I thank the Deputy. I am taking questions this morning for the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, who must attend Cabinet. As Members know, the climate action plan is being launched later today.
I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. Like many other sectors of the economy, road haulage is facing the dual challenges of rising costs and labour shortages. The global oil price has increased substantially in 2021. However, the Minister for Finance has retained the diesel rebate scheme for the present. The scheme, first introduced in 2013, allows haulage and bus operators licensed by the Department to apply to Revenue for a rebate on tax paid on diesel purchased in the State. The rebate rate is based on the average purchase price of diesel provided by the Central Statistics Office, CSO. The rebate amount is capped at 7.5 cent per litre. VAT-registered businesses are also eligible to claim a refund on the VAT paid for diesel used in the course of business activities.
In relation to the shortage of heavy goods vehicle, HGV, drivers, the national logistics and supply chain skills group, chaired by the Department, has been engaged on this issue since it was established in 2019. All relevant Departments and agencies, as well as the haulage and logistics sector, are represented on the group. I have asked the group to examine the HGV driver shortage issue and make recommendations. In the meantime, I have been working with colleagues across government to help address the current difficulties. Following engagement with the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy English, and discussions between the Department of Transport and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the quota for employment permits for HGV drivers from outside the EU is being removed. In tandem with this, the Road Safety Authority, RSA, is pursuing HGV driver licence exchange agreements with a number of non-EU countries to allow drivers from these countries to apply for Irish employment permits. I have had a range of meetings with the haulage and logistics sector to discuss the issue and get their perspective on the key actions that will help ease to the current shortage of drivers. I have also written to the education and training boards in relation to the matter.