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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 Mar 1971

Vol. 69 No. 12

Road Transport Bill, 1970: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Bill proposes amendments of road transport legislation to free the carriage of cattle, sheep and pigs for reward from the merchandise licence requirement and to provide for a measure of relaxation of the restrictions on the road freight haulage industry to enable the industry to adapt itself more easily to present and future requirements.

The proposal to decontrol carriage of cattle, sheep and pigs arises out of my consideration of the findings of an interdepartmental study group which examined whether restrictions on the carriage of cattle, sheep and pigs should be removed or relaxed. The group found in effect that the licensed haulage industry including CIE had been unable to meet adequately and flexibly the special needs of the livestock trade and that haulage of cattle, sheep and pigs could operate more effectively if restrictions were removed. A group set up by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries a short time before that to inquire into the store cattle trade also commented adversely on livestock haulage facilities.

It is apparent indeed apart from these studies that illegal haulage by interests associated with the livestock trade has become firmly established on a widespread basis and that reversal of this situation is impracticable. I am satisfied that a licensing system adequate for the exceptional needs of the livestock trade would involve the issue of so many licences that the effect would be equivalent to decontrol and wasteful of the time of civil servants, the Garda and the courts. I consider therefore, that the sensible and efficient solution is to remove cattle, sheep and pigs entirely from the scope of the Road Transport Acts.

It is not proposed to exclude the carriage of horses from the scope of the Transport Acts because the special considerations that warrant this course in the case of other livestock do not apply in the case of horses. Moreover, it would not be feasible to liberalise haulage of horses without including bloodstock. CIE who are virtually the only professional bloodstock carriers in the country are fully geared to cater for the needs of that traffic. Bloodstock carriage calls for highly specialised equipment and handling, and CIE have invested in a fleet of modern sophisticated bloodstock vehicles. The board also have special arrangements for door-to-door transport of horses between Ireland, the UK and the Continent. I am convinced that liberalisation of carriage of bloodstock would merely facilitate the erosion of the valuable traffic built up by CIE and undermine the economics of the regular service and costly equipment which is necessary.

As a result of reports in recent years it is now possible to measure the overall composition of the road freight transport market and to make a quantitative assessment of the extent to which the rigid restrictions on road haulage for reward either assisted the maintenance of railway services or affected the cost or efficiency of road haulage in general. An analysis of road freight transport was carried out by the Central Statistics Office in 1964. This was published in 1967 as "Sample Survey of Road Freight Transport 1964" and was presented to the Oireachtas.

Subsequently, a paper based on the survey was delivered to the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society in 1967 by an officer of the Central Statistics Office in which the results were further analysed and relevant comparisons made with railway statistics and with the results of similar road transport surveys made in Britain. The survey was, of course, conducted on a sample basis and is subject, therefore, to sampling errors. The Central Statistics Office believe that the sampling errors for total road freight activity are only of the order of 2½ per cent but that sampling errors for detailed subdivisions may be significantly greater. Projections of these results and certain other figures used in these studies are also estimates and therefore subject to reservations. Nevertheless, this survey brought to light a great deal of new and valuable information of great relevance for national transport policy which has been of great assistance to me and my Department. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the work of the Central Statistics Office in this field and of the officers concerned. I have been anxious to have similar and improved surveys carried out at regular intervals but, because of staffing difficulties, the Central Statistics Office have not, so far, been able to conduct further surveys.

I cannot deal at great length with the results of these studies but should bring to the notice of Senators some of the more important and relevant. Total estimated ton mileage for road freight traffic in 1964 was 1,048 million ton miles. Of this total it was estimated that 83 per cent was accounted for by haulage on own account using a total fleet of 44,180 vehicles. CIE road transport with 860 vehicles accounted for 6 per cent of the total and licensed hauliers with 1,140 vehicles for 11 per cent. This total figure, of course, included local deliveries and similar kinds of transport for which CIE and the licensed hauliers do not cater, but this element could not be segregated with any accuracy. Nevertheless, it is significant that for hauls of over 100 miles 81.5 per cent of tonnage was carried on own account, 4.7 per cent by CIE and 13.8 per cent by licensed hauliers.

In the same year, ton mileage of railway freight amounted to 212 million ton miles of 17 per cent of total estimated freight ton mileage for 1964. The railway, however, accounted for 24.9 per cent of tonnage for haulage over 50 miles. Comparisons with rail are relevant, of course, only where rail services are available and it is estimated that in 1964 the railway carried 43 per cent of tonnage originating in Dublin and 38 per cent of tonnage consigned to Dublin. The overall picture of freight transport in 1964 is, of course, a static one and it is necessary also to consider trends. Detailed or strictly comparable estimates are not available to anything like the same extent for other years because the sample survey was confined to 1964 but there are figures or estimates available which do show the trend. Thus total estimated road freight tonnage increased from 38 million tons in 1960 to an estimated 64 million tons in 1968, an increase of 26 million tons. This latter figure is based on a projection of the 1964 sample survey results. CIE road freight tonnage increased from approximately 2.5 million tons by 1½ million tons to 4 million tons in 1969. Tonnage figures for licensed hauliers are not available except for 1964 when they amounted to 6.4 million tons but total mileage accounted for by licensed hauliers increased from 27 million miles in 1964 to 33 million miles in 1967, and it may be assumed that tonnage increased in at least a comparable ratio. Rail freight, which amounted to 2.69 million tons in 1960, fell to 2.46 million tons in 1964 and increased to 3 million tons approximately in 1969. The general picture which emerges is of a growing volume of freight of which the railway share is relatively static. A small part of the increase is accruing to CIE road freight and to the licensed hauliers but the bulk of the increase in volume is being carried on own account.

The increase in rail tonnage since 1960 is due mainly to increases in bulk long-haul traffic and this is reflected in the steadily increasing average length of haul from 82.2 miles in 1960 to 101.27 miles in 1969. While CIE has been able to maintain and even increase the absolute volume of rail freight this continues to be a diminishing portion of the growing total volume of freight. Moreover, maintenance of the volume of rail business has involved keeping down rail freights to highly competitive levels. Thus average rail receipts per ton mile which were 4.93 pence in 1959 amounted to only 4.37 pence in 1969 despite the heavy increases in costs in the interval. It is clear that the prospects of increasing rail freight depend very much on bulk and long-distance traffic carried at rates sufficient to deter large commercial and industrial interests from using or increasing their own fleets.

A striking feature of the figures I have quoted is the inordinate proportion of road freight carried on own account. In Ireland in 1964 81 per cent of total tonnage was carried on own account and 81 per cent of tonnage hauled over 100 miles was also on own account. By contrast, in Britain in 1962 only 51 per cent of total tonnage was carried on own account and only 32 per cent of tonnage on hauls over 100 miles was on own account. A further contrast is to be found in vehicle utilisation. In Ireland own account lorries over five tons performed on average 186,000 ton miles as compared with 132,000 in Britain showing greater utilisation of own account vehicles in Ireland. But in the case of haulage for reward annual average ton mileage for similar vehicles in Ireland was only 109,000 compared with 193,000, in Britain, indicating an inferior utilisation of Irish vehicles in this sector. Disparity in vehicle utilisation is also reflected in much higher empty mileage per vehicle in Ireland than in Britain. A further contrast with Britain lies in the composition of the whole road haulage fleet. In Ireland the professional road haulage industry consists of CIE with some 860 vehicles, unrestricted as to size or area, together with some 840 professional hauliers of whom 700 are restricted to only one vehicle and not more than 20 can operate three vehicles or more. Only 100 hauliers in Ireland are licensed to carry throughout the State.

In Britain there is a large number of substantial firms engaged in the industry who suffer no restrictions as to size or area such as apply in Ireland. These comparisons, despite the differences in conditions in the two countries, do suggest a significantly lower level of efficiency in the road freight industry in Ireland with consequent higher costs and poorer quality of service for industry and trade. Indeed, it is clear that individual firms limited to one or a few vehicles and in most cases restricted as to area cannot offer comprehensive or efficient services, avail themselves of modern management techniques, or employ highly qualified personnel. Neither can they benefit from economies of scale or organised back-haulage so as to enable them to offer rates more competitive with its own account operation.

The CIE road freight fleet is, of course, subject to no similar restrictions but its management must take account of the interests of the railway, provide railhead deliveries and collections and operate regular services, not always economic, to meet public need and replace withdrawn railway services. Against this background, therefore, it is not surprising that over the years there should have been a very marked trend to own account haulage by larger industries and traders accompanied by complaints of high transport rates and inadequacy and inflexibility of transport facilities. The existence of inadequacy of facilities is well borne out by the fact that the price payable on transfer of a single-vehicle licensed business exclusive of goodwill and the cost of equipment, has, I am informed, exceeded £7,000. This figure merely represents the scarcity value of the licence and is by itself a very strong indication of the inadequacy of the private sector of the licensed haulage industry.

The considerations I have outlined suggest that not only have the rigid restrictions of the Road Transport Acts led to reduced efficiency and to a consequent inordinate growth of carriage on own account, but have not served to protect the railway to any significant extent. As I have indicated, rail freight has remained relatively static in our rapidly expanding economy, consisting more and more of the long-haul bulk traffics for which it is specially suited and the maintenance of this position has required holding down rates to a level competitive with large scale own account road transport.

Road transport licensing, which was always very much less restrictive in Britain, was the subject of a public Committee of Inquiry there in 1965. The report of this committee found, Inter alia, that the restriction of road transport by licensing reduces efficiency with no off-setting advantages, had not helped the railways and could not do so without a very large and complex administrative machine and without placing a heavy burden on industry and trade. Restrictions on road freight transport in Britain have now been abandoned.

In other countries, also, quantitative restrictions on road transport haulage have been largely abandoned. Transport policy in Common Market countries aims at the most economic and efficient use of road transport under harmonised conditions of competition. Own account haulage in these countries is unrestricted and there is free access to the professional haulage industry, subject only to qualitative conditions related to professional competency, technical and safety considerations and financial integrity. We must accept that in the Common Market we would have to move towards a completely liberalised position for road transport. Indeed, the conclusions I have earlier drawn would, in any case, indicate that in our own interests we should move in this direction.

In our expanding economy with its growing element of foreign trade and dependence on exports the overall efficiency and cost of transport must be the main aim of transport policy; the possible effects on CIE's finances must be a secondary consideration. In any case, I do not believe that the adverse effects on CIE, even of complete liberalisation, would be unduly serious. The railway is maintaining its role in the bulk and long-distance carriage for which it is best suited but is doing so only by keeping rates down to a competitive level. CIE road freight services operate profitably. Insofar as any particular measure of liberalisation led to an overall increase in efficiency with lower transport rates by licensed hauliers, CIE might well have to adjust their rates to remain competitive. The main competition to the railway, however, will inevitably continue to come from own account transport. It is in any case indisputable that the cost of any reduction in CIE freight rates, in itself a very desirable measure in the interests of the economy and the export trade, would be very much less than the total reduction in cost over the entire transport sector and the consequent benefit to the whole economy, brought about by any general reduction in road freight rates. Even if this involved some marginal increase in subsidy to maintain the railways we would have to face up to it. Moreover, an increase in efficiency and reduced rates in the professional haulage sector should help to direct traffic from the own account sector with benefit to both the licensed hauliers and CIE.

In the light of what I have said it might well be argued that we should move rapidly, if not immediately, towards complete removal of quantitative restriction on road freight transport for reward subject only to qualitative conditions directed towards technical and professional competency, financial integrity and general social and economic interests. But there are other important considerations to be taken into account. The existing licensed hauliers whose opportunity to expand and improve their businesses has been impeded by the restrictions under which they work must be given an opportunity to put their house in order. Likewise, we must bear in mind the need to protect their substantial investment in vehicles and equipment and to avoid heavy over-investment in equipment which might be encouraged by too rapid measures of liberalisation. We must also bear in mind the uncovenanted but real scarcity value of their licences for which many new entrants to the trade have in recent years paid in cash when acquiring existing licensed businesses. Already relaxation of administrative restrictions on the transfer and acquisition of businesses and on lorry weight have permitted some expansion of activity and should permit the emergence of larger and more efficient units with consequent reduction in real transport costs. My aim is to proceed by stages so as to permit the existing haulage industry to expand and improve in efficiency in our growing economy to the point where we can consider the complete removal of quantitative restrictions and the admission of new entrants to the haulage business without prejudice to the equitable rights of existing efficient operators.

For this reason I am, at this stage, proposing only a modest measure of liberalisation which should facilitate some expansion and improvement in the efficiency of the private sector of the industry and which should have no significant adverse effects on the railway or CIE, but it is abundantly clear that in the context of our probable entry into the Common Market and the overriding need to improve efficiency and reduce transport costs in the interests of the export trade and of industry generally, we shall have to move further in due course in the direction of abolishing all quantitative restrictions on haulage for reward. In the meantime, the market is growing rapidly and there is ample opportunity for all efficient operators, including CIE, to expand and improve their businesses.

The present Bill provides, firstly, for the removal of weight limitations on licensed vehicles. In earlier years the standard lorry weight provided for in hauliers' licences corresponded precisely with the weight of the vehicles as weighed for tax purposes and enforcement of the weight restrictions was simple and uniform. Changes in the law relating to vehicle taxation and the special weight concessions granted administratively to permit the use of diesel engines, creels, et cetera in the interests of more efficient opertion have, in large measure, made it impossible to enforce weight restrictions satisfactorily. Most licensed hauliers are now operating the size of lorry which suits them best and the relaxation provided for in this Bill goes little beyond recognising the existing position. Instead, therefore, of being confined to the standard lorry weight prescribed by their licences as modified by existing concessions, hauliers will be free under the Bill to use the size of lorry best suited to their business but they will be limited to the number of lorries which they had in operation or were entitled to have in operation on the 1st January, 1969.

This date has been chosen to ensure that hauliers who, in anticipation of this legislation, might have expanded the numbers of their fleets by acquiring lighter vehicles will not enjoy any unfair advantage. In just over 100 cases the licensees will be authorised by an amendment which I introduced in the Dáil to operate one extra vehicle over the number operated on the prescribed date. I shall refer to this later. There is provision at section 4 of the Bill to enable me to make fair and equitable adjustments in the case of hauliers who at the prescribed date were not operating their normal complement of vehicles.

I know that Senators will be concerned lest a substantial increase in the numbers of heavy lorries should have deleterious effects on our roads. I do not anticipate that this measure will lead to any rush by hauliers to plate larger vehicles. As I have already indicated, they are at present generally in a position to use the type of vehicle that suits them best. There is no limitation on the size of vehicles used by CIE yet only half of the CIE fleet consists of lorries in excess of five tons unladen weight. Similarly, only a small percentage of the private account fleets consists of very large lorries. Licensed hauliers would have no greater incentive than CIE to use heavier vehicles. The dimensions and carrying capacity of vehicles are, of course, the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Local Government from the safety and traffic point of view and nothing in this Bill affects any regulations or prejudices any steps which he may feel it necessary to take. I am satisfied, however, that any restrictions on the size or type of lorry which may be justified by safety considerations or in relation to wear and tear on the road systems should apply all round and should not be confined to licensed hauliers who have less than 5 per cent of the total road haulage fleet. Of all lorries over five tons weight CIE, licensed hauliers and unlicensed hauliers, that is to say, for turf and in city areas operated 1,042 in August, 1969, as compared with 2,041 such vehicles on own account.

This Bill also provides for the abolition of existing restrictions on area of operation. Of the 840 licensed hauliers concerned only 100 are at present entitled to carry throughout the State. The balance are entitled to operate in areas ranging from a radius of 10 to 15 miles or a single county up to substantial areas comprising the greater part of the State. These restrictions have been a major factor in preventing improvements of efficiency in the industry. They have militated against the provision of comprehensive and efficient services to industry and the export trade and against the organisation of back-haulage and consequent reactions on costs. They have also discouraged the amalgamation of businesses into larger and more efficient units and have excluded a large number of hauliers from participation in the cross-border trade which was liberalised some years ago with the result that an unduly large proportion of this trade has now been taken over by Northern Ireland hauliers who are not subject to any restrictions of this kind. A final consideration is that liberalisation of cattle transport will bear heavily on those licensed hauliers who were legitimately engaged in it and it is both equitable and in the public interest to provide them with alternative opportunities to maintain and develop their businesses. The removal of area restrictions represents a concession to the many hauliers with very small areas but none at all to those 100 or so who, up to now, have had no area restriction. As a "levelling up" gesture, and I referred to this earlier on, each one of these 100 hauliers will, as I have previously mentioned, be allowed to operate one extra vehicle. The relevant provision is in section 3 (1) (d) of the Bill.

I should explain that the concessions provided for in respect of commodity and area apply only to existing carriers, that is those professional hauliers who were licensed under the 1933 Act or the 1944 Act which brought certain previously exempted areas within the ambit of the legislation. They do not apply to special licences granted since then to meet local needs or special circumstances such as licences to permit the use of small vehicles for local distribution of Sunday newspapers, for instance, or for the operation of local services in Valentia and Achill islands for which no licensed transport was available.

Section 8 of the Bill will enable me to authorise road transport for reward by hauliers coming from abroad. The Government in 1966 authorised the complete liberalisation of cross-Border haulage for reward subject to the exclusion of haulage from point to point within the State. This decision was taken because of the over-riding importance of our export trade and the development of trade with Northern Ireland generally. With the development of car ferries between this country and Britain and the Continent there has emerged a rapidly growing roll-on/ roll-off traffic, particularly in perishable commodities, including fruit and other imports from abroad and exports of meat and other produce from this country. This traffic has been facilitated as far as possible by administrative measures which somewhat strain the statutory provisions of the Road Transport Acts. It is desirable and necessary to make appropriate provision to deal with these developments on a comprehensive basis.

I should point out that it is the long-term policy of the Common Market and among the member countries of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, of whom we are one, to achieve complete liberalisation of international road haulage subject to harmonisation of fiscal, technical and social conditions of competition. The Common Market countries and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport have already agreed on the establishment of experimental multilateral quota schemes which will enable holders of multilateral licences to operate freely throughout the territories of member countries. Presently, such international traffic in Europe is facilitated under bilateral agreements concluded on a reciprocal basis. To permit us to become parties to such multilateral or bilateral agreements and so enable CIE and our licensed hauliers to engage in this potential traffic and to regularise entry of foreign hauliers under formal agreements or otherwise the powers provided for under section 8 of this Bill are essential.

Section 7 of the Bill provides for the regularisation of the licence held by a particular firm. It was found in the course of preparatory work for this Bill that this particular firm's licence, which had been issued under an incorrect category in 1937, was now on a strict interpretation of the law no longer valid. The Bill aims to remedy this position on a reasonable and equitable basis. I will deal with this point in detail at the Committee Stage.

I have spoken at some considerable length on what is after all a relatively short Bill which will not make any immediate substantial change in the law or practice governing road transport for reward. I have done so mainly because the Bill marks a departure from previous thinking and policy in this field and must be regarded as a first important step towards a completely new regime more in keeping with the growth and orientation of our economy and foreign trade and the practice in other countries, with whom we are likely to become much more closely associated, even if we were not to become members of the Common Market. Our present legislation is very much a relic of the very different conditions which prevailed from 30 to 40 years ago. It is now inadequate and inappropriate and the Bill represents the first of a series of measures which we shall have to take, on a phased basis, over a number of years.

Before closing, I should reiterate that nothing in the present Bill should militate against existing legitimate interests. The aim is to secure greater efficiency and reduce transport costs, and to reverse the present trend of the industry to haulage on own account to the advantage of the professional haulage industry of which CIE road freight is the largest component. It is up to the haulage industry to ensure that these objectives are achieved by offering to all users of road transport the improvements in quality and efficiency of service which these relaxations are intended to provide. I recommend the Bill to the House.

As the Minister said in his very comprehensive statement, this is a relatively short Bill and also it is a Bill in which the changes he proposes are reasonably modest ones. However, as the Minister emphasised, the Bill does propose fundamental changes in our whole concept of road transport and for this reason will be generally welcomed by the Members of the Seanad. The Minister's statistics which he gave during the course of his remarks are certainly very revealing and indicate that he is rather belatedly introducing measures which at least some of his predecessors should have introduced several years ago.

The Minister quite wisely and realistically has accepted the policy to hasten slowly having regard to the special circumstances of CIE. We would all agree that any sudden or rushed measure that would endanger the livelihood of a transport concern employing some 20,000 workers would be strongly resisted by every public representative in this House and in the other House and throughout the country. The measures which the Minister has outlined are without exception acceptable. He has quite rightly pointed out that, whether we like it or not, within a very few years we will be competing with carriers from countries inside the Common Market. Unless we can put our own house in order quickly we are going to be at a very serious disadvantage, not only in handling the products of our factories but also in dealing with imports from competing member countries.

This Bill recognises that the time has come to appraise the limitations of the 1933 and 1934 Road Transport Acts and to release the transport industry, in general, from the straitjacket of those Acts. The reasons which may have induced the then Minister for Industry and Commerce to bring the 1933 and 1934 Acts into being have long since passed. The time has now come for fresh thinking on the needs of the Irish road transport industry in the 1970s. The Bill recognises that the restrictions imposed, for possibly very good reasons, 40 years ago are now inhibiting the efficient development of transport without any compensating advantages in the way of increased employment.

The Minister has demonstrated very forcibly in his statement that, far from assisting the development of CIE, the restrictions of the 1933 and 1934 Acts have had, if anything, the opposite effect. The current situation in this country, as statistics have demonstrated, are in many ways making the worst use of available road transport, resulting in excessive costs.

The decision to decontrol the carriage of cattle, sheep and pigs is a welcome step and gives greater flexibility to the special needs of the livestock trade. The Minister has mentioned the exclusion of the carriage of horses. I am sure the Seanad will agree that, on balance, this is a right decision although some case might be made for the carriage of horses for slaughter. This is a specialised business in which CIE have made considerable investment in specialised equipment and have gained considerable experience in the handling of these valuable animals.

Some comment was made in the other House on the preponderance of the road traffic handled by merchants on their own account: in other words, the carriage of own goods. It is a revealing statistic that more than 80 per cent of the goods transported by road are carried by merchants or traders on their own account. This development would not have increased over the years were it not for the fact that merchants, traders and manufacturers believed that the most efficient way of carrying their goods, or products of their factories was by their own transport. I am quite satisfied that many of those merchants and manufacturers would far prefer that the transport of their goods, which is a highly professional business, would be carried out by CIE or licensed operators, provided one or other of them could offer an equal, or more competitive, system. I am sure that I am quite right in saying that no manufacturer would, by choice, engage in the road transport business if he were satisfied that he would get at least as good, or perhaps a better, service through CIE or through some other licensed carriers.

It is only appropriate, in discussing the road transportation of goods, that we should pay a tribute to the wonderful service given by these licensed hauliers. Most of these hauliers are one-man concerns who work long hours and give a highly efficient and competitive service to the firms and factories they serve.

I agree with the Minister that the transport of goods is a professional job and anything that will encourage the creation of larger units in the road transport business should be encouraged by every possible means. Road transport firms in England and on the Continent give a highly efficient service at a reasonable cost. They provide good conditions for their staffs and, due to their size, they are in a position to guarantee satisfactory and stable employment to them.

The part CIE play in the general transport business, as the Minister has stated, is essentially that of a carrier of bulk transport over long distances. There is no danger of competition from the licensed haulier or the private trader in this field. It is interesting to note in the Minister's figures that, although the total volume of goods carried by CIE has increased substantially in recent years, the cost per ton mile has gone down. This is due largely to developments in the carrying of bulk transport and in particular the development of the mining industry and the carrying of metal ores from Silvermines and other areas to the nearest ports. This is also due to the development in the cement trade whereby cement is transported over long distances.

Comparable organisations, large units, are required for transport to operate in Common Market conditions by carrying the products of our factories across Europe. It is interesting to note that this type of inter-country transport has become almost the complete monopoly of the continental, North of Ireland and UK carriers. It is quite obvious that if we do not move with the times and take the necessary measures to ensure that Irish carriers can compete with their continental and UK rivals this business will become an even greater monopoly of outside interests in the years to come. For this reason we must welcome the measure the Minister is now introducing.

The development of the ferry service between this country and Great Britain, and Great Britain and the Continent, is one that must be integrated with the road transport service. The Minister referred in his speech to the fact that the Bill contains reference to internal transport only in this country. The Minister is remiss in that in bringing this Bill before the Seanad he did not give some indication of his thinking on an integrated road transport, ferry transport and sea transport service between this country and the Continent. I hope, when he is replying to the various points raised by Senators here, he will give us some idea of his thinking on this development. Our position, on the fringe of Europe, will call for the adoption of the most modern and sophisticated methods of transport. The provisions in this Bill are to be welcomed in that they do give the haulage industry an opportunity of developing and preparing for the general liberalisation of transport under EEC conditions.

The Minister's statistics relate to 1964 when a survey of the road transport industry was carried out. I would suggest to the Minister that the time is long overdue for an expert investigation into the road transport industry so that the Minister would be in a position to know what changes and developments are necessary to equip the transport industry to meet conditions in the years ahead.

Any re-equipment or radical changes in the present structure of the road transport industry will be very costly and for this reason the Minister should give some indication that the State is prepared to assist the rationalisation of the industry. It is not possible, in present circumstances, for the hundreds of small individual road carriers to compete against the giant carrying corporations of foreign countries. Measures should be introduced to assist the licensed hauliers to group themselves into larger units to enable them to withstand competition from UK and continental carriers. Otherwise we will have the position in a few years time where this section of the industry will become a virtual monopoly of outside interests. I hope the Minister, in his reply, will give some hope to the licensed hauliers that State assistance will be forthcoming to enable them to compete with the well-organised road transport industries in Britain and on the Continent.

I do not think the Minister touched on the effects on our roads of large trucks. I am aware, as we all are, that 20- and 30- ton trailers and trucks have a very bad effect on our roads. They slow down traffic. I appreciate that they pay very substantial road taxes. However, the time is now opportune to have a look at the structure of road taxes. If we are to provide a highly efficient road transport system, either through the aegis of CIE or larger road transport firms or through individual licensed carriers, the whole question of the road network will have to be considered. That will involve the expenditure of many millions of pounds. Anyone who has seen the throughways or freeways on the Continent or in the US will understand the reasons why road transport is so successful at low cost in those countries. Compare this with the conditions here, where on a main road, between Dublin and Cork, for instance, enormous vehicles hold up a succession of vehicles for many miles. There is a tremendous job of road reconstruction to be done and unless the cost is to fall directly on the taxpayers and the ratepayers in individual counties, the tax structure in regard to these larger vehicles will have to be considered.

The Minister has not mentioned this in his speech but I hope the roadways question is being examined and that some form of national transport body, some central body who would take into consideration the road network concurrently with the question of road transport generally, is being contemplated by the Minister or one of the other Departments, possibly Local Government. Development on the realistic lines the Minister desires could be completely inhibited, unless there is a suitable road network system to cater for developments in vehicular traffic.

There are some other points in the Minister's speech which are worthy of comment. He mentioned the liberalisation of conditions in regard to outside carriers coming into this country. This necessitates the expediting of the developments outlined in the Bill and for this reason I should like to reiterate my view, a view expressed in the Dáil during the course of the debate, that the Minister will have to face up to the necessity for financial assistance to enable those engaged in the road transport industry to group themselves so as to be able to compete with outside firms. I am repeating myself on this point. The good intentions of the Minister should not be blunted by ignoring the capital cost implications of the Bill.

I should like to welcome in general the provisions of the Bill. The Minister realises that the present static condition of the road transport industry cannot be allowed to continue. He is to be congratulated on facing up to this situation. The measures he is now introducing are, as he said himself, tentative measures towards a greater liberalisation policy. Whether we like it or not, we will have, within the next few years, a situation in which we will have to face up to a complete liberalisation of road transport. It is better to face up to that situation now and to take the necessary steps towards this.

The safeguarding of employment for 20,000 people in the national transport company, CIE, will not be helped by closing our eyes to the economic facts of life. I would much prefer the Minister's approach in doing all we can to help CIE to do a good job and, if necessary, increasing the subsidy to enable them to exist primarily on the carriage of bulk cargoes over long distances. Private enterprises should be allowed to compete fairly for road transport so that internally and externally we will be able to offer our manufacturers, traders and farmers the best and most efficient transport system possible, comparable with systems in the countries that will be their competitors in the years ahead.

I should like to welcome this Bill particularly from the point of view of liberalisation of the transport of livestock. CIE were priced out of this trade and a much better service was given by the private hauliers. The private hauliers can provide a tremendous service and they were very agreeable. One did not get the same service from CIE. In addition, their costs were much more realistic than those of CIE. From my own experience in the livestock business, CIE costs were roughly 50 per cent more than the private hauliers'. I shall give one example. A friend and I were at the sales in Ballymahon and CIE asked if they could carry our cattle home, and quoted a price. We had not made any arrangements for carrying home the cattle but could not accept the offer of CIE because of the high price quoted. We then engagd two private hauliers at two-thirds the price quoted by CIE.

CIE could never realise the economics of the business and were never really able to enter into the competitive cattle transport business. They were never able to give a comparable service, particularly as regards time. That was where the private haulier really beat CIE—not alone in price but in time. In 99 per cent of cases you could set your watch by the time a private haulier would arrive and you were always sure that your cattle would arrive on time.

I had one awful experience with CIE. They were to bring my cattle to the sales in Dublin. They arrived reasonably well on time, loaded the cattle, and I waited the usual three-quarters of an hour, or one or two hours, before I left in my own car to come to Dublin. At Kinnegad I caught up on the lorry which had been loaded an hour earlier. It had got a puncture and they were waiting until somebody arrived with another wheel which had to come from Longford. Naturally, my cattle were late for the sales, so the next time I had business I engaged private hauliers and have had the utmost satisfaction with them.

Private hauliers have been able to keep down the price per head, even compared with what was being paid 30 years ago. The price of the journey to Dublin has increased considerably but the number of lorries has increased immensely. I remember paying 30s a head to bring cattle to Dublin 30 years ago. I am paying exactly the same price today. At that time there would be only about six or eight cattle to a lorry: today there are 18 to 20 cattle. With the larger lorries, they have been able to keep the price down in a reasonably competitive way. The non-liberalisation of transport forced many farmers to become law-breakers. Normally it is not a practical proposition for a farmer to own a lorry unless he is dealing extensively in cattle. I know because I have had a couple of lorries in my time. Some farmers went backwards and forwards to sales but did not always fill their lorries, so they were asked to bring home a few cattle for other farmers. This practice made them law-breakers although they were obliging somebody, but in order to make the journey a more economic proposition these farmers were paid for the service. Therefore, it is good to see an end to such a practice. One was never safe with CIE because they were liable to inquire at any stage, even if the lorry were empty.

If transport is liberalised now, particularly in relation to the cattle business, anybody may operate, and I welcome it. There is much transport on short haulage backward and forward to sales. CIE had never been interested in this aspect of the haulage business and for the past year or so have given up the haulage of cattle. It is a welcome change, without the State having to pay compensation to the plate owners. There are hundreds with 32-county plates and this will allow them to have an extra lorry now. I must compliment the Minister on introducing this Bill. It means that people will be compensated with the Department having to part with money.

I was surprised that 80 per cent of transport is carried by firms using their own lorries. The reason for this high figure has been a breakdown with CIE. I know of some firms who would gladly give this business to private concerns or to CIE if they could get the same service. There are firms that actually bend the law by leasing lorries to employees, who are paid on a rate per service basis. This is the same as if a plated lorry or CIE were doing it. If CIE really gave a good service one would find that 80 per cent of private business would drop, because most firms would prefer to engage a haulier. It is difficult for a firm to supervise its employees all the time. The question of big overtime enters into it. If a firm could get their tonnage brought at a certain figure, or so much a run, it would be easier on both the manufacturer and the business firms. They would be able to work their costs much easier than having to provide their own transport.

By and large, I think most of them would say that providing their own transport is not economic but just that they have a more satisfactory service and more control of it. I feel that CIE should seriously consider going after a lot of this business and trying to give the service that is demanded by our industrialists and firms. They went after it a number of years ago but this bulk transport seemingly has fallen down. They should go after it again because there is in this a big volume of business which can be tapped. I know firms that are giving it out in another way and CIE would get it if they could give the service. It would be welcome from the exchequer point of view if they could enlarge their business because it would mean that they would be able to make it pay, or at least they would not be looking for this huge subsidy every year. The business is there. It is only a case of going after it and getting it.

Particularly in the meat trade, the big lorries from Europe seem to have completely dominated this end of the run with the ferry service. Any time I go to a meat factory leaving cattle, on the roads I see those huge frozen containers. They seem to be international: they come from Italy, France, Belgium, anywhere. For my part I like to see stuff being exported but I would prefer to see an Irish firm doing it. Here again some of our factories are big enough to have their own transport but they do not want the trouble of having to provide the capital required and the supervision, and they are prepared to go to international firms to provide it. As I have already said, it is easier to work your costs if that were done. That was a business that CIE seemingly did not even bother going after. It was there for them and they had the capital to go after it.

I see the Bill does not include the carriage of horses. I know that CIE have been doing this work but I have heard that often in the past trainers were dissatisfied because they could not use their own horseboxes, particularly in the case of a trainer who had only one or two horses going to a meeting. He could provide the service with his own transport and seemingly he is not allowed to do so now. That is just a criticism I have on it, but by and large they seem to be doing a fair service there. However, the Minister might consider the feasibility, where there would be only one or two horses, of permitting the person to provide the transport himself.

I fully agree with section 10. All the legislation that we have had of a restrictive nature has not protected CIE. Indeed it has been the reverse to the extent that the money they are looking for now is much more than what they needed 15 or 20 years ago, even taking the changing values of money in the time between. Restriction never leads to good business. I feel that maybe with this liberalisation CIE will try and pull up their socks and go after business.

I presume it is the railway that will do the bulk of the long distance haulage. Although they have nearly the monopoly of it, I would say that CIE would want to pull up their socks even in this regard, because looking at the length of the lorries you see when you are coming up behind them, overall length 41 feet, 50 feet, 54 feet, if the lorries are to get that big I would imagine that they will be able to compete favourably with if not excel CIE, and here again it is the service that they will want to look after if they are to keep it. Those private men with the big lorries will give a service and in most cases be able to give a better punctuality. I think timing is a very important factor in that you are sure of the lorry arriving at the appointed time. With labour so costly at the present time you need to organise your business and if you are to have a lorry there at 9 o'clock or 12 o'clock you organise for that schedule. If it does not arrive until 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock, it means that men are hanging around and it is costing the firm money in the process of having to wait. Usually I find that those private men are able to give the timing.

Regarding the heavy lorries, I should like to ask the Minister if he could take up the matter with his colleagues to provide that the heavy lorries would not hold up traffic. I have seen maybe two, three, four, five lorries on the roads. Two or three are the ones that really cause the trouble. When they get behind one another they literally hold up traffic for miles. This situation could be saved if a lorry driver, knowing he could not pass out the one in front of him, were obliged to leave a space for three or four cars between him and the next lorry so that the cars could pass him, get in and wait until a space would come again to get out. Otherwise, you want a very long straight for a car to pass out three or four lorries. It means you take a big gamble in trying to pass out three or four lorries all together. This is happening quite frequently on the roads. The only road exempt from this would be a dual-carriageway. On every other road out of Dublin or out of any town, you are held up when two, three or four lorries of any size get tight up against one another. If some regulation could be made that they must leave a certain space between one another so that cars can hop in and out, this could save a lot of accidents. People become frustrated if they have to travel for miles behind a big lorry or if they are caught in a big build-up of traffic. These people are inclined to take a chance and chances occasionally have bad results.

In general I am quite happy with this Bill. It will have a beneficial effect on transport in this country. Again, I should like to give a warning to CIE that they should pull up their socks and go after the private trade.

Like Senators Russell and Crinion, I, too, welcome this Bill. It is fair to say that it caused a certain amount of anxiety to the representatives of CIE employees and to the licensed hauliers when it was announced that the Minister was introducing this Bill. The Minister seems to have met the problems and the anxieties in a fair manner. I am very pleased that nearly 40 years after the passing of the 1933 Act we have a Minister who is prepared to amend and liberalise the transport of cattle, sheep and pigs, because I and many people felt that there were many anomalies in the 1933 Transport Act. Many people were very unfairly treated as a result of the 1933 Act when it came to the issuing of licences when the new licensed haulage operator came into operation. Many of us here know, although it is quite a long time ago, —perhaps if we were wise we would not be giving away our ages in this way as it is about 38 years ago— that those licences were being issued by the Department.

In many cases, the people who were the pioneers of road transport in the twenties and in the early thirties and who used the old Ford ton truck to carry sheep and pigs to the markets and fairs were overnight put out of business. I do not mention cattle because many of the trucks at that time were capable of carrying only calves. As transport improved trucks were capable of carrying cattle. Those people who were engaged in the transport of livestock and who did not get licences have been fighting a running battle with the law since because, to their credit, most of them stayed on. They have provided a great service to the farmers and livestock producers of this country.

For that reason I am glad that the Minister, even at this late stage, has introduced this legislation that will in some way compensate those people for the services they have provided in the transport of cattle, sheep and pigs. I believe the concessions in the Bill satisfy the people who were so adversely affected by the issuing of licences.

It is true to say that the licensed haulier may fear that the Bill will not help him because he was licensed to carry cattle. Many of them paid very high prices, not only for their trucks, but also for their licences. Now they find that they are in competition with people who have been handed a licence for nothing. The Minister has gone a long way and I am sure he has satisfied the licensed hauliers in as much as he has allowed them to increase the weight of their trucks. One hundred of them can get an extra truck and the rest of them, who were confined to limited areas—some of them with as few as three, four or six counties—can now operate throughout the country, if my interpretation of the Bill and the Minister's speech is correct. This is concession which I am sure will be welcomed by the licensed hauliers.

When this Bill was introduced there was anxiety this would have an effect on employment in CIE. I do not think it will. I can speak with a fair amount of authority on this. CIE have not been engaged to any great extent, in the transport of cattle. I agree with some of the things Senator Crinion said with regard to the reasons but I do not agree with others. It would be very difficult for CIE to provide the service they were expected to provide, even under the 1933 Transport Act, with regard to the haulage of cattle. It is all right for a big farmer like Senator Crinion, who would send about 20 fat cattle to the Dublin market, to ring up CIE and have a lorry on tap at the right time. Unfortunately, they cannot guarantee that they will not get a flat wheel and be late for the fair. By and large, the man with four or five cattle could not get the same service from CIE for economic reasons.

We can criticise CIE for many things and we can talk about the service that CIE can give, but we should be fair to them. There are many firms in this country who have their own transport. They haul what is economical for them to haul of their own goods and products. Such small items as the carton of cigarettes are handed over to CIE. Sometimes one wonders why these are not sent through the post. I hate to see a CIE truck going from shop to shop with small parcels. This is a service that CIE provide, even though it is most uneconomic for them. It is difficult for CIE to provide an economic service for everybody who requires them to do so.

The Minister referred to the effect heavy lorries will have on our roads. This is a big problem. I often wonder is it right that we have or should have those huge ten and 12 ton trucks with a trailer almost as big as the truck attached to it. While it is all right on our main roads, arterial roads, they are having a very serious effect on our county roads. I am not going to criticise the carriers operating those heavy lorries and trailers because they pay a hefty road tax. Road tax is intended for road maintenance. That is the aim of it, but unfortunately not all of it finds its way back to the maintenance of the roads. Since they pay a very heavy road tax I am sure that they are entitled to put the heaviest tonnage possible on their trucks. I feel we may have more and heavier transport, especially on our county roads. Indeed, I am sure the Minister, when he comes as far as Leixlip on the road from the west, finds these big containers coming down from the meat factory and turning to the right towards Dublin at the chapel.

What Senator Crinion has said in that respect is to a certain extent correct. It appears that eventually we will channel all our transport to roads, because the time has gone when the people of this country are going to go to railway stations or other railheads in order to collect their goods. They now want them driven on to the premises and, whether we like it or not, CIE or other firms are going to provide this service. To provide it in the most economic way it means that they must buy the trucks that will carry the maximum amount because the more tonnage they carry the cheaper they can carry it and the more economical it is for them.

While I am saying this, I know it is not in the Minister's power to do anything about it. However, it might be no harm if the Minister for Transport and Power had a word with the Minister for Local Government as to what will be required in view of the fact that so much of the freight of this country is going to be carried on our roads. We all realise that our roads are incapable of carrying what they will be intended to carry in the very near future.

It is all right to say that we will have to be competing with these huge trucks that will be coming in when we join the Common Market. If they have to come in here and compete with us there will be roads required even for our own transport. This is something that will have to be looked at. This Bill serves a worthwhile purpose and the Minister is to be complimented on introducing it, even at this late stage.

Briefly, I should like to join with those who welcome the Bill. I think it is a forward-looking step and the Minister is to be complimented on its introduction. I would just ask the Minister to consider seriously at this time, as he has indicated that he will have under review in the Bill the entire transport system of the country, the freeing of other products. In the interest of the farming community there could be a case made to free the transport of lime. We probably would have a reaction to some extent from the transport companies, from CIE and those that are presently engaged in the transport of lime. Nevertheless, time and time again the farmers complain that they are not getting the subsidies that are chalked up against them. This is one of the headings here under which a benefit could be passed on to the farmers who are paying transport costs on the lime. This subsidy was really going to the transport companies and in some cases going to the quarry owners who are transporting the lime themselves. The Minister should consider the freeing of lime. That would be welcomed by the farming community generally. I say this in the knowledge that farmers could easily operate on a community basis, in so far as they could draw the lime themselves. That would bring about a greater use of lime. They could help each other out with tractors, lorries or by whatever transport a farming community could arrange within its own local area.

A case could also be made for the freeing of agricultural produce such as potatoes. Perhaps this applies to my own part of the country more than any other. Nevertheless, a case could be made for it. A number of farmers now have to have their own transport of some kind, whether it be a tractor or an articulated vehicle, and this should be liberalised to the extent of allowing the farming community to work on a community basis. Consideration should also be given to the inclusion of fish on the grounds that it is specialised. While at the present time public transport is giving quite a good service, this could be improved on by allowing the free transport of fish. It is a specialised job. Those engaged in it would have to live very near the port to be on call round the clock. If this were included and freed it would give much more efficiency in the industry and would help the industry to the extent that people would specialise in it; we would get fresher fish and faster delivery and it would be generally welcomed in the industry.

My suggestions here are maybe too sweeping but I make them in view of the Minister's indication that this Bill be reviewed from time to time. I would also suggest that county councils throughout the country be free to hire transport on a competitive basis for the haulage of sand, gravel, stone, clay or other road-making material. At present we have situations where the public transport company has not always the lorries and the transport that the local authority demand. At times they engage private trucks to haul on a licence-charge basis for the local authority. This is a very indirect way of dealing with it. It is very inefficient. It gives a lot of trouble in so far as the payments are made to the public transport company that allows the licence to be passed on to the private carrier. It is very unsatisfactory to the private man who is hired through the public transport company and it is very unsatisfactory from the local authority point of view. I hope the Minister will give consideration to include those items.

In general, I think this Bill represents a very good step forward. The produce and lines that I have mentioned are of a non-goods nature and I do not think they will seriously affect CIE or the other transport companies that are involved. The introduction of the Bill will bring about a healthy air of competition which can only do good.

Debate adjourned.
Business suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.