I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. My response to Deputy O'Rourke's question earlier outlines the position in relation to the driver shortage and increasing fuel costs for the haulage sector. I will focus in this response on the overall position as regards the road haulage sector and supply chain issues.
The programme for Government includes a commitment to publish and implement a ten-year haulage strategy, the first of its kind in Ireland, which will be focused on improving efficiencies and standards, and helping the sector move to a low-carbon future. A public consultation was held earlier this year and the responses to that consultation are being examined. Other forthcoming Government policies and initiatives such as the climate action plan and the new road safety strategy will be relevant in the context of the development of this new road haulage strategy. The intention is to carry out a further consultation on the draft strategy when these initiatives have been published.
Like many other sectors, road haulage is facing the dual challenges of rising costs and labour shortages. The latest consumer price index release for September 2021 shows that prices, on average, were 3.7% higher in September 2021 year on year. The highest increases were in transport and fuel costs. In relation to the shortage of HGV drivers, the national logistics and supply chain skills group, chaired by my Department, has been taking action since it was established in 2019 on future skills needs across all areas of the supply chain. All relevant Departments and agencies, as well as the haulage and logistics sector, are represented on this 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. For example, I have engaged with the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy English. Following those discussions, the quota for employment permits for HGV drivers from outside the EU is being removed. The Road Safety Authority is also pursuing HGV driver licence exchange agreements with non-EU countries. I have held a range of meetings with the sector, as well as writing to Education and Training Boards Ireland to offer support for the many HGV driver courses offered by the ETBs right across the country.