Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 10 Mar 1971

Vol. 69 No. 13

Road Transport Bill, 1970: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

May I ask the Minister a question in regard to this section? I am not quite clear from reading the Minister's speeches in the Dáil as to the number of licences that will be in effect after this Bill becomes law. When the Minister spoke in the Dáil on this section he referred to 850 and 900 licences. During his introductory speech here in this House he mentioned 840 licences. I am just wondering which is the correct figure. Could the Minister indicate how many vehicles will be attached to each licence when this Bill is passed?

May I also ask the Minister if there is any limit to the size of vehicle which an operator may now employ? If he has a licence to use two trucks, can they be two 40 ton trucks or two trucks and trailers 50 feet in length? Can he go on, so long as the roads stand up to these gargantuan trucks, adding to the size, but not the number of his fleet? Could the Minister say in regard to the 100 Twenty-six County licences, which apparently have been in force since 1933, if they are still in force as the same licences, but with changed ownerships in a large number of cases?

Perhaps the Minister would elaborate on those points: (1) the number of licences; (2) how many vehicles will be attached to each licence; (3) is there no limitation in size? I speak of size having regard to the wear and tear on the roads. There seems to be no reference to roads anywhere in this Bill. It will cost the local authorities concerned quite a substantial amount of money to have 850 licences with no limit regarding the size of the vehicles which may be employed by the operators.

To be precise, the professional road haulage industry as it now stands consists of CIE with 860 vehicles unrestricted as to size or area. Then there are 840 professional hauliers with various restrictions as to area, ranging from a limited number of miles, from one county to 26 counties. We have 840 professional hauliers with varying types of licences, as to area, as to commodity and as to weight. Of that 840, 700 are restricted to only one vehicle and not more than 20 can operate three vehicles or more. Again, of that 840, only 100 are licensed to carry throughout the State. In regard to this 100 who are getting no advantage under the Bill but who have, in many cases, purchased a business and paid a price for the particular licence they have, I have decided, in equity, to bring in the amendment which I brought into the Dáil to give a concession to them of an extra vehicle in addition to the vehicles to which they were entitled on the 1st January, 1969. The situation which will exist after this Bill becomes law is that we will have 840 private enterprise hauliers who will have a right to carry throughout the Twenty-six Counties without any restriction as to area, commodity, or weight. They will all operate on a uniform licence. Of these 840, 100 will be entitled to an extra vehicle which will add another 100 vehicles to the total private enterprise fleet.

I agree with Senator Russell that this will undoubtedly mean more road transport activity in the private enterprise field. I hope that there will be no diminution, either, in road transport in the public enterprise field and that the combined effect of the increased competition within the private enterprise sector and between the private enterprise sector and the public enterprise sector will be to reduce the own account haulage figure of 81 per cent, which is the main purpose of this legislation—to rid ourselves of a situation where we have under-utilised vehicles operated by private enterprise, by business people, who have been forced into the situation of having to purchase their own trucks and vehicles, forced into that situation by reason of the restrictive nature of the service that has heretofore been offered. In Britain it is 30 per cent below that—it is in the region of 51 per cent; ours is in the region of 81 per cent own account haulage; on the Continent it is lower again than the British figure. In America it is far lower still.

In other words, we have here far too high a proportion of our trucking purchased by people in business who, in many cases, can ill afford the purchase and ill afford the capital commitment. There is, therefore, under-utilised vehicle plant. We should have more road transport hauliers in the private and public sectors competing against one another and providing a competitive and efficient service for business. Thereby business will tend more and more to hire the professional haulier and less and less to engage in wasteful capital expenditure on its own account.

In broad outline, that is the thinking behind the Bill which is very important long-term thinking. I regard that aspect as of more importance than the complete liberalisation that is involved in regard to cattle, sheep and pigs. It is more important to build up a professional haulage industry here. As it happens, the public sector and the private sector will be roughly of the same vehicular strength.

I should like to refer to another point raised by Senator Russell and that is the question of the weight restrictions. This is a matter for the Minister for Local Government. He has ample power already under the Road Traffic Acts, as distinct from the Road Transport Acts. The Road Transport Acts are my responsibility, the Road Traffic Acts —the safety of vehicles on the roads and road safety generally—are his responsibility. Under the road traffic code he has power already to restrict, curtail or contain in any way the size of vehicles or the safety operations involved in the driving or management of vehicles. That lies with him and he can, by order, do this in any way that he may wish from the point of view of benefit to the community. The Minister for Local Government also has responsibility, which will be required in view of this development, for improving the whole highway system. That is separate from what is involved here, although very closely related to it.

Section 2 deals with the amendment of section 9 of the Road Transport Act, 1933. The holders of merchandise licences under that Act were confined to certain counties. The Minister indicated to us that there were approximately 100 holders of merchandise licences who could operate throughout the State. More than 700 were limited to certain areas and, as I see it, this particular section is just dealing with areas and we shall be dealing with weights under sections 3 or 4.

That is correct.

Does that mean that the restricted area is gone altogether?

It is completely gone. There may be cases that arise in regard to specific provisions that were brought in under subsequent legislation for remote areas like Achill Island and Valentia Island. There were particular limited licences—not "existing carrier" licences under the 1933 Act—brought in to cover the case of these people. There were also licences brought in for the transportation of newspapers under legislation in 1944.

What is envisaged here is that all the carrier licences that were set up, and they were of an infinite variety within the overall total of 840, will now have all limitation removed in regard to miles, counties and areas. This will also apply to limitations in regard to commodities. Some licences at that time applied to certain commodities only. There were, therefore, variations ranging from ten miles to 150 miles, from one county to 26 counties, from limited commodities to other commodities, from four tons to six tons to eight tons. All these restrictions are gone and there will be 840 uniform licences of a common category. That is the proposal in the Bill. It is the nub of the Bill.

The only difficulty I find is that an increase of 100 more vehicles the Minister thinks will help to——

The only people who do not get any benefit are the existing Twenty-six County hauliers. All the other hauliers who have been limited over the years in regard to area, distance, commodity, weight, are now getting a bonus, as it were, under the Bill. It is not designed to benefit them: it is designed to benefit the public and to encourage competition, but they are all getting something that they had not got before. For instance, a haulier confined to County Leitrim who now gets a Twenty-six County licence is obviously benefiting under the Bill, and that, in turn, will benefit the whole community.

The only category in the private sector who did not benefit under the Bill were the present Twenty-six County people, of whom there are 100. They made representations to me through their associations. There were amendments put down in the Dáil by Deputies from all sides of the House and representations were made to me by Deputies and Senators from all sides of the House that it was inequitable that these people, who were the leading investment people in the industry, those who put most money into it and who are the most professional——

They were the wise guys in 1933.

Eighty per cent of the businesses changed hands since 1933. They did so at a very substantial cost. They are the most professional people in the industry and are the people—I checked this with the trade unions—who pay their staffs best and employ fully professional people. They are the only people who are not getting anything at all out of the Bill. Therefore, I decided as a concession to them, and in answer to the various representations made, that they should get an extra vehicle in addition to the number of vehicles they were entitled to have on their licence on 1st January, 1969.

It means that there will be just 100 more vehicles available than there were heretofore?

That is right.

And the Minister believes that will solve a lot of the problems of the ——

No. That is not so important as the other fact.

The anxiety all the time is that this thing should be opened.

I know Senator Reynolds' view is that I should go even further in liberalisation than I have gone. The important liberalisation is that there are 840 less 100, that is 740, carriers with various limitations on their licences. These particular licensees will now be able to haul throughout the whole country.

They were at this anyway.

Yes, on the cattle, sheep and pigs side but not so much on the general merchandise side. Well, to some extent, they were. We will have a situation now, if it is wide open over the whole country for 840 of them, that there will be amalgamations and mergers and get-togethers and more efficient firms operating with a number of vehicles at their disposal and available to business generally. I think it will lead to a competitive situation. It will lead to the growth of small and medium size firms engaged professionally in the haulage business. What will very likely take place here over the next few years is an amalgamation of a number of these licenses into a number of firms. You could have nine or ten licensees coming together now into one firm and that would be a professional, highly organised, efficient type of firm that would have nine or ten trucks and be able to give a very real service to a whole region.

That type of development I would see happening because there is going to be a far freer market now in these licences than there was heretofore. Heretofore one was confined to a particular centre and there were the various restrictions and limitations. I have mentioned. Now if it is on a State-wide basis there will be a far freer market in the sale and purchase of these licences and we will have people who really know their business going into the purchase of licences and building up an efficient fleet of an economic and viable size.

Can we continue the discussion on vehicles as such on section 2 because I should like to say some more on it but I was going to wait until section 3? Senator Fitzgerald very kindly pointed out that I was out of order on section 2 in discussing the number of vehicles.

Strictly speaking this only deals with cattle haulage.

Looking at the section from the agricultural point of view I quite appreciate the fact that in subsection (5) the Minister has taken restrictions off cattle, sheep and pigs —mainly I suppose because it would be difficult to control them. Since the Minister has allowed the free haulage of cattle, sheep and pigs a greater case can be made for seasonal agricultural produce. I am thinking of cereals and beet. For instance, under this section two brothers who might perhaps buy either a lorry or a tractor between them would not be able to transport their own beet crop to the factory. This is a pity. We talk about becoming more competitive and becoming more efficient and we pay a great amount of lip service to co-operation and expanding the co-operative system; yet it is not possible for two brothers to buy a lorry between them and each of them transport his own beet under two separate contracts to the sugar factory.

This is surely something that should be rectified. I would like to see the Minister including in subsection (5) agricultural produce, especially the produce that is seasonal. The beet season lasts about four or five weeks. I would like to make a case for the people who are providing their own lorries. The same applies to cereals. This is not the type of haulage that contractors want because there is a lot of heavy work attached to it. Again, the season lasts only a month or a little more in the spring. The harvest, with so many combines and machinery now in existence, was completed, I think, last year in four or five weeks. It is not really an economic proposition for people in the haulage trade to specially equip themselves for this type of work. Therefore, what we in the agricultural industry would like to see is farmers co-operating with each other and providing themselves with a truck or a trailer for this purpose. Under the Bill, a farmer can only take in his own produce: he cannot take in his neighbour's or his brother's.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have in the past promoted co-operation. I should like to quote the example of the scheme for the combined purchasing of forage harvesters. This is a piece of machinery that is used for only a few weeks in the summer. It is quite expensive and the Department introduced a scheme some two or three years ago whereby a grant would be available towards the purchase of this machine provided three or four farmers co-operated in buying it, so that greater use would be made of it. The same should apply here for bulk grain haulage. A special body on a trailer is required. We have not sufficient farmers in the country who can afford or should be asked to equip themselves with this bulk grain haulage trailer. Therefore if two or more farmers should pool their resources and purchase this machine they should be allowed to use it.

The Minister has granted a concession in regard to cattle, sheep and pigs but the haulage of cattle, sheep and pigs goes on non-stop the whole year. Yet for the agricultural produce that is only seasonal—and very short seasons at that—it is impossible for people to haul their own. I would ask the Minister to have a second look at this and if possible to lift the restriction on the haulage of both cereals and sugar beet.

I should like to support Senator McDonald on this. I realise the Minister is in a difficult position because he is making special regulations for one section of the market and is excluding another section of the market. The particular instance in subsection (5) is that cattle, sheep and pigs are included and other commodities, parts of the agricultural produce market, are omitted. I should like him to answer the points raised by Senator McDonald as to why he is restricting this subsection to cattle, sheep and pigs. What are the arguments against such produce as cereals and beet? I come from an agricultural part of the country, too, and I have had a good deal of connection with the production of cereals. I know that, as the Minister said, the problem of illegal haulage has increased considerably and it would be difficult to reverse the trend. In the cereal business the transfers of plates and cereals being delivered outside their area by non-plated lorries were certainly rife recently, and I should like to see something being done to regularise this situation. Why is subsection (5) restricted to cattle, sheep and pigs? What is the case against widening it to include cereals, sugar beet, poultry and other agricultural products?

I certainly do not want to take anything from what Senator McDonald or Senator West have said because I come from an agricultural part of the country, too, but unfortunately the land does not allow us to produce much cereal.

The Minister said earlier that when this Bill becomes law he feels that a number of private hauliers will amalgamate. I could not agree more with him, but he is only thinking of places such as Dublin, Cork or Limerick. He cannot see them amalgamating in his own county, or the county I live in, because they are just not there. That area will not benefit in any way from the Bill. If the Minister would consider having another look at it and leave the transport of all merchandise open, or confined in some given areas, it probably might meet my idea on it. I fully agree with the Minister that there will be amalgamations in the areas that I have mentioned.

Taking the last point first, at present one of the restrictions is that the licensee must operate from a certain centre and is limited again to area, weight and commodity. If every licence is the same and if there is no area or centre it means that a man in Roscommon, Galway or Leitrim can purchase one or two licences, as he wishes, in any part of the country and so can establish a business wherever he wishes, so that there will be complete freedom of location or establishment in regard to establishing a road freight business or adding to the strength of a particular fleet that a licensee may have.

In regard to the extension of agricultural commodities, I am against this for the very reasons I mentioned earlier on. I do not want to encourage farmers to start buying trucks and going into own account haulage and again under-utilising their plant capacity. There is too much of that already in regard to agricultural machinery. If this is encouraged in regard to trucks there would be no end to the amount of wasteful investment we would have. There is a particular case in regard to cattle, sheep and pigs in that these are live commodities and involve an uncertain type of trade—24-hours a day haulage—which is now being carried on to a very large extent by an illegal haulage trade. What we are proposing to do is to legalise a reality—a reality which arises from the live nature of the particular goods that are involved, and the very nature of the whole trade which involves calling to farmers' houses or their land at all times of the day or night and making immediate man-to-man contact and man-to-man arrangements. In that sort of situation this was obviously not a field suited to any sort of organised transportation. That is why the logic of events has driven me to see the reality here, with which I was well aware myself coming from a rural constituency, and the reality is incorporated in this legislation.

The same does not apply at all to beet. Beet is a highly organised transportation campaign in which both CIE and private hauliers provide a very efficient service. This has been acknowledged to me by beet growers and by everybody concerned in the industry. This is a specific service needed at a particular time and both CIE and the private haulage interests have themselves highly organised for it. I do not see a case for that business being taken away from them and handed over to unlicensed people.

The Bill provides a balance, a balance that takes cognisance of rights and equities that reside with various people. There are workers in CIE who are concerned with an arm of CIE that is making money, and they contribute to the making of a profit by CIE on the road freight side. Similarly there are licensed hauliers who have purchased businesses and who are operating these businesses efficiently. As long as they are doing the job well we should let them continue to do so. I am satisfied that outside cattle, sheep and pigs—where they were not able to do the job well, by reason of the very nature of the particular trade and where the existing legislation is being flouted—in regard to other agricultural commodities, I am satisfied that existing legislation deals with the matter adequately. I should say that, apart from cattle, sheep and pigs, turf, creamery milk and, substantially, wheat are already exempted anyway from the Road Transport Acts. There is decontrol in regard to these commodities so that what we are talking about now is, first of all, beet, which as I have said calls for a very specialised type of campaign, highly organised, and which is being dealt with adequately by the existing transport organisations. Then there are various cereals but again where does one stop here? If cereals are all right then why not fertilisers, or materials for building farmhouses? There is no end to the complications that could arise in regard to this matter and I do not think it is worth it. The only substantial trade outside cattle, sheep, pigs, wheat and creamery milk, which are virtually exempted, is beet. Beet, to my information, is being dealt with adequately so that I do not see the justification for extending the Bill on any selective basis towards agricultural products that do not count as regards business in any event and for which there is no real demand.

I think the Minister is being a little bit inconsistent. While he is allowing farmers to equip themselves with lorries he is not allowing them to carry all their own produce. I should like to impress on the Minister that the modern haulier is now more and more putting a 30 or 54 foot body on his truck. It is not much use to me, if I order a few barrels of seed barley, or seed wheat, and find it can come only to within a mile of the farm and I then have to collect it because it cannot negotiate country roads. While the point I was making was for the co-operatively owned lorries most farmers will provide themselves with lorries for the carriage of their own produce in the line of animals. In my part of the country it is quite common to see two or more farmers getting together and equipping themselves with a lorry.

There is nothing at all to prevent that. It is only when there is an actual reward element. If it is an obligement it is perfectly all right.

Was that not what was going on before this and it was not an obligement, it was for hire and reward?

If it is an obligement between two neighbouring farmers there is nothing to stop it from going on.

But the Bill is quite specific on it.

The Bill deals with carriage for reward. That is the whole purpose of the road transport legislation.

Still, you are not letting out two fellows who own a truck between them. I am not asking for the complete exemption of these. I only want it in a case where there is co-operative ownership. I am instancing a case where two brothers buy a lorry between them but their beet contracts will be two separate contracts and therefore the man sitting in the cab cannot say: "This is my beet" if it is going in under the other brother's contract. He is certainly caught. In regard to cereals, the Minister did say that wheat is exempt. For barley and wheat there is a short harvest period and also they are very perishable commodities. The animals are not perishable commodities. In a bad harvest, and we are due one now at any time, a day or two of a delay can put a man's wheat into the unmillable class. That is a sizeable financial loss to a farmer. There are very few lorries available. Even in a good year we have had the experience of having to wait two or three weeks with the corn in a field waiting to be collected.

The least the Minister can do is allow CIE to treat these seasonal hauliers a little more liberally, give them a temporary licence to cover cereals for, say, a flat rate of £5.00 rather than the present 10 per cent which leads people to make false returns. With the cost of maintaining a truck on the road, especially for these poor men who would be doing this jobbing type of work, the tax licence is all they should be required to pay. I would ask CIE, through the Minister, to be more liberal in spring and autumn, especially with regard to cereals, and provide seasonal licences to cover these commodities for, say, £5.00. It is too much to ask the farmers to suffer and take the chance of having their wheat declared unmillable because transport is not readily available to deliver it immediately to the mill.

There is another serious point here to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. On the preparation of this Bill did he ever consider why so many private people purchased their own lorries after the introduction of certain Acts here over the past number of years? It was because they were compelled to do so because of the high rates being charged by CIE and the private haulier. Now we are moving back again into square one. What protection has the private individual from these extra 100 plates that the Minister is going to issue now? You may say that competition is the answer but I do not think it is the full answer. I believe that prices will soar again. I cannot go the whole hog with Senator McDonald because certainly if there were two brothers in my county who owned a lorry between them they would transport their own goods and I should like to see anybody from the Department of Justice catching them out.

No lawyer would catch them.

Nobody knows better than the Minister that this illegal haulage has gone on for donkey's years and under this Bill it will still go on and we are back to square one.

Could the Minister clear up a point? If a lorry is privately owned and if the produce is not carried for reward it surely does not come under the scope of the Bill? The point that Senator McDonald raised, about two brothers owning a lorry and having two different beet contracts, does not really arise because unless one brother is paying the other for transporting one load of beet, and vice versa for the other load of beet, which is unlikely, they would not be operating illegally. Wheat, surely, is also exempt under the Bill so the regulations do not apply to the carriage of wheat. I would like to ask the Minister if wheat is exempt why not barley? He said that the other cereals were insignificant in comparison. If the barley carried is so insignificant in comparison to wheat, as he says, it may be because Messrs. Guinness, for example, for whom most of the barley is grown, or a great proportion of it, provide a very efficient service. I know Guinness's do have a number of their own lorries and a large number of tankers and do a lot of the haulage. Could the Minister tell us how insignificant the barley trade is in comparison with the wheat trade?

First of all, I do not think that there is much reality at all in this point about farmers obliging their neighbours and their brothers in regard to the haulage of agricultural produce. I do not know of any prosecutions that have been brought successfully in this direction and indeed I defy any prosecution to succeed under this or any other law?

There is a very obvious solution.

One has succeeded in Laois.

So far as my constituents are concerned they have been evading this legislation for years very successfully and will continue to do so. Seriously, there is not much reality in this agricultural business. Farmers will continue to oblige their neighbours, their cousins and so on, but there was a wholesale cross-country trade in regard to cattle, sheep and pigs. This was big business from fair to fair, from mart to mart, and it was being flagrantly breached, and rightly breached in my view. That is why this section is in the Bill, because the existing CIE and private haulier organisations were not able to cope with this type of trade and we are making a legality out of a reality.

Senator West raised a point about barley. Barley is not anything like as countrywide as wheat. It is limited to certain areas.

Certain specific areas.

That is right, limited areas and the pressure is not to the same extent as in the case of wheat that can deteriorate overnight, unless it is brought in for drying straight away. That is why wheat has been always decontrolled and is not included in the road transport code.

Does that include seed wheat? Is seed wheat exempt too?

No, seed wheat is not.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

Am I right in saying that as a result of the additional 100 vehicles attached to the 100 countrywide licences, the number of vehicles will be the same as it was in 1964, with the addition of 100?

The 1st January, 1969.

Plus the open plate, plus number of people who had the combined plate. They are up.

No, that is only area. That has nothing to do with numbers. I am talking about the number of vehicles now.

The number of vehicles that they had attached to their licences on the 1st January, 1969, no matter what the area or weight or commodity—the number of vehicles that were attached to the licences. The number of vehicles varied from one to three. I do not think it was any more than three except in a few cases.

Could the Minister say what that number was? The only statistic I have is for 1964 and that was 1,100 odd. That was in the Minister's introductory speech. I presume that figure would be static.

That would be static.

There might be some small variation. So that the total number of vehicles now attached to the 850 countrywide licences, as they all will be now, will be approximately 1,200 vehicles.

That is correct.

And the Minister is endeavouring by liberalising the licences of the licensed hauliers to make them more flexible, put them in a better position to compete, and you hope as a result of this to see a swing from the own account tonnage to the professional licensed haulier.

That is the thinking behind it.

I completely agree. As Senator Reynolds said, many merchants would not go to the expense of purchasing trucks to carry their own goods if they could get a competitive low-cost service from a professional operator. There is no doubt about that and I think the Minister would accept that. I do not know what the total number of merchant trucks in the country is. In 1964 there were 44,000. There must be 60,000 now at a guess and that is only an increase of one-third over six years. There must be somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000.

So there has been very little change. If the Minister hopes to encourage merchants, traders, factories and such people to give up the carriage of their own goods and employ professional hauliers, how does he expect that 1,200 vehicles are going to make any inroads into the amount of goods carried by 45,000?

Add in CIE to that.

I did and it brings it to 816. How many trucks have they in that?

They have 860 of their own, apart from the private enterprise side at all.

It is the same number of trucks. The point I should like to make is this. If there is going to be a swing away from the carriage on own account to carriage by professional operators, either individually or as the Minister visualises in larger professional groups, which I hope will come, you are going to have to make provision at an early date to increase the number of vehicles attached to these 850 licences. I would again refer to Senator Reynold's point: the Minister may have to issue new licences in areas or counties where there is not a sufficient number of licences at the moment. The Minister's own county was mentioned and so was Leitrim. For all I know there may be no licensed carriers in the whole of Leitrim or there may not be a sufficient number of carriers. How are they going to take on the business of merchants who want to give up carrying on their own account if there are no licensed trucks to take over that business? People will not be able to buy licences just now. The value of these licences will jump the minute this Bill is passed and no professional operator worthy of the name is going to sell his licence at anything but an astronomical figure. The transfer of licences by purchase is going to be very small. The transfer of business to the professional operator will come about reasonably quickly and effectively. Within a very short space of time the Minister will have to come back to the Seanad with an amendment to this Bill. That is my view. The tonnage involved in the carriage of own account goods is so enormous that any substantial transfer to professional operators could not be effected without some increase in the number of vehicles owned by licensed operators. I want to make that point because this is going to be one fallacy in this Bill.

Senator Russell asked the question: "Did the Minister just envisage 100 more trucks coming on the roads as a result of the passing of this Bill?" In other words, the compensation for the 100 people who have Twenty-six County merchandise plates. It is rather difficult to follow this point. The Minister when introducing this Bill in the Seanad said, in Volume 69, No. 12, at column 1093 of the Official Report:

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.

If a person has a licence for a lorry at present—he just has one lorry of say ten-ton carrying capacity—is there anything in this Bill to prohibit that man, if he decides that he would be better employed by the county council with a tipper truck, changing to two-five-ton trucks and putting them on the road? This is not very likely to happen but is there anything in the Bill to prevent it from happening?

He is pinned back to the vehicles he had on 1st January, 1969.

Is he still confined to the number of vehicles he had?

Another point is that heretofore some of these vehicles of private hauliers were limited as to carrying capacity or cubic space or some such thing.

Is that limitation gone now?

It is going. I agree with the general view advanced by Senators Reynolds and Russell in regard to future developments in this field. This is a first step towards liberalisation. I said in my Second Stage speech that I only regarded it as a first step. It is a big change from what has been the policy since 1933 and I feel it should be tackled in stages.

Now we will have 2,000 trucks— between CIE and the private sector— in the professional haulage business. There will be roughly 1,200 vehicles, of unlimited size, in the private enterprise sector and 800-odd on the CIE side. The total own-account figure is 40,000 taking the 1969 figures. You will have a substantial injection of professional haulage capacity in the existing vehicle area. One point that will meet the point of view expressed that areas might be neglected is the fact that there will be complete freedom in regard to location of licences. In other words, a licence in Skibbereen, which was heretofore confined to an area within 20 miles of Skibbereen, can now be bought by a man in Carrick-on-Shannon and operated on a Twenty-six County basis.

Contrary to the point of view expressed by Senator Russell, my reading of what will happen here is that the freedom of exchange, in regard to licences, is going to bring a diminution in the value of licences. This viewpoint has already been very forcibly expressed to me by the people in the licensed carrier business——

Naturally, what else would they say?

——particularly by people with Twenty-six County licences. They were in a scarcity market with 100-odd Twenty-six County licences and various other licences going down from the Twenty-six County licences to one-county licences, and diminishing in value as they went down. Now we will have every one of the 840 licences brought up to the same level and we will have competition. Eight hundred and forty licences in the Twenty-six Counties, with 1,200 trucks involved, is quite a competitive situation. My reading of the matter is that we are going to cut the value of these licences substantially.

Conversely, what about the 740 that go from, say, one county to 26 counties. Will their value go up?

Their value would go up if they were in a scarcity situation, but they are not in a scarcity situation now. There was a scarcity situation when only 100 of them had this high value in the Twenty-six Counties. Now you are going to have 840 of them carrying the same rights so that you dilute the monopoly or scarcity situation that tended to exist. This, in my view, will lead to increased competition in the buying and selling of these licences and this is all to the good.

However, I do agree with the overall principle involved. This is just a stage and we are moving towards an era of greater liberalisation in this field. This is what is happening in Britain, the Common Market and throughout the world. The areas of distribution and transportation are tending to become more and more competitive. It is vital so far as we are concerned in regard to our exports that that competitive situation be maintained. Our policy must aim towards securing greater competition in this field in order that goods can be transported as efficiently as possible and at minimum cost so that internally, so far as home consumption is concerned, and externally, as far as our exports are concerned, we can deliver our goods from destination A to destination B as efficiently as possible. We may have to go much further than we do in this Bill in the very near future. I suggest that we take this as a first stage in liberalisation, see how it works, learn from the lessons and come back in two or three years time with further legislation in the light of how developments arise under this first process of liberalisation.

Could I raise a different topic under this section, namely, the power of the Minister to grant licences? I am seeking information as well as making a comment in that my interest in road haulage is limited and is largely confined to safety aspects which affect me as a road user. It would be helpful if the Minister would outline his powers in granting licences. The conditions which he may impose, and so on. I understand that these conditions are mainly concerned with matters like hours and conditions of work. Here the Minister has a power which is relevant to the safety issue in that a driver who is working reasonable hours and under good working conditions is more likely to be a safe driver than a driver who is working long hours under unsatisfactory conditions. When other Senators made some of these points the Minister quite rightly said that road traffic issues and safety issues are, in general, the responsibility of another Minister and are covered by road traffic legislation.

Where traffic is concerned, road traffic legislation really only steps in to safeguard the community and set an example after a disaster has occurred. It is only when somebody is run over by a lorry that the defects in that lorry are discovered and there is a prosecution for having a defective vehicle. I do not know if the Minister has powers in this regard, or if, as he mentioned, he will take a look at the transport situation for future years. If it is a worthwhile suggestion I should like to ask the Minister to consider the possibility of building into licences conditions which would mean that minimum standards of maintenance and safety precautions would attach to the vehicles of licensed hauliers.

I can give an example of this. Under road traffic legislation there are moves to ensure that lorries will have illuminated signs on the sides and back. There are still quite a number of lorries and trucks which have not got this type of safeguard. It would be a reasonable support if the Minister for Transport and Power, when issuing a licence, only issued it on condition that all the vehicles involved fulfilled the requirements of the existing traffic legislation and had the appropriate markings. This would be an additional sanction on road hauliers from a safety point of view. Apart from having to deal with the road traffic aspect of legislation they would also find that there business or their licence might be affected if they did not comply with recognised safety conditions.

To meet Senator Keery's point, first of all I have the power of revoking a merchandise licence if conditions are not complied with. There is also an annual renewal of the licence and under this licence it is made obligatory on the licensee to comply with every lawful order and regulation made in respect of mechanically propelled vehicles or traffic. Any regulations made by the Minister for Local Government, by the Commissioner of the Garda or, by the Minister for Labour in regard to the safety of employees must all be complied with by the licensee. Under the Common Market transport policy there will be full coverage of all of these matters relating to safety both of vehicles and employees. A code is being drafted in regard to employees who have to undertake long journeys. If the conditions are not observed the licence can be revoked at the annual renewal.

Does the Minister get many complaints in this regard? Does he often have to exercise these powers where licences are concerned, either when revoking a licence or at time of renewal?

This might be more a matter for the Minister for Local Government—is there any control over private lorries or is it the same thing?

It is, yes.

I can assure every Senator in this House that he is well protected by the Department of Justice. Nobody need have a problem about lorries. Lorries are being held up every day over regulations and I say this as an owner of lorries.

That is my experience, too.

I think if the checking were on the cars there might be something in it. You cannot prevent a man from driving his car into the back of a lorry and that is what is happening nine times out of ten.

Now that the Minister is giving a certain amount of scope to the haulage contractors, I wonder if he will ease the restrictions on the more progressive hauliers who wish to engage in continental traffic, that is taking some of our exports from door to door via the car ferry? I understand there are some restrictions on hauliers here importing the continental type lorries. When passing the chilling factory in Kildare I have noticed that quite a number of the big lorries taking on meat appear to be foreign. There must be some restriction which is preventing our hauliers, whether they are CIE or more progressive private concerns, from doing this type of export trade. We should give assistance to the haulage business in tackling this trade and enable them to take our produce to wherever there is a market. The hauliers have to pay a huge tax and insurance and they should get some concession, perhaps by way of a rebate on the diesel oil. It would help to keep prices and transport costs down if the licensed hauliers could get some such rebate or if the tax on the fuel was not so high as at present.

The Senator is getting into revenue matters and the duty-free importation of goods, which is outside the scope of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 4 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 7 stand part of the Bill."

What is the position with regard to the licences issued to the Limerick Steamship Company? Are they now defunct?

There is a certain obligation here. The shipping licence does not survive when the company ceases to be a shipping company. Hibernian Transport has ceased to be a shipping company. They went into liquidation. The shipping licence was specifically for shipping purposes. It is gone but the company did purchase the Limerick Steamship road transport general merchandise licence, which survives because the actual shipping operation is irrelevant there. That licence is maintained and can be purchased from the liquidator.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 8 stand part of the Bill."

Section 8 refers to the licensing of international road haulage in the State. "The Minister may"—does this mean that lorries coming across the Border to the Twenty-six Counties have to get a licence from the Minister to operate down here? Are they licensed hauliers within the terms of the Act?

They already have that right. An agreement has been reached with the Northern Ireland hauliers and the Northern Ireland Ministry on that. They are allowed to bring in a certain number of vehicles.

There is an important issue here. They would be in competition with the people we are legislating for here now.

They already have that right. The Northern Ireland hauliers have it already. This concession was given to them about five years ago, in 1966.

Are they licensed individually or en bloc? Can they send all the trucks they like down here?

They have complete freedom there. They do not have our system of limited licences. Their choice is wide open.

Does it mean that they just cross the Border? They do not have to ask anybody's permission?

They must have a licence, first of all. There is no restriction there.

Do I understand there is no restriction such as we have here? What I want to get clear is this: anybody there who has a free-for-all licence can drive wherever he likes; he can drive what he likes, because he is not restricted by the Act as we have it here. When he crosses the Border into the Republic, he goes to marts down the country. They are operating here in the State and are depriving some of our hauliers——


They cannot come down to operate locally as such.

They come down with a load. They may cross through the south of Ireland and they unload.

Yes, but not point to point within the south. They come down here with a load and they must back-load to their starting point.

Who checks to see that they go out with the load or that they do not unload halfway?

They must come to a specific destination here and go back to a specific destination there, but they cannot go from point to point internally here.

If, as alleged, they do it, they are competing with our people here?

I have had strong representations on that point.

Does that cover the people Senator McDonald was referring to a moment ago?

That is right.

I do not think there should be any question of restricting this kind of business because obviously it is going to become common in free trade conditions and in the Common Market, perhaps. What we should ensure is that there would be a quid pro quo for Irish hauliers going outside the country to the Six Counties or to the Continent. Does that in fact operate?

Yes. It is the purpose of this section to enable bilateral agreements of that kind to be negotiated with these countries.

Are there any in existence?

It is to ensure a reasonable deal for our hauliers in return for continental hauliers coming in here.

Under present arrangements can a Twenty-six County licensed haulier go into the Six Counties?

Yes. That was the purpose of the arrangement made in 1966.

We have the same facilities there as they enjoy down here?

There is this validity in the argument advanced by Senator Fitzgerald that the advantage we derived from the 1966 agreement was not as good as it now will be, because only a limited number of our hauliers contiguous to the Border had hauling rights through Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim and Donegal, whereas all the Six County people had this complete freedom of movement. Now we are putting nearly all our hauliers into the same position so that there should be complete equality so far as competition is concerned between each group.

Will all the 850 licensees enjoy the same rights of access to the Six Counties?

I should like to clarify a point on section 8. The Minister may by order under subsection (1) (a) grant a restricted licence to a person authorising him to import a vehicle and to use it for the purposes of merchandise road transport. To which category of person exactly do you intend under this subsection to grant licences? Obviously, it is intended to cover people bringing in trucks on the ferries. To which other category of persons, if any, does the Minister intend to grant licences? The persons specified under this subsection will be foreign nationals? It will not apply to vehicles from the Republic of Ireland but will specifically apply to vehicles coming in from outside. There is another point in paragraph (b) which states:

A vehicle in respect of which a restricted road freight licence has been granted shall be used when laden only if carrying merchandise which has been or is intended to be imported or exported in or on the vehicle.

It could happen that merchandise which was intended to be imported or exported was being transported between two points inside the State.

This is Senator Fitzgerald's point and what we want to exclude, point to point transportation within the State. We want to allow this type of concession only where there is transportation directly from a point outside the State to a point inside the State.

I agree, but surely this will require some alteration, because there is nothing about sending the vehicle back to a destination outside the State. All it says is that merchandise can be carried which has been or is intended to be imported or exported, but that does not prevent the carriage of such merchandise between points in this State. Such a large volume of merchandise would come under this heading of merchandise which has been or is intended to be, imported or exported, or was in the process of travel between two points inside the State, that if you want to exclude the type of traffic Senator Fitzgerald referred to, you have to amend this subsection. There is nothing about vehicles having to take it from a point here to a point outside the Republic.

Do the words "import or export" not cover this?

Intended to but——

In subsection (1) paragraph (a) I can attach any conditions which I may see fit to impose and specify in the licence and in subsection (2) paragraph (a):

The Minister may by order declare that a licence or class of licence (as specified in the order) issued in pursuance of an international multilateral or bilateral agreement to which the State is a party by the competent authority of another State, an international organisation or a person or body acting on behalf of such an organisation, shall be deemed to be a restricted road freight licence.

Between subsections (1) and (2) I can impose such conditions and we can make them as strict or as flexible as we wish, depending on what good there is in it from the point of view of our economy or from the point of view of our own hauliers.

If the Minister is issuing a restricted road freight licence could he not cover Senator West's and Senator Fitzgerald's points by stating the conditions in that road freight licence.

May I ask what is the point of having in subsection (1), paragraph (b) the words "or is intended to be". I think this is what is bothering Senator West. Supposing someone had a cargo which was in Limerick, he intended to export it through Cork and there happened to be one of these international lorries going that direction. As far as I can see from this, they could take it because it was intended to be exported.

The provision as drafted is to help in a breakdown situation but I can assure the Senator that the purpose here is to ensure, by way of order or condition which I can attach to the licence, that transportation of this kind only be from a point outside the State to a point inside the State and from a point inside the State to a point outside the State.

I am afraid I still do not quite see the Minister's point that this is to deal with a breakdown situation. The only breakdown that I can see it effecting would be if an Irish lorry broke down when this other one was passing and that the load was lifted. Surely if the international one breaks down there is no necessity to have this intention put in at all because the remainder of the journey could be done by an Irish lorry which would be legally entitled to do it anyway. I still do not see the force of what is intended.

Say a foreign haulier breaks down somewhere on the road to Cork. On the way back the merchandise may have to be taken off his truck by another truck. The truck could break down, it could have an accident, and then he would technically have done a point-to-point haul in the State.

An international truck if it happened to come along?

Or an internal truck.

An internal truck does not need any licence because presumably it is already licensed to deliver presumably. I still think the Minister should take another look at this rather vague phrase.

I will certainly look at it.

I agree with this. I am worried about the intention to import or to export because, presumably, intention could change over a period in time and one could get involved in all sorts of incredible arguments as to what the original intention of the international haulier was at a certain time and what the intention ended up by being. There could be loopholes in this Bill.

There could, indeed. That is why under subsection (1), paragraph (a), we have very wide power there to attach any conditions which the Minister may see fit to impose and specify in the licence. This should enable the Minister to copperfasten the situation as the Seanad wishes.

The Minister could hardly specify that the lorry must not break down all the same.

As far as I can see you need some reference to "is intended to be" because, if we are talking about merchandise exported on to vehicles, we can only say it is exported when the vehicle has left these shores, when in effect it is beyond the jurisdiction anyhow. Therefore, if we are talking about merchandise being on a vehicle which is leaving this country it is in a state where it is intended to be exported.

"Or it shall be exported". That would cut out this intention business.

Senator Keery ought to see the Attorney General's view on some aspects of the Diseases of Animals Act.

We will look at that. That is the purpose of it; to cover the case where there is a break down here and where the intention was to export in the particular vehicle to which the restricted road freight licence attaches and when that vehicle, due to an accident or a breakdown, is unable to continue. The goods are not then being illegally transported from the pick up point to the breakdown point.

There is another problem which arises. A lorry going from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland has to get a certificate of roadworthiness once it enters Northern Ireland. I do not know if that exists at the moment but it did up to some years ago. I wonder, in the event of talks between ourselves and the people across the Border at some stage, if something could be hammered out that if the vehicle was roadworthy here it would be accepted in the North. It is most inconvenient to people who have lorries crossing to and fro.

We will look into that.

You might often have to drive 20 miles out of your way to have it checked.

There should be some reciprocity or mutual agreement between the two authorities.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 9 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Next Stage?

Is there any objection to taking the remaining Stages of this Bill now?

I think Senator West would agree with me that we would like the Minister to take another look at section 8.

Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 24th March, 1971.