The message to Government from the Freight Transport Association Ireland at their conference today is to keep up the engagement on Brexit and to provide more support for the haulage sector.
Aidan Flynn, general manager of the association says that Brexit will be the “number one issue” on the agenda today.
“There's no doubt that a lot of work has been done (by the Government), but what we're calling for is more specific engagement with the transport sector and the haulage sector in particular,” he told RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland.
“The supply chain is only as strong as the weakest link and it's vitally important that the hauliers along with consigners and producers are much more engaged and we would like to see much more of that message by Government and state agencies and help to organise and get people engaged in developing contingency plans.”
He said that while there's going to be 400 new Revenue inspectors and quite a number of veterinary inspectors, “those guys are employed to provide checks and a lot of the narrative at the moment is predicated around 100% compliance and the industry will not be prepared on Day 1 of no deal.
“There's a health warning here, we really do need time because time is going to be needed to change and the industry needs time because there's quite a bit of upskilling required to do that. For instance around Dublin Port we need to know what the contingency plans are in the event of delays, traffic can't build up in the Port Tunnel, what are the welfare supports for drivers, what's going to happen if drivers are out of time, how are they going to be dealt with by the enforcement authorities?"
Mr Flynn pointed out that the industry is predominantly made up of smaller and medium enterprises. “The average size fleet in the haulage sector is just around five trucks and unfortunately these guys are working on very tight margins and cannot instigate change unless they're mandated to do so.
When asked what impact problems for the haulage industry could have on consumers, he said that 90% of trade with the UK is through Dublin Port “so it's very intensively worked, 60% of goods coming into the Port are food-related products, so for anyone sitting down to eat their bowl of cereal this morning, there's challenges there because you need everything on the shelves and at the minute everything is packed on a daily basis for next day delivery.”
One of the participants in today’s conference Niall Cotton of BOC Gases Ireland explained the potential impact of Brexit on his business:
“Our core business is producing medical gases, industrial and special gases. A lot of our special gases and some of our medical gases are imported from the UK so the UK and Ireland the supply chain is very much joined up, so we have to prepare in terms of customs and declarations and for delays that we may perceive may happen come the March 29.
“The biggest concern is that you would like to think that there'll be some orderly process there to try and alleviate or reduce delays as much as possible. I'm sure that the authorities are very much in the same kind of boat where they're conscious that delays do have an impact to industry and would damage industry and normal public people as well, for sourcing products like ours.
Another participant, Ray Cole Virginia Logistics told Morning Ireland:
“We run about 120 trucks, 300 trailers and employ about 180 people, our business is transport, so we transport goods around the island of Ireland, to the UK and Europe.
“I'm going grey since the word Brexit was mentioned. It's an unknown for everybody, we're preparing as best we can, for what we know.
“We've a lot of drivers on the road and their big fear is going back to the old days of borders and queueing and all that sort of thing, a lot of them say if this happens they're going to get another job because they don't want to go back there again.
“That would be our biggest fear, borders and delays. That's going to add on costs for our customers, which is not good for exports. Worst case scenario is no deal on the 29th and everything crashes out.
“It will be like the snow this time last year ... make sure you have lots of bread in the house.”