any moment. It is more serious than drinking and driving, particularly at the levels that now apply to drinking and driving. It is more dangerous that people exceed, and grossly exceed in some cases, the tacograph limits and the hours they are allowed to operate. I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister of State on getting it into the House. While it was a long time in gestation, it improves on the Bill we approved in the last Administration, and it has my full support.

I support the introduction of this Bill. It updates transport legislation and is urgently needed. I am pleased the new legislation is set out in readable and understandable language. That should be the pattern for all such legislation. It covers all operator licensing requirements and procedures as laid down in European Union legislation. It will bring us into line with the main EU directives which lay down conditions for issuing licences to international haulage operators and to national and international passenger operators.

The new law will specify that a transport licensing disc be used instead of the present haulier's plate. There will be a change in the duration of licences. Under the 1986 Act a licence covered a three year period while the new period specified is five years, although the Bill states the Minister may issue licences for a shorter period at his discretion. This will apply where operators do not meet requisite criteria, but are likely to meet the standards in the foreseeable future.

Following the enactment of section 3, the Minister may declare, by order, that a licence granted by a competent authority of another State which is party to EU or international agreements, may be deemed a restricted road freight licence and it may continue in force. He will have the power to amend or remove any orders made under that section. The penalties relating to tampering with licences will be heavier. Any person who alters or permits the alteration of a licensing document or engages in the transport of goods by road while in possession of such a document will be subject to the imposition of stiff penalties. That is as it should be and I support this provision.

This Bill will enable us to bring prosecutions against out of State hauliers or bus operators as well as Irish operators who do not conform to its provisions. The powers of the Garda have been widened to ensure they can now arrest without warrant, out of State operators who have broken the law. The gardaí may do this if they have reason to believe the offenders may not be available for the service of a summons. This aspect of law enforcement has given rise to many time consuming problems. It has caused deep resentment among those engaged in the road haulage industry to find that out of State operators may break the law here and leave on the next ferry and never be seen or heard of again. It has often proved impossible to establish a satisfactory address to serve a summons on such persons. Section 13(2) specifies what is regarded as a satisfactory address.

Persons who employ unlicensed hauliers will be liable to prosecution under the terms of section 9. Under existing provisions there is an onus to prove that an agreement existed between the consignor and the unlicensed haulier, but that will not be the case under the terms of the Bill. I am pleased this loophole has been closed. Currently the driver and the owner, if the owner is not the driver, of a licensed vehicle are liable in the case of overweight vehicle offences. Under the new Bill a third category is added whereby the consignor of the load may be prosecuted in the case of overladen heavy goods vehicles. This will ensure a drastic change in the attitude of some consignors. It will guarantee that the consignor carefully weighs and notes the contents of loads in containers loaded on to consignee vehicles. Up to now they could not be held liable for such an offence. Responsibility will continue to rest with operators in receipt of such loads. They must also monitor loads. They must ensure that the combined weights of containers and vehicles meet the legal specifications. Under law the drivers of all vehicles requiring a weight check will be compelled to travel up to 25 kilometres to a weighbridge compared to the previous requirement of five miles.

The Bill specifies that adequate parking must be provided by operators for all vehicles that operate under licence from their premises. A person who holds a licence on the day preceding the introduction of that section does not have to comply with the new parking regulation until three years after the expiration of the current licence.

There is also a welcome change in the licensing procedures. The initiative to centralise the issuing of licence plates under the sole control of the Department of Public Enterprise is commended. This enlightened approach is to be expected from the Minister of State, Deputy Jacob. It will be a vast improvement on the old system, which involved a cumbersome and outmoded process involving several Departments. The Minister has created a new offence concerning the falsification of licensing documents. Under the terms relating to this offence, a designated licensing document will be deemed a public document. They will come under the terms of the 1913 Forgery Act.

The introduction of on-the-spot fines which will be payable immediately for certain road transport offences is another positive move. It has been welcomed by bodies in the transport industry. They expressed concern that there must be full implementation of the Bill in the area of enforcement. The new measures will be assured of success, if there is a will to enforce them. The determination must exist at all levels in Government, in the Department of Public Enterprise and in the ranks of the Garda. I assume the increasing demand this will place on Garda time will be taken into account. We are all aware the Garda have many other existing and pressing priorities. I presume that additional resources will be put in place. I know the Department of Public Enterprise will ensure that the necessary resources to implement the new laws will be made available.

The wide-ranging changes proposed by the Minister of State, Deputy Jacob, can only have a beneficial impact on road transport here. The current gross vehicle weights permitted need to be reviewed and brought into line with UK and EU averages. The permitted gross vehicle weight of a two-axle tractor unit and a tri-axle trailer is 38 tonnes while in the UK and Europe it is slightly higher. A two-axle commercial tractor unit with a two-axle trailer has a permitted gross vehicle weight of 32 tonnes. The average permitted unladen weights of a tractor unit and flat trailer is 11 tonnes, a tractor and curtain side is 12 tonnes and tractor and fridge unit is 17 tonnes. Who will be responsible in the case where a consignor loads more than the permitted maximum weight on to a vehicle? Other Members raised this point earlier. If 24 tonnes of meat were loaded into a fridge unit and, given that the maximum permitted unladen weight of a tractor and fridge unit is 17 tonnes, this would mean that the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer would be 41 tonnes, 3 tonnes over the permitted gross vehicle weight. Would the haulier or the consignor be responsible in the case of such an offence? That needs to be clarified.

Is the onus on consignors to ensure vehicles and containers are weighed before they leave their premises? If a 40 foot container arrives at Dublin Docks or Cork Docks and the goods in a container are heavier than the weight displayed on the outside of the container, is the haulier responsible, given that he does not load the container. If a fridge unit were to contain 24 tonnes or 26 tonnes, that would make a haulier's vehicle three or four tonnes over the permitted gross vehicle weight. The Bill must be clear about this and about the directions that should be taken in the case of such offences.

I understand from hauliers that quite a number of 20 foot or 40 foot containers coming into this country may weigh more than the weight displayed on the side of the container or they may be heavier than what the vehicle is allowed to carry because heavier weights are permitted to be carried in Europe. Will there be weighing systems in ports to weigh trucks leaving the port, to ensure they are not over the gross vehicle weight?

The haulage industry needs to look very carefully at its organisation and operation. I was involved in the sale of commercial vehicles from 1975 to 1985. I sold a truck to a haulier for £15,000 or £16,000 in 1976; that same truck would cost about £50,000 or £60,000 today. However, haulage rates have not changed very much in those 20 years. The haulage industry needs to look at its operation, put in place a code of practice, get the proper rates for its members and be systematic in its pricing and charges, so that hauliers can make a profit and do not have to work outside the law in order to make ends meet. The industry must examine that very carefully.

Vehicle manufacturers have made great strides in vehicle development over the past 20 years, with the introduction of electronics, computers, speed limiters, air braking systems and semi and automatic transmissions. However, it is time for them to consider manufacturing on-board weighing systems for vehicles, to assist hauliers. There are so many devices in trucks nowadays that it might be possible to develop a weighing system which could be set for the unladen weight, whereby when the truck, container or fridge is loaded, the haulier can see the exact weight. This would greatly assist hauliers, the law and the Minister in ensuring the law is obeyed. I hope the Minister will see some merit in this proposal and that his officials will write to the vehicle manufacturers – the few that are left in the world – and suggest this to them. I will also raise the matter with them, as someone who is in that trade.

I have noticed recently, as I hope the Minister has, the number of vehicles registered as off highway vehicles, such as tractors, which are on the highway. These vehicles are doing the job of trucks and tractor units with three or four axles which are licensed for certain highway work and are manufactured to very high safety standards. I worry about the use of off highway vehicles. For example, many high horsepower agricultural tractors are being used in the carriage of beet. It is extremely dangerous to have vehicles which are not manufactured to high safety standards, in terms of braking, steering and carrying capacity, on the main roads. An increasing number of these vehicles are used whether on construction sites or drawing beet from Cork to the beet factory in Mallow.

The Minister should deal with this very serious issue, if he is not already doing so, in the interests of public safety on our roads. An agricultural tractor could not have an air braking system which would be capable of stopping at the required distance, in the same way as a commercial vehicle would be expected to do. This has been a cause of concern to me over recent months. More importantly, the Garda is also extremely worried about this type of vehicle operating on our main roads. If there is a loophole in the law which prevents the Garda removing these vehicles as unsafe vehicles, I ask the Minister or the Department of the Environment and Local Government to examine this.

I welcome the Bill which I will be supporting on Committee and Remaining Stages.

Teastaíonn uaim an Bille a phlé i gcomhthéacs níos leithne ná mar a bhí luaith cheana féin. Dúirt an tAire nach féidir leis an mBille dul i ngleic le gach rud ata tábhachtach agus glacaim leis sin. Ach tá sé an-thábhachtach é a chur i gcomhthéacs chomh maith.

This is a very important Bill, particularly given the importance which transport has assumed, both in terms of its economic value and public concern about the spiralling growth in transport, particularly transport by road. Deputy Yates said that 70 per cent of goods now travel by road. We can expect that figure to grow, given the Government's policy which favours road construction above investment in public transport, particularly railways which have been an important part of freight transport for many years. It was also mentioned that 6,000 trucks go to Dublin Port everyday, which has knock-on effects. The Bill does not come to terms with the drastic action that would be needed to prevent that becoming a problem.

Over the past 30 years, in this and other countries, transport has taken over from industry as the largest user of energy in the economy. The fact that we are living in a free market economy that spans the world explains, to some extent, why that is a global trend. There is a claim that this is somehow inevitable due to economic growth. However, I would have to argue against that, based on the facts. For example, while GDP in the UK in the years 1974-90 rose by 38 per cent, energy growth rose by 5 per cent. Therefore, it is possible, with intelligence and a sense of what is sustainable, to ensure that traffic and energy growth are not necessarily linked to economic growth. The challenge facing this or any Government is to try to decouple economic growth from increasing consumption, particularly in the energy sector, of which transport is a large part. Growth in road transport is unsustainable given the way it is currently operating. We can continue to say the economy is doing well and that economic growth means there will be a continuing growth in transportation. However, if it is unsustainable then the economy is not doing well and is heading for a cataclysmic meltdown. That has to be faced. For this reason the Greens are extremely enthusiastic about building up local economies, not just for the sake of community development which is a human factor, but because of the need to ensure that energy usage is minimised and kept at sustainable levels. That is not happening at the moment.

Many things can be done that are not mentioned in the Bill. The freight and commercial vehicle sector needs to rationalise deliveries and that is something in which the State must play a part. We need to ensure that resources are maximised as a priority.

Targets need to be set because without them we are simply talking in empty terms about traffic reduction. Hong Kong has managed to establish a target of reducing traffic by 25 per cent. That is a set target which is politically decided and enforced through the legislature. It is something we have not faced up to. The Greens have published a Traffic Reduction Bill which was tabled in the House of Commons through an arrangement with the Green Party in the UK, even though it does not have representation at Westminster.

There is a need to enforce standards. Those that currently operate are not being enforced, in addition to which they are inadequate. That fact has come to my notice time and again through constituency work in Dublin North. People within the industry have complained to me about the lack of enforcement of standards. I will talk more about that later.

There is certainly a need to take a wider look at avoiding heavy traffic in our cities and towns. A number of bypasses have been constructed, including the Balbriggan bypass which has helped greatly to avoid road casualties. On Dublin City Council the Green Party proposed that a marshalling yard ought to be built on the western perimeter of Dublin and that freight should be brought in using the rail line to Dublin Port to minimise the current level of 6,000 trucks per day using the port. Unfortunately, that idea did not find favour with the city fathers and the Government, even though it was supported by private industry and business interests. We have now been left trying to grapple with huge problems such as financial commitments, community resistance and environmental problems as well as the lack of feasibility of the port tunnel and the spectre of the eastern bypass which has again been raised.

There has been a lack of vision in the transport area. It is time to address the matter before it is too late. Government policy has to be examined in terms of our links with the European Union and the Operational Programme for Transport, 1994-99, which indicates where the Government's priorities lie. As things stand in the programme, £1,655 million will be allocated to roads whereas rail will be allocated £275 million. That is a clear statement of priority by the Government as to where it wants to see development taking place. The effects of that have to be lived with.

With 63 per cent going to roads and 10.5 per cent going to rail, it is obvious that rail freight is not a priority for the Government, regardless of what might be said. Private companies and semi-State ones have seen the writing on the wall. An Post has stopped using rail in favour of road transport. If that company, with links to the State, is doing it, one can imagine that private industry will certainly not try to do the decent thing and uphold the common good by taking transport off the road, if it can avoid it, when it does not see support from the State for such a policy. The State has not shown leadership and our children will have to live with the consequences.

The Bill makes a number of provisions which are welcome in themselves, notwithstanding the Government's dismal record on sustainability in the transport sector. Extending the licence to five years and its renewal thereafter will I hope be strictly enforced. I also hope adequate standards will ensure that individual smaller freight companies will not be subject to the kind of competition we currently see on the roads. Those working in the sector talk about this freely.

As Deputy Stagg mentioned, there is huge pressure on drivers resulting in tiredness and, thus, danger to other road users. Delivery deadlines can pose a problem. Recently, a man came in to see me who had been sacked from his job as a truck driver. His dedication to basic standards had resulted in his refusing to travel at a certain speed. In addition, he would not drive a lorry that had not been properly maintained because he was not prepared to put himself and other road users in danger. However, his employers were put to the pin of their collar to meet deadlines. They felt that if he was not prepared to obey their orders he could go and they would hire somebody else. I was distressed to hear that he was given his marching orders.

This enormous pressure in the industry can only be dealt with by the proper enforcement of standards. We have gone too far in the area of competitiveness, through Maastricht and our operation in the Single Market, to say that there is any room for manoeuvre in the area of competition where the law of the jungle applies. However, standards have to be enforced if the habit of speeding and lack of adherence to other traffic regulations is to be broken. If one company gets away with it, another will be equally unscrupulous to stay in business. That view can only be changed through proper enforcement. Vehicles are being hacked by what employers see as a need to cut costs and, literally, cut corners.

There is a crackdown by the Government, as Deputy Yates mentioned, and I am keen to know what progress has been made. I suspect that people would not come to me complaining they had been fired for insisting on basic standards in vehicles if a proper crackdown was taking place.

The Minister of State mentioned a disc regime for passenger vehicles. The MOT test will now, belatedly, become practice in Ireland. The MOT certificate should be clearly displayed on vehicles, as well as insurance and tax discs. I am working on a report on behalf of the Committee on Education and Science on passenger transport, and school buses are considered substandard. Pupils, parents and schools feel they are getting the dregs of the bus fleet. It would reassure people if they could see where and when the last MOT test was carried out. If any questions arise, they could be directed at those who should be in a position to answer them. At present, only a verbal assurance is given by bus companies, including Bus Éireann, that an MOT test is in order. The proof is not visible and people cannot see the details unless they make a nuisance of themselves and seek copies.

The MOT test is inadequate. The test for passenger vehicles deals with the mechanical state of the vehicle, including checks on the brakes and other essential aspects. However, the MOT test does not cover issues such as proper seating, floors, leaking fumes, leaking windows or roofs in disrepair. It does not ensure these matters are rectified. The impression is given that substandard vehicles are used for passengers. This matter must be tightened up and I hope this aspect will be considered on Committee Stage.

I welcome the introduction by the Department of regulations to allow bus lanes to be used by private passenger transport operators. However, further consideration should be given to allowing emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, fire brigade appliances and others, to use the lanes. The Blue Cross cat protection society does not have many vehicles and is not responsible for congestion. It is a small player with a humanitarian cause. In terms of the proper consideration of traffic and road transport issues, it should be possible to extend the use of the lanes to such vehicles. I make this appeal on behalf of the cat protection society which has been directed from office to office in trying to find out who is responsible and who can make a decision.

The Minister mentioned the need for a parking scheme. In my constituency of Dublin North, many housing estates are plagued by the lack of parking schemes for commercial vehicles. This does not only relate to the dangers associated with large, articulated vehicles parking in housing estates, although the safety aspect is a huge consideration because children are fascinated by large vehicles. Drivers of other vehicles get no warning as children run under the wheels of articulated vehicles and out onto roads.

Refrigeration units running during the night are also an enormous problem. In some cases, they cause blockages to the emergency services and bin lorries trying to enter estates. The problem has been exacerbated by the lack of parking facilities for heavy goods vehicles. Some measures have been taken to alleviate the difficulties but given the huge growth in heavy traffic, the rules and regulations must keep pace. Finance or an incentive must be provided to ensure that secure parking facilities are available.

The extension of the five to 25 kilometre distance in which lorries may be directed to a weighbridge is critical. Although Deputy O'Flynn said the weight on Irish roads is less than in other countries, many of our roads cannot take it. Part of the reason is that many roads are poorly drained. The water lodges, the roads fall into disrepair and they are easily broken up by heavy vehicles. Another problem is the poor enforcement of speed limits. The Garda is doing all it can, but consideration must be given to this matter. Unfortunately, a few examples must be made before the culture of speeding changes.

The change which will allow the Garda to seize non-Irish vehicles is long overdue. I welcome it, but I ask the Minister to state when the regulations to make that provision operable will be introduced. Provisions in other legislation have been put on the long finger and promises were made but no regulations were introduced. Enforcement requires the introduction of regulations. I ask the Minister to give a timeframe, such as six months, so we know when regulations will be introduced and people in non-Irish vehicles can be held to account.

I welcome the legislation and the positive moves being made by the Minister in relation to the administration of the licensing system. The Minister said that a study is ongoing and that consultants were appointed in July 1998. Given all the matters raised in this debate, it should be crystal clear that there is a need for the final consultants' report to be brought forward at the earliest possible date.

This legislation and various Bills introduced previously have added to the problems experienced by road haulage operators. The other side of the equation has not been addressed. The overall development of the road haulage system, including containerised road haulage, general road haulage and the breaking of bulk haulage when it arrives in Ireland before it is distributed by hauliers, has been neglected. There is a need for a national policy. At present the direction of policy is driven by the market rather than the State.

The day of haulage being conducted through the rail network has gone. The demand in the market is for a haulage system that will deliver products and goods to the door just on time. This just in time concept includes couriers with small vans and has extended to the supply of goods to manufacturing units throughout the country. It has also placed demands on manufacturers who supply products internationally. They are supplying those markets on the basis of the just in time concept. This concept has placed phenomenal pressure on manufacturers and the road haulage system generally. In order to ensure goods are delivered to the market, undoubtedly in an emergency, manufacturers or suppliers will use an unlicensed cowboy operator just as quickly as a licensed courier or a road haulage operator. This concept must be addressed by the consultants engaged by the Department. I hope that in bringing forward plans for a road haulage system servicing the ports and the rest of the marketplace, all aspects of the market will be examined. I believe the Department will be amazed at the number of unlicensed operators. Those operators pressurise their staff to meet deadlines in order to retain a contract. That deadline may be met by breaking the tachograph, speed or weight regulations.

If we recognise the existence of unlicensed operators and if consultants are in place, it is time for the Department to adopt a more proactive role in conjunction with the Irish Road Haulage Association to ensure a code of practice is drawn up for hauliers, be they single operators or medium to large sized companies. We cannot wait for the publication of a consultants' report before we take action. Road haulage is operating in a pressurised environment and additional problems are caused by allowing cowboy couriers to operate within the system.

Perhaps the code of practice could also address the rates system. A person coming into the market who has perhaps been made redundant and purchases a truck ends up competing with a legitimate company on the rates issue. The market controls the rates, not the Irish Road Haulage Association. Hauliers are operating under pressure because of the rates issue, the looseness of the current legislation and the manner in which it is policed.

International haulage operations have also been affected. Recent incidents in France, the UK and Spain indicate that the stated concepts of the European Union are not being adhered to. We have seen how militant French operators can be and how they brought the entire industry to a halt. When French operators went on strike, the Irish freight industry came to a standstill. Drivers were parked on French roads and were unable to move. The cost of such action to Irish road hauliers was enormous. A package was put in place for hauliers to access some sort of compensation. However, the level of administration was unacceptable given that 75 per cent of operators run small enterprises in which the main person in the business often drives the truck. As an island on the periphery of Europe, we need a strong, well supported and efficient haulage system. That is imperative if we are to build a sound economy for the manufacturing and service industry.

I am pleased this issue is being addressed by consultants. Will the Minister inform us when their report will be available and when we will have an opportunity to debate its findings? I would be critical of the Irish Road Haulage Association input into this area. The association should be more proactive and put in place a sensible code of practice and rates structure.

The displacement of jobs in the haulage industry was referred to and is relevant to my constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny. During the recent beet campaign, farmers driving high powered tractors took on the haulage of beet to the factories to the point where hauliers were excluded or, at the very least, had their proportion of the business drastically reduced. The business of hauliers who had families to support was jeopardised in that instance. That was unacceptable and it clearly indicates that the rules laid down in legislation are not being policed.

Those who break the law are not being followed up but those who operate within the system can be followed up easily because they hold licences and conduct their business from particular locations. That is not possible with cowboy operators who enter and exit the trade willy-nilly, leaving a trail of destruction in the marketplace and a rates system which cannot guarantee the future viability of the industry.

I welcome the fact that haulage licences are to run for five years instead of three. The level of administration and time involved in the old system meant that the operator or some employee spent too much time dealing with administration rather than the running of the business or seeking new business. They were obliged to communicate with the Department, go to their local Garda stations, deal with the Revenue Commissioners and so on. The one-stop-shop approach is an excellent idea. I believe the Irish Road Haulage Association will favour this change.

The fact that illegal hauliers will now be certified and made accountable through this legislation is a welcome development. Prosecutions in this area would represent tangible evidence that the legislation will operate for the overall benefit of the haulage industry. For too long, businesses which employ unlicensed couriers or transport operators have dictated the speed and weight of trucks and the type of delivery. Licensed operators lost out if they were unable to match the terms offered. I hope this legislation, if it is properly policed, will ensure compliance by businesses which currently use unlicensed operators.

The condition of premises is another cost factor in the development of haulage businesses. I welcome the suggestion that the condition of premises would be policed, but it is important that those who do not observe requirements in this area should be heavily penalised. Departmental officials should be able to examine tachographs, haulage licences, the make of truck and the premises to ensure companies comply with the legislation.

Housing estates are pestered by vehicles of one kind or another which are leaking diesel and are a source of nuisance, annoyance and danger to people. The sooner they are taken out of housing estates the better. This regulation, if enforced, will ensure that operators, big or small, will have somewhere other than a housing estate to park a vehicle, tractor unit or trailer. It will ensure greater health and safety in the workplace and greater security for people who operate legitimate haulage companies. I therefore welcome that development.

Making prosecution of out of state hauliers easier is another aspect of this legislation which is to be welcomed. I have been a member of a local authority for many years, and in Kilkenny the main complaint, given the narrow medieval streets in that city, relates to out of state hauliers making deliveries in the high streets completely disregarding local authority parking attendants and the Garda Síochána. They park willy-nilly, deliver their goods and drive away. I hope this legislation will prevent that the future. It is down to policing the measure. We should allocate sufficient funding and an adequate number of people on the ground to ensure that this aspect of the legislation is enforced in inner cities and towns.

It is an excellent idea to encourage truck manufacturers to incorporate a mechanism to check the weights being carried. I do not believe it would add greatly to the cost of a truck which can be up to £100,000. Current technology should enable the monitoring of weights being carried by vehicles. That would assist operators and drivers because, regardless of legislation, there is always someone who wants to put an extra kilo or an extra tonne on a truck that is already overloaded. If there is shared responsibility and the driver can point to a piece of technological equipment in his cab to support his assertion that his truck is becoming overloaded, it would be well worth the investment.

The use of tachocharts would also be worth investing in. Even with the new green engines in larger vehicles there is still a need to develop the tachochart regulations and tachograph use. Currently the controlling feature in a cab that prevents a driver from driving over the speed limit can be bypassed. It is down to the manufacturers to do something about that. We should be proactive in this area through national Government or through the EU and insist on the incorporation of a weighing mechanism in trucks and the use of tachographs which might perhaps have a memory that would give a read-out of speeds being driven. In addition, it should not be possible for an irresponsible driver who simply wants to speed across our roads to tamper with the governor that governs the speed of the truck . Given that there is a problem nationally of excess weight being carried by trucks and that tachographs can be interfered with, it is no wonder accidents are caused by speed. It is beyond me how a truck carrying 30 tonnes or in excess of that can be stopped at 70 or 80 miles an hour without causing damage.

Given the weight of European legislation and now national legislation, there is a need for training in this industry of management, office staff, warehouse staff and drivers. Every member of staff in a haulage operation should be familiar with the day-to-day running of the company in the context of the legislation of the day. Even members of the Irish Road Hauliers Association are not aware of all the legislation. There is a need to bring everyone in the industry up to speed, and this should be paid for by the State or jointly by the State and the industry. There is a need for ongoing education so that people working in the haulage industry are aware of how, on a daily basis, they can be brought to the point of breaking the law and what to do about it.

We dealt with legislation on the transport of chemicals in this House recently, but how well is it being policed? What sort of take-up is there of relevant courses? There is a need for serious investment by the State in training in the haulage industry. Such training should not be confined to the transport of chemicals but should run right across the board of management and staff and deal with every aspect of the industry. If we embark on such a process we will be doing the road haulage industry, its future viability and future operators a great favour. I encourage the Minister to go down that road and commend him for bringing this legislation to the Dáil.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. Given the difficulties being experienced by the industry and hauliers in general because of increased competition from Europe, I was expecting a more detailed and comprehensive Bill. It is important to ensure a level playing pitch for all hauliers in the new liberalised haulage market that has been introduced on foot of EU directives. Notwithstanding the various reports – I refer particularly to the Forfás Transport and Logistics Group report published in 1996 – once again consultants have been drawn in. Given the shortage of finance for the elderly, education, housing and so on I am amazed that there always seems to be millions of pounds for consultants' reports. I sincerely hope this course of action is not being taken by the Minister or departmental officials as a delaying tactic prior to bringing in the legislation that is required.

The key provisions of the Bill relate to regulations governing the issuing of licences for road freight haulage and road passenger operations. Licences will be issued for a period of five years subject to requalification procedures and I welcome that. The existing licensing provisions under the various Road Transport Acts will be repealed and all operator licensing requirements will be set out in new regulations made in accordance with EU legislation.

I am also very pleased that the current cumbersome vehicle plating procedure will be replaced with a streamlined system of transport discs involving the Department, the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána.

An important provision in this Bill is that licensed operators will be obliged to have adequate parking spaces and operating premises for their vehicles. I hope this will bring an end to parking lorries and buses while not in use on the streets of towns and cities. The unacceptable practice of parking heavy lorries and buses on streets, in housing estates and in villages at night will also be eliminated.

The parking of heavy vehicles and buses in residential housing estates has become a major problem for thousands of householders. Housing estates are not suitable locations for parking such vehicles. It is a dangerous practice and many accidents have occurred when young children have run out or cycled a bicycle from behind a parked bus or truck into on-coming traffic. This has long-term effects on the children and their families. Although in most cases the drivers of the vehicles are not responsible this does not take away from their trauma and guilt in the aftermath of an accident.

It should also be noted and clearly stated that it is totally unacceptable that people who pay £130,000 or £140,000 for their dream home or first home should have to look out their front windows at these heavy vehicles across the street. I hope this Bill will help the situation.

The Minister for the Environment and Local Government made regulations under the Road Traffic Regulations 1997 which came into effect on 1 October 1997, dealing with parking vehicles in estates. There are a number of pilot schemes in operation in Fingal and from my experience there are many shortcomings with these regulations, the most significant being that the restric tion on heavy goods vehicles parking in one area transfers the problem to adjoining estates.

On the other hand people come to me saying they work 80 hours per week, drive to the Continent, that driving a heavy vehicle is their only job and asking what they can do when there is no area for parking. This might be a legitimate concern, but we must look at the overall picture. It must clearly be said that providing parking areas in residential estates is unacceptable.

Currently most county development plans are being concluded, and I hope they will incorporate the necessary land and zoning of areas to facilitate local small entrepreneurs who see a niche in the market for the provision of adequate secure parking areas. Alternatively it may be possible to have joint ventures between local authorities, individuals and small businesses in the provision of parking areas. Drivers living in residential areas cannot be asked to move six or seven miles away to an unsupervised parking area. There is a major role to be played by local authorities, the Department and relevant personnel in the industry and I hope these come together to see how this very important issue can be dealt with.

The Minister must ensure parallel legislation is introduced requiring local authorities to provide proper passenger pick up and set down places in towns and villages, including modern proper shelters and passenger information. The legislation could set out a procedure whereby this could be done in conjunction with bus operators who should pay for the service provided.

Earlier I spoke about the necessity of having a level playing pitch in the context of the industry and such legislation. In the past there may not have been a level playing pitch in the context of private versus public transport operators. In many cases it was said that parking was overlooked for private operators and that the standards of maintenance required for public transport vehicles was inferior to that required for private operators. In many ways this has changed. Irrespective of liberalisation, etc., we must ensure the public is provided with the best quality buses available, that the same standard is applied across the board and that people not adhering to it are penalised.

It is imperative that parking and traffic regulations are fully enforced to free up the movement of traffic through the streets of towns and villages. The current almost explosive increase in the number of vehicles on our roads has made this a priority issue. The Minister should also consider the introduction of reserve lanes in selected locations outside the greater Dublin area for buses, taxis and emergency services. These are becoming necessary to improve the poor performance of public transport on our increasingly congested roads. Outside bigger cities it may be possible to allow lorries to use these lanes also. The enforcement of parking and use restrictions in such areas would have to be a priority.

Section 18 provides for the retrospective reinstatement of orders made under the Trans port Act, 1950, which had become legally doubtful because of the subsequent 1986 legislation. This has been an ongoing issue, and I compliment the Minister on incorporating this matter into this section of the Bill. However, I will refer to another aspect, namely, the amalgamation of the various salary and superannuation schemes. Currently there are approximately 2,200 contributing members to the schemes – I think there are four schemes – and about 1,400 pensioners of the various CIE salary pension schemes.

As I understand it, for the past four to five years there have been ongoing negotiations between the unions and CIE with a view to amalgamating the schemes and funds. The staff have been waiting for five years for improved pension benefits arising from restructuring and amalgamation of their superannuation schemes which has been agreed with CIE. This proposal has been agreed with the Department of Public Enterprise, and the Department of Finance has also supported this agreement, but there are some difficulties with the Attorney General's office. This is not good enough and must be resolved.

I had hoped there would be provisions in the Bill for the amalgamation of the superannuation schemes, and the Minister may clarify the situation when he replies to Second Stage. Given that it is not provided for in the Bill as it stands, it is my intention and that of the Labour Party to table an amendment on Committee and Report Stages. Superannuation schemes, particularly the 1951 scheme, can operate successfully if the funds are there. There are plenty of funds in this case and the scheme would be beneficial to all. Having considered this matter, I hope the Minister will table the necessary amendment to tidy up the Bill and meet the requirements of the members of CIE and pensioners in line with the agreement entered into by the unions and the company.

The Bill brings about many improvements which I hope will enhance and improve the industry. As I said earlier, given the competition not only from within the country but from elsewhere, more legislation is required to which I look forward. I also look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say on an amendment to the superannuation scheme when we come to Committee Stage.

I share Deputy Ryan's concerns about the forthcoming consultants' report. I hope the report is not looked upon or sought as a cause or an excuse for further delay and a failure on the part of the Department or the Government to innovate and move ahead in a proactive manner in the area of road transport and bring forward vital legislation which is obviously required to tidy up the industry and make it better, not only in terms of the safe carriage of goods but also from the point of view of the more efficient operation of the economy.

This is a vital area and the House is very lucky, of which I am sure the Minister and Deputy Ryan are aware, that my colleague, Deputy McGuinness, has a vast amount of experience in this area. I was very struck by the picture he painted of the industry and, indeed, by the depth of knowledge he demonstrated in his speech. Deputy McGuinness and his family have run a very successful and reputable transport firm in Kilkenny for many years, so I very much defer to his sense of knowledge and understanding of what is required in an industry such as the transport industry.

I welcome the legislation the Minister has brought forward but do so with a sense of caution because I was very struck by what Deputy McGuinness said. He portrayed a very disturbing picture of an industry in which there are a huge number of cowboy operators and where manufacturers and suppliers resort to using these cowboys out of a sense of desperation. There does not seem to be proper sanctions to deal with them. This legislation is a welcome step towards the elimination of these cowboy operators in the transport business. They are a menace to the reputable operator, the roads and the smooth running and proper functioning of our economy. I am glad the Minister is dealing with this matter.

An aspect of Deputy McGuinness's speech which was very striking was the use of the term which has become very familiar in the area of management theory and management practice which have developed since the 1950s, that is the concept of just in time production and delivery perfected by the Japanese in their manufacturing processes. As we all know – the Minister is more acquainted with this than anyone else – in recent years the just in time concept has permeated every aspect of industry. It has combined with the introduction of information technology, computerisation and better communication generally. The effect has been to revolutionise the area of logistics. It is very noticeable throughout Europe and the global trading market that companies are more and more seeking higher profits by perfecting their logistical operations, how they deliver goods to the market, within what timeframe and at what speed. Central to that for many manufacturers and suppliers is the whole idea of having an efficient distribution and transport system which ensures that there is not a build-up of inventories or stock in warehouses.

Members of the committee on which I serve, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise and Employment, are witnessing a complete move to centralised distribution in the retail and supermarket sector. That has very important consequences for roads and transport. Given the small size of our country we must perfect our transport system so it dovetails with that of our neighbours in the UK as well as with continental systems.

There will be a shake out in this industry over the medium to longer-term. It is hoped that shake out will occur in an orderly manner which is well policed and regulated by the State and in a way which is to the advantage of the economy.

We must wait for the consultants' report and I hope it is produced quickly. I am sure the Minister will enlighten us on that point later, but it is important the report is produced speedily and that the Minister is proactive in this area, as he has been, in my experience, to date. It is important that he shows this proactive side to his nature again and, if necessary, moves ahead of the consultants' report if he sees he can be of influence in this area.

Deputy McGuinness mentioned the need for a code of practice for the industry, which would be welcome. The Minister can show some leadership in this regard by bringing the industry, including the Irish road hauliers, together to insist this code of practice is brought in so the industry gets rid of its poor image. I am worried by Deputy McGuinness's comments on the chemical industry. He seemed to express doubt, concern and worry, and justifiably so, about the carriage of chemical products. The Minister may wish to address, when summing up, the looseness in the current legislation and the fact we are adding to it bit by bit rather than producing consolidated legislation which assists this industry.

The Minister made a welcome contribution to the debate which shows he understands his brief and is on top of his job. I am sure he is only too willing to move ahead. The fact that 75 per cent of this sector comprises one to two man operators is an issue of huge concern. This is a small country and 60 or 70 per cent of Irish businesses are small, but it is disturbing that a vital national resource like the transport infrastructure is dominated by one or two person operations.

I would like to refer to parking in suburban estates. If the Minister could do something about that matter, it would be very helpful to me in my constituency.

Debate adjourned.