FOOD and fuel shortages could become a grim reality from next week if the Government fails to meet the demands of Irish truckers frustrated with ever increasing running costs.
The Government has been given until the close of business on Tuesday next to “pull a rabbit out of the hat”, the Irish Road Haulage Association’s president, Jimmy Quinn, declared as he left a tense meeting with Transport Minister Noel Dempsey.
At yesterday’s meeting in Dublin the truckers outlined for the minister the options which they believe could alleviate problems, “which started back when George Bush marched on Baghdad and have now come to a head with record high fuel costs”, said Mr Quinn.
Truckers suggested to Government the immediate introduction of a tax rebate on fuel for fully licensed and tax compliant hauliers.
This was one of the primary suggestions placed on the table before Mr Dempsey yesterday at a time when “we (the hauliers) feel others should take the hit, why should we be feeling all the pain?” Mr Quinn said.
The IRHA delegation also pointed out to Mr Dempsey “the urgent need for immediate action to stop unlicensed hauliers operating in the black economy”.
Along with soaring fuel prices, cowboy truckers were creating market pressures which had not been experienced since the 1970s, Mr Quinn added.
He called on customers of the IRHA to meet truckers halfway on the issue of fuel surcharges. Ireland is one of the few European countries where surcharges are not a feature of the haulage business, he said.
“We issued the minister a deadline of 6pm on Tuesday to come back with some positive recommendations on saving the Irish road haulage sector from the increasing burden of soaring fuel prices,” he said.
Failing that, action would be taken by truckers and “everything is in the mix”, he stressed. The IRHA boss said blockades were inevitable as was the withdrawal of services by hauliers and a consequent cessation of deliveries.
Similar action this month by truckers in Spain, France and Portugal led to food and fuel shortages.
Mr Dempsey told the delegation yesterday that he believes “a viable indigenous road haulage sector is important to sustain economic competitiveness”.
The minister agreed to “immediately engage with relevant enforcement authorities with regard to the increased enforcement of road transport and safety legislation as well as the unlawful use of green diesel”.
And on the issue of rising fuel costs, Mr Dempsey agreed to relay the concerns of the IRHA to his government colleagues.
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