Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
Road Safety Strategy: Discussion (Resumed)
I am delighted that we are joined by Ms Verona Murphy, president of the Irish Road Hauliers Association. From the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland, FCI, we are joined by Mr. Michael Moroney, chief executive officer; Mr. Richard White, national vice chairman; Mr. Peter Farrelly, national secretary, and Mr. Norman Egar who is a farm contractor. From Tullamore Motors we are joined by Mr. John Farrell, general manager, and Ms Yvonne Kinnarney. We are also joined by Mr Harry Lee from Lee and Associates Consultants. I thank everyone for attending.
By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
The running order is the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland which will be followed by Mr. Harry Lee, the Irish Road Hauliers Association and Tullamore Motors. The opening statements should be no longer than five minutes, following which it will be open to committee members to question the delegates on any aspect of the presentations and related matters. I invite Mr. Moroney from the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland to make his opening statement.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
I thank the Chairman and members for giving us the opportunity to appear before them.
The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland, FCI is run by contractors for contractors. We define a land based contractor as a rural based professional company which is working on behalf of third parties to provide machinery services in the production of arable crops, livestock and forestry and the maintenance of local authority green spaces and hedgerows. It provides mechanisation services which employ skilled operators and use state-of-the-art modern equipment in a sustainable way for financial reward. Most of the time contractors carry out their activities in rural areas, but this does not exclude operations in urban areas and cities such as the maintenance of green spaces and engaging in earth moving activities. Thanks to their expertise and access to advanced technology, they have become key players in the agriculture sector and amenity and forest management.
The FCI has a membership database which includes over 500 legitimate farm and forestry contractors, representing 70% of the land based rural contractor businesses in Ireland. Farm contractors seasonally employ close to 10,000 people who operate high technology agricultural, forestry, earth moving and amenity specific machines.
Our members all work with the soil in moving it, planting in it, fertilising crops that grow in it and harvesting. In that sense, FCI land based contractors are true "soilmates". They support and promote the highest levels of safety in operating farm, earth moving and forestry machinery while on public lands and or in the fields.
Much attention has been paid in the recent past to tractor testing. Research data indicate that tractors are involved in just 1% of all road traffic accidents in Europe and that 69% of these incidents involve tractors more than 12 years old. In Ireland the Road Safety Authority's breakdown of serious injuries by road user type between 2010 and 2012 showed that 0.9% occurred in incidents involving tractors and other vehicles. The 2008 to 2012 vehicle factors report, published in 2016, showed that in 983 fatal collisions, 17, or 1.3%, of the 1,245 vehicles involved were tractors which were among the oldest vehicles measured at the time. They are not typical of the tractors used by FCI farm contractors. Commercial vehicles accounted for more than 15% of all fatal collisions. All of these vehicles are subject to roadworthiness testing. FCI land based contractors are already self-assessing the safety of their tractors in Irish conditions and they are not a significant cause of road collisions.
We are concerned that there has been no consultation on the proposals to introduce tractor roadworthiness testing with land based contractors, even though the proposed legislation will impact on our members more than on farmers because of the size and modern nature of tractors in their fleets. Contractor-owned tractors are not even involved in farm accidents to the same extent as farmer-owned tractors as contractors need to have their machines in top condition all of the time to ensure they are working to the maximum available hours dictated by our variable weather conditions. The proposed tractor NCT will add significant costs for land based contractors in Ireland. Apart from the strict new proposed compliance costs, there will be huge depreciation costs incurred when there is no specific need for to do so. The FCI is calling for clarity on the proposal and the Minister to invoke the option of seeking an exemption from the proposed testing legislation in the Irish market. The United Kingdom has opted to avail of the exemption.
The recent legislation includes a limit of a radius of 100 km for tractors from their base of operations. Many modern tractors are required to transport farm and forestry machines and farm produce over greater distances, where the use of a truck would not be practical or economical owing to the relatively low value of the goods in transit such as straw. The FCI is calling for this limit to be raised to 180 km. Given where he comes from, I am sure the Chairman is aware of the need of many farmers to buy straw from places in east Cork, which is well in excess of the 100 km distance limit. That is why it will impact on them.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
The FCI is looking for an extension of the hedge cutting season on public roads to allow for mid-year maintenance of hedgerows for road safety reasons. European research has shown that most on-road accidents involving farm machines happen at crossroads or intersections where a farm vehicle turns right or left or enters the road from the field or under the road. In this situation the operator of the farm vehicle needs good visibility in all directions to see other vehicles and avoid accidents.
We are witnessing significant and expensive damage to tractor lighting and mirror systems, as well as similar damage to trucks caused by unmanaged hedgerows. Visibility is severely restricted when exiting fields on many such roads owing to non-existent hedge management by local authorities. Tractors have longer bonnets and the German Government is looking towards supporting land based contractors in fitting camera systems on the front of tractors where the distance from the driver's seat to the front of the tractor extends more than 3.5 m. We would like to think the Irish Government would consider supporting a similar initiative here.
The practical use of L and N plates is a source of significant concern for FCI land based contractors. It is adding more management issues as, in some cases, when trailers are changed between tractors, there is little option in some fleets other than to paste an L and an N plate on every machine. There is also an issue for drivers with learner permit W driving licences which are specifically for work vehicles. The RSA has informed the FCI that the driver who holds a learner permit is required to be accompanied by a qualified driver if there is a passenger seat fitted. If no second seat is fitted in the tractor cab, the driver is not required to be accompanied by a qualified driver. There is a huge anomaly attached to this because most of the tractors with the additional seat are more modern, safer, more desirable and typical of contractor fleets. Do we want people to go back to having ancient tractors in order not to have a second seat in the cab?
FCI member have been subject to considerable hassle by local gardaí who have issues in interpreting some specific regulations as they impact on tractor use on the public road. They include issues in the use of the hard shoulder. Is it illegal to use it to let traffic pass, or is it illegal to create a tailback with a slow moving vehicle? Some of our members have had to endure two penalty points because they pulled into the hard shoulder to let traffic pass and in other cases where they did not pull in, they were considered to be driving carelessly. We need to have the matter clarified and interpreted locally.
I know that there is a Bill on cycling coming through the House, but there are growing numbers of cyclists on rural roads, particularly in groups at the weekend. The requirement to allow a space of 1.5 m in overtaking a cyclist is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve on many N and R grade roads. While it is legal to cycle two abreast, in many instances FCI members meet groups of cyclists travelling four abreast who show little interest in other road users. We have noted that some of these cyclists move at speeds in excess of 40 km per hour, while the proposal is that at these speeds tractors undergo an NCT. There is no special licence required to ride bikes at this speed and no formal training is needed. There is no NCT for bicycles rated at speeds in excess of 40 km per hour. There are more accidents involving cyclists than tractors, according to the RSA's statistics.
We represent in excess of 500 legitimate farm and forestry contractors, approximately 70% of those operating in the country, who harvest in excess of 80% of national silage crops and are vitally important to agriculture and rural development. They manage and handle up to 80% of the animal manure produced on farms. They employ 10,000 people and in many parts of rural Ireland are the only employers. They are also significant consumers, consuming more than 500 million litres of diesel annually in harvesting and operating machines. They operate more than 20,000 tractors, approximately one third of the national fleet. Typically, they will invest in the region of €100 million per year in new machinery. In that way, they support many local farm machinery distribution and manufacturing companies, as well as local employment. FCI land based contractors support and encourage the maintenance of the highest standards of safety in the use of tractors and other items of machinery when operated on and off the road. The FCI has initiated and will continue to initiate driver training programmes to enhance standards. FCI land based contractors are responsible machinery users who have at their core the safety of their operators, other road users and their expensive machinery. They work in challenging conditions when variable Irish weather conditions determine the amount and quality of the work they can do. They seek recognition of the important role they play in farming and the forestry industry. We seek fairness in the treatment of legal aspects of operating agricultural and forest machinery when travelling to and from work in using public roads.
Mr. Harry Lee:
I thank the Chairman and committee members for allowing me this opportunity to speak to them about motor vehicle safety, especially roadworthiness and write-offs. I have been involved in the motor and insurance industry for most of my career and in the past 12 years an independent motor engineering assessor and consultant. As an experienced motor assessor, part of my role is assisting in ensuring modified, crashed and repaired vehicles are in a safe and roadworthy condition by ensuring the correct work process is undertaken and documented. On a regular basis we encounter vehicles which are deemed to be unrepairable and currently categorised as a write-off by the insurer, but what about vehicles that are not physically inspected or do not go through the insurance system?
When these vehicles are inspected, which is not always by suitable independent motor assessors, the vehicle report, with its documented information, is not a public document and stays with whoever paid for the report. If these reports were available, the possibility of returning the vehicle to the road in a safe manner greatly increases. The present system can be greatly improved to ensure all damaged vehicles, whether going through the insurance system or not, are returned to the road in a safe and roadworthy condition. At present, the system enables some damaged and repaired vehicles to return to the road without proper documented confirmation of its status, which is unsatisfactory. There is no regulation to insist such a documented process has to be undertaken.
This oversight not only relates to the family vehicle but also to all mechanically-propelled vehicles and the like. There must be a regulation that insists that everybody who undertakes any work, whether service, mechanical, body repairs or modifications, documents the process and retains same for possible future inspection and auditing. The importance of documentation is to ensure a vehicle history trail and accountability can be measured. From time to time we encounter imported vehicles and the lack of a proper vehicle history being available is an obvious issue, especially with the amount of imports appearing to be on the increase. Some figures indicate 10% of the UK imports alone are insurance write-offs and therefore all the imported vehicles need to be tested and documented as being roadworthy and safe prior to being allowed on our roads.
Experience has shown the use of suitably experienced independent-acting motor engineer assessors improves vehicle safety, decreases claim costs and underwriting risk, increases vehicle and repair standards within the motor industry, increases revenue, provides independent investigative assistance and clarification and provides suitable reports on vehicle roadworthiness and modification.
On claims costs, by not using suitable motor engineer assessors correctly, insurance companies are not suitably equipped to audit and investigate claims when required and this is in part leading to heightened claims costs. There is also a need for clear regulation regarding the suitably qualified individual and the processes regarding the services he or she supplies.
Who can assist with and audit this? The establishment of a truly open, transparent and independent full-time body or individual is required. The benefits of such an entity would include a completely documented register of suitable motor engineer assessors, as well as constant auditing and education, an accessible independent voice to assist the motor industry and all related bodies, such as the RSA, EPA, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Revenue Commissioners, assistance in the design and enforcement of regulation and an increase in standards within the motor industry. I am confident that the use of suitably experienced independent-acting professional motor engineer assessors, combined with an independent body or individual, will allow the correct enhancements necessary in the industry both cost-effectively and in a timely manner.
Ms Verona Murphy:
The Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA, is Ireland’s largest Government-recognised licensed road transport representative body. It is committed to tackling the issues affecting it head on. It seeks to build the future of the Irish road transport industry by developing and promoting industry standards, facilitating road transport operator education and training, educating end-users and securing an equitable business environment, as well as helping them to operate in the safest possible manner.
The IRHA suggests that while developing strategies countrywide to meet needs and prepare a coherent, relevant road safety plan, we must start with the basics.
As a child I learnt the safe cross code. It was part of the school curriculum. It is an essential part of any academic education that children learn to obey the rules of the road. It should be here that cycling safety awareness is taught. In the UK, “Bikeability” is a Government-funded training initiative for schoolchildren with the expressed hope that this type of programme would incorporate messages about how to be safe around HGVs. They learn about existence of a “danger zone” on trucks and to never ride along the kerbside of a truck especially as it may turn left but yet this is what we see adult cyclists do on a daily basis in our cities. The wearing of headphones while cycling, walking or driving is another frequent flyer in the face of road safety and must be stopped. The proposed new cycling Bill is a totally unworkable solution to a safety problem. If a cyclist is on the left-hand side of a vehicle in a 50 km/h or less zone, they cannot possibly stay the proposed distance of 1 m, because the cycle lane was added to an already undersized carriageway. We are squeezing in cyclists to show how far we have come environmentally but not in terms of road safety. It is putting the cart before the horse.
It should be mandatory for cyclists to wear headgear for their own protection. As road users, the onus is equally on them to operate in as safe a manner as possible. For the driver of a mechanically-propelled vehicle, MPV, particularly in dense traffic, visibility is key. All road users should be compelled by legislation to wear high-visibility vests where they are competing with MPVs for road space. In my experience, a bicycle will fit where a MPV or HGV will not and that is where they will go to try to beat the traffic. Such a law would not make for a nanny state but for a safer State.
The law in our sector requires drivers of commercial vehicles weighing 7.5 tonnes and over to complete professional competency courses that include road safety elements such as the benefits of wearing a seat belt. These courses are crucial to updating best practices and laws. The view of the IRHA is that a serious, meaningful review of the content of these courses is needed urgently. As it stands today, these courses are antiquated and top-heavy with information no longer relevant to the profession. There is no requirement that it be delivered by adequately trained persons in this area of expertise. We appeal to this committee to order a full review of the driver continuing professional competence programme as a matter of urgency and to encourage the RSA to consult with the sector operatives when compiling a new programme.
Section 70 of the Roads Act 1993 places the responsibility for the maintenance of roadside hedges on the owners or occupiers of the adjoining lands. The enforcement of this law is virtually non-existent yet paramount to all road users’ safety. It is well recognised that the height of the cutting of hedges goes nowhere near taking into account the height of mirrors on HGVs, buses or tractors, which should be 4 m or more. We are heavily regulated to supply as compulsory the mirror equipment stipulated under DOE testing. A vehicle will fail if mirrors of the correct standard are not fitted but no regard is giving to the hazard of losing these mirrors at great cost to the operator and to road safety when an overhanging tree branch is responsible for its loss. Visibility is a key factor in implementing road safety.
It should be considered that landowners comply with section 70 and provide proof of same before payment can be made of any subsidy due on lands. We cannot obtain a haulage licence for a vehicle unless its DOE test status and road tax are current and proof of same is required. It is the mantra of county councils across the country that if overgrown hedgerows are reported by individuals then they will take action. The county councils’ roads engineers and maintenance operators should be tasked with this as part of their daily work, rather than waiting for motorists to inform them. That would be the equivalent of the Garda Síochána waiting for reports of drink-driving before any enforcement would take place. Pedestrians and cyclists have nowhere to go when hedges are overgrown. HGVs and buses are forced into the centre of the road to avoid losing mirrors but all the while, the councils have provision within legislation to cut hedges when road safety is an issue. As they have the power to require the landowner to take action where a tree, shrub, hedge or other vegetation is a potential hazard, they should use it and show a serious effort is being made to effect road safety and that it is not just being talked about.
Ireland is the only country in the EU that allows tractors on its motorways. They can be driven on motorways in the Republic of Ireland providing that the tractor is capable of reaching a minimum speed of 50 km/h. Incidentally, in almost all cases that also is its maximum speed and this does not take into account the weight of the load it is towing and it is almost guaranteed that it cannot maintain that speed on an incline. In fog or inclement weather conditions coming upon a vehicle of this nature while driving a HGV capable of a speed of 80 km/h, not to mention a car allowed to travel at 120 km/h, is one's worst nightmare.
There have been many incidents of late involving tractors on motorways with near-fatal and, in some cases, fatal consequences. In Ireland, there is no requirement to undergo formal training to drive such vehicles and the age of the relevant driver leaves a lot to be desired. This practice must be stopped, with no exceptions, if we are serious about road safety as the practice makes us the laughing stock of Europe and is rarely defined by agricultural need.
There is no doubt that there are stretches of roads that are particularly hazardous. The one that sticks out in my mind is the N20. A motorway is now crucial to service this heavily used route between Cork and Limerick but we believe it has been pushed out to the 2020-2025 period. Another is the Crusheen road on the N18 between Gort and Galway, which has been flagged by TII as a problem. There have been many near-fatal incidents but actions to solve the problem have not been forthcoming. There is no cost attached to saving a life.
In general, there has been a vast improvement in the road network but rural Ireland is rural Ireland and improvements need to be made. Roundabouts, in terms of their construction, are often badly cambered and this can be a factor in contributing to the overturning of vehicles. Incorrect bridge height signage due to road resurfacing and insufficient bridge height signing are factors in accidents involving bridge strikes, which are not just down to driver error as Irish Rail would like us to think. There are numerous factors to be considered under the heading of road safety, such as insurance. The percentage of uninsured drivers now on our roads has not been helped by the huge hikes in insurance premiums. There is active enforcement of this but gardaí are hard pressed to keep up.
There have been improvements in drug and drink-driving laws and the levels were reduced in 2011. The proposed mandatory loss of a driving licence for an offence of this nature from the Minister, Deputy Ross, is something that must be further analysed. As professional drivers, we are in the designated driver category and the IRHA at all times encourages zero tolerance on the consumption of intoxicants where work is to be undertaken within a 24-hour period.
In the context of the road haulage sector, the IRHA strives to advise where legislation fails us. Best practice is observed where load restraint and load securing are required but the approach to this must become uniform, regardless of whether the operator is licensed. However, it is licensed hauliers that are at all times most in jeopardy due to the consequential loss if they do not comply by attaining a haulage licence.
Our pool of professional drivers is dwindling because no young drivers are entering the profession. A major factor in this is the penalty points system, as losing a licence is too high a price to pay and other employment options mean they are less at risk than being on the road. EU tachograph Regulation No. 561/2006 means that we are already heavily regulated and it dictates rest breaks and daily driving hours. It does not dictate where the safe parking and rest stops are available to comply with the regulations, however. The Minister's proposal to ban any driver caught with alcohol in his or her system and the proposed cycling Bill are levelled at their chosen profession. It is paramount that persons involved in roadside checks on carriageways of over 100 km should be stopped as this practice is not in line with road safety. The authorities should be advised that this is a jeopardy to everybody's life.
The IRHA is committed to reinforce and monitor driver training and has developed a new driver apprenticeship programme which is awaiting certification from Quality & Qualifications Ireland, QQI. We encourage our members to implement stringent fleet safety programmes, with zero tolerance for impaired driving, lack of seat belt use and mobile phone use and with monitoring of driver behaviours where possible through telematics, educating employees and drivers to the highest standards and enforcing all safety, road and other regulations as company policy uniformly throughout their organisations, all of which can go a long way to improving road safety.
The IRHA and I wish to thank members for this opportunity to present our view on this very important matter. I would welcome any questions from the committee.
Mr. John Farrell:
I thank the Chairman and members for giving us the opportunity to address them today and to present our proposal regarding changing driver behaviour to improve road safety.
My name is John Farrell and I have been involved in the transport industry since 1990 as a driver and transport manager in both bus and truck operations. I am here with my colleague, Yvonne Kinnarney, ADI, chartered member of the Institute of Logistics and Transport and lecturer in the areas of transport management, ADR, ADI and driver CPC.
We have put together a proposal that will both enhance road safety and contribute to reducing road fatalities. The penalty points system for driving offences was introduced in Ireland on 31 October 2002 to improve driver behaviour in Ireland using penalty points as a deterrent and as a means to reduce the levels of death and serious injury on our roads. While this system has had a major impact on driving behaviour, drivers themselves continue to offend and our proposal is aimed at developing further the idea of having re-education, together with prosecution, as a deterrent for driving offences. With the increase in road deaths of 16% from 2015 to 2016, we feel that further development is required to reduce and reverse this trend.
From the age of 17 and after acquiring a full driver's licence, a driver is not obliged to undergo any further training or certification on their licence unless it is for professional development or for medical reasons. Technically, a driver can continue to drive through a 53-year period without being reviewed or monitored on their traits and behaviour. Our proposal operates on two levels. As of 31 January last, there were 61,572 drivers with six or more penalty points on their licences and we would like to focus on them initially. Level 1 is classroom-based training and re-education of drivers who have acquired penalty points on their licence. The classroom-based training will examine salient points on road safety such as the impact of speeding, mobile phone usage, driver fatigue, intoxicants and the duty of care to other road users. We will show how the offences contribute towards road traffic collisions and the potential impact on other road users. It is an important reminder that, when we speak about road safety, we are not talking about faceless statistics but real people. Every day we read about people who have died on our roads. There are also those who survive these collisions and who have to live with life-changing injuries. These people have to learn to cope with their injuries. Their families, friends and loved ones are also learning how to support them every day.
We will also use audiovisual examples and a participants' manual in training. There will be a written examination with multiple choice questions to show the level of participation and understanding of the modules covered. We envisage, on completion of training, that participants' attendance will be uploaded via a secure portal to the RSA where, after a monitoring period, they will be permitted to reduce their endorsements by two penalty points.
This brings me to level 2- the monitoring. Driver's behaviour will be monitored through a smartphone application that will generate reports for the driver and the monitoring centre. This report produces analysis of acceleration, braking, cornering and speed, ABCS for short. During the class the application will be downloaded and presented to the participant, all details of the report will be explored and explained and participants will be shown how driver behaviour can contribute towards improved road safety. International studies have shown that in-vehicle monitoring can help employers and at-work drivers to reduce their crash rates when driving for work. Some studies have found that accident rates for vehicles fitted with a monitoring device reduced by 20%, while others found a reduction of 38% in collisions and the rate of specific unsafe driving behaviours was reduced by up to 82% in one case.
The most prominent issue that emerges from the research is the importance of feedback about the driving behaviour monitored by the technology. Feedback is designed to raise awareness of the real way someone is driving and to highlight particular types of driving behaviour that may increase risk. Many of the research studies that examine the role of feedback have found that simply providing access to feedback about a driver's behaviour is not enough to ensure that the driver views and considers it. In order to obtain the best safety benefits from in-vehicle monitoring technology, it is important to deliver feedback mechanisms that encourage drivers and other relevant people to view and use the feedback and, in so doing, improve their behaviour.
To summarise, it is a classroom-based refresher course for fully licensed drivers with penalty points. The application is downloaded to a smartphone. There is regular feedback for the driver to show quality of driving and to reward improvement. There is a penalty point credit for completion and proof of behavioural changes. Finally, there is monitoring by the RSA.
The statistics of the cohort should be also made available for monitoring and research. By monitoring we can show that we can modify, in a positive way, the behaviour of the driver to reduce the frequency and severity of collisions.
Again, we would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to present this proposal and will be happy to answer any questions members may wish to pose.
First, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the missing pilot Mark Duffy, from my home town of Dundalk, and of winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith. Also, I extend my sympathy to the family, friends and workmates of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick. This has been the darkest day for Ireland's emergency services and I hope the missing crew members from the Coast Guard helicopter R116 are found soon. Thank you, Chairman, for giving me the opportunity to say that.
I welcome the witnesses to the meeting. I agree with some of the comments of Verona Murphy of the Irish Road Haulage Association. In particular, the wearing of headphones by cyclists should be stopped as a matter of urgency. I travel from Dundalk to the Dáil regularly and I see the dangers that cyclists cause not only for themselves but also for other road users. I also agree with Ms Murphy's statement that we must educate children from an early age about the rules of the road and, in particular, safe cycling practice. Does the Irish Road Haulage Association have any data or statistics to highlight the dangers that poor cycling behaviour has caused for its members?
Ms Verona Murphy:
No, we do not have data. The new cycling Bill that is proposed is quite ridiculous legislation, not to mind the fact that it should be an Act as opposed to an amendment. There is no comparison between cycling in rural Ireland and cycling in an urban area. That law is impossible to enforce in an urban area and we will look even sillier than we are as it stands. The provisions relating to cycling should remain around the safety of the cyclists from the perspective of protecting themselves with helmets, high-visibility jackets and so forth. We understand that environmentally there is a need for increased cycling as opposed to use of the MPV but equally cyclists will take risks that we do not encourage and about which we can do nothing. The visibility from a truck is restricted. As Mr. Michael Moroney suggested, perhaps cyclists should undergo a course, be obliged to pass that course and be equally susceptible to penalty points for bad practices.
With regard to Ms Murphy's appeal to the committee for a full review of the driver CPC programme, can she outline what she would propose and how it could be implemented? What would be the benefits of such a change?
Ms Verona Murphy:
Currently, drivers sit a seven-hour course which is completed once a year for five years. Each module is different, but many of the modules are outdated and antiquated. The content of the booklets that are provided to drivers is such that many of them spend most of the time ridiculing them because much of the mechanical emphasis is outdated and even no longer in existence. They have difficulty with the fact that many of the trainers have no experience in the area in which they are delivering the course. That is not in all cases but if the drivers want a question answered in respect of some of the courses in the modules, the person delivering the course must have either experience of driving a truck or experience in some shape or form in the commercial area. If the driver cannot have a question answered, the deliverer is undermined straight away and interest is lost. These courses are about updating the drivers, but there is not much updating if the content is antiquated. I sat my CPC course in 1989 and the content being delivered today is still the same.
We have been seeking to have this overhauled for a long time. In fairness, we had a meeting recently with Moyagh Murdock of the Road Safety Authority, RSA, and she is quite interested. In the UK, for example, this course can be constructed for any individual type of transport. If one is a car carrier, one can devise one's own course pertinent to the profession for a person who is tying down and loading cars. That can be passed by the Department for Transport and delivered specifically to meet the needs of the drivers. That does not exist in Ireland. The delivery is the same in that it is seven hours, but it is pertinent to the driver's practice. That is very important. At present, the Scania truck manufacturer offers a driver training course which costs €350. This is beneficial to the company, of course, in that the drivers will get the most from its vehicles, but it is also beneficial to the environment if the truck is being driven correctly in terms of carbon emissions and so forth. Everybody benefits. That should be regarded as a module. It is about improvements in safety. Other manufacturers are entitled to deliver the same courses. There is no reason that something of that nature cannot be regarded as a module in the CPC. It is professional competence.
I am sorry to interrupt but there is sporadic interference with the broadcasting equipment from a telephone. I ask everybody to turn off their telephones because they interfere and make broadcasting difficult. It makes repeat broadcasts of the meeting less likely. It is in everybody's interest to ensure every telephone is turned off, as distinct from being in silent mode.
I also agree with Ms Murphy's comments on so-called fast moving tractors on motorways and the dangers they pose. Has the association data or statistics to support its call to ban these tractors from motorways?
Ms Verona Murphy:
We do not have statistics. It is paramount and fundamentally important to road safety that a slower moving vehicle should not be permitted on the motorway. That is the case all over Europe. Michael Moroney referred to the UK. The UK does not allow tractors on its motorways in any instance. We are dictated to under regulation. We cannot legally overtake on a motorway except at the discretion of a garda. What is a HGV driver to do when driving at 80 km/h minimum or maximum speed if he arrives up behind a tractor that is supposed to be doing 50 km/h? Our experience is that this is the maximum speed for these tractors in many cases. There are exceptions, but they are not really agricultural vehicles. Many of the agricultural tractors have a maximum speed of 50 km/h but that is without towing a trailer. If the tractor is towing a trailer and comes to an incline, it cannot maintain that speed. It is a highly dangerous practice. Many incidents have been reported, some fatal and some near fatal. The practice should stop. I referred to arriving up behind one of them in fog or inclement weather conditions. They are all supposed to have flashing lights. What they are supposed to do and what the practice is are very different. It is a huge road safety risk and it should be stopped.
Ms Verona Murphy:
The difference between an agricultural contractor and a HGV driver is that all of the latter's work is carried out on the public highway, be it on the motorway or in rural or urban areas. If a driver spends nine hours of his day driving, the likelihood is that there are many instances in which he can incur penalty points. Whether it is a camera or a roadside check for any type of infringement, he possibly can lose his licence on a trip from Cork to Dublin. We do not advocate that this should be the case or that there should be bad practices but they are far more heavily regulated. When young people get 12 points they will lose their licence. That does not mean that they lose their job. For many of them it means they cannot drive a car for social purposes. They will get another job and somebody can drive them to work but the issue is what they do after work. We have already requested that it might be possible to have the number of penalty points increased for the professional sector, but we have been told that this makes no sense as the professional driver should be more professional. There are arguments for it in both spheres. Unfortunately for us, the average age of our drivers is 55 years. We have an apprenticeship programme developed and ready to go for the last 12 months but we have not received certification. If we are going to put three years of effort into training drivers, we should at least be encouraged to get it under way when we are under this pressure.
I am interested that the association is developing a driver apprenticeship programme. What is the timeline for the introduction of the programme and will Ms Murphy elaborate further on the course?
I wish I could give the Deputy a timeline. Unfortunately our programme is a very intense programme. It is three years long. It is provided and developed by the sectoral needs. It covers every form of transport. We have engaged with the RSA and the HSA. The RSA through the NDLS has asked us to incorporate emergency response driving, which we are in the throes of doing. This programme encompasses everything one could think of regarding haulage, including hauling cattle, milk, petroleum and meat. Every form of haulage is incorporated in our programme and it will certainly make for safer, more professional drivers.
The current standard of driver undergoes probably 20 weeks training. A person entering one of the current FÁS courses can have a professional HGV within 16 weeks. However, that same driver in a truck that caries carcass beef - a swinging moveable load - knows nothing about keeping that load stable while going around a roundabout. Our experience is that these courses do not provide HGV drivers. We are being told that 174,000 people are on the dole, but none of them appears to have HGV licences. It is very frustrating for us that we are under such pressure with our employment sector but cannot get the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to give us non-EU HGV driver permits. There are drivers in other jurisdictions who drive on the same side of the road with the same language skill and yet we have a driver apprenticeship programme that we know will not turn out a driver until 2020 if it gets under way in September. However, it is essential to the survival of the industry that that apprenticeship programme starts sooner rather than later.
I thank all the people who have presented here. Obviously, what they have done is presented the matters that are issues for them from a road safety point of view. Having listened to them, there seems to be conflict between the various groups. I might provoke a little bit of that. The representatives of the agricultural contractors have stated that there was no consultation on many of the changes that have been introduced, which is unfair.
Have the agricultural contractors had any engagement with the RSA or the bodies since? Did they get a good hearing or are the changes a fait accompli? I refer back to the tractors on the motorways and the Garda interpretation for the contractors. Is it illegal for drive on the hard shoulder to allow traffic to go by? That is absolutely crazy if that is how the law is being implemented. I have heard conflicting reports on whether it is acceptable to drive on the hard shoulder to allow traffic to pass. It is important for us to clarify that because it seems like a solution.
What do the agricultural contractors think of the road hauliers saying that they should be banned from motorways? I can see both points of view. We need to arrive at a consensus that would be safe.
Mr. Harry Lee made an interesting presentation. A "Prime Time" programme in the past year highlighted the issue of cars that were death traps being put back on the road. Would his proposals eliminate that? Is the issue solvable? One would imagine that there would be a paper trail to show this, but obviously that is not the case.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
Regarding engagement with the RSA, this is an EU regulation on tractor testing. We only became aware of it a number of weeks ago. It is due to be transposed into Irish law by 20 May, which is less than ten weeks away. In that period there has been no consultation with any organisation involved in agriculture. We have requested a meeting but we have not had a meeting so far. We feel it is unfair that we did not have an opportunity to have the same level of discussion as we had with the RSA and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport over a lengthy period on the review of the agricultural specifications with regard to tractors and trailers, which was a really useful process. It took a bit of time, but the end result was a document that has been very useful to our members and has been very useful in enforcing proper and sensible legislation as it would apply to our industry. That has been missing in this case and that is why we made that point. It is only ten weeks until it is to be transposed into Irish law under the regulation.
We do not have an issue with slow-speed vehicles such as tractors not being allowed on a motorway. We are aware that there have been some incidents involving tractors and trailers. However, in some cases it was not a tractor responsibility; there were other issues attached to that.
The use of hard shoulders is a thorny issue. In one case a contractor was driving a butterfly mower - quite a big mower - front and back kit. In order to allow proper movement of traffic, the driver pulled into the hard shoulder. He continued to drive slowly for a period. However, in that queue of cars was a squad car and he was given two penalty points as a result. The converse of it was a man in another county who did not move in to the hard shoulder and caused a significant tailback. This incident happened in Senator O'Mahony's county. That person received penalty points for careless driving. Those are the contradictions with regard to the hard shoulders. We would like to get clarification on the matter.
Mr. Harry Lee:
What I am proposing would be a first step because there is no paper trail. There is no proper history for the majority of vehicles on our roads where there are issues. We need to take the first step towards the end goal of having a central database where all work carried out on all vehicles is documented. The first step should be write-offs, because some legislation and building blocks are already there. At the moment only As and Bs are recommended to be sent to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, but that is not necessarily where the majority of the problems are. They are also in Cs and Ds. In addition we must also consider the number of vehicles that do not go through insurance or through the self-insured. There are no guidelines or legislation outlining the process of what should happen when these cars are in this situation.
At the moment if a vehicle is written off by an insurance company and I am requested to go out and ensure it is roadworthy, I do not know the reason the vehicle was written off in the first place. Sometimes vehicles from outside the industry can pass through many hands without any ownership paper trail whatsoever. When someone like me comes along, we do not know what has happened. That applies to the majority of vehicles across the board, but especially with second-hand imports. Some figures suggest 10% of vehicles from the UK alone are write-offs.
Again, there is no paper trail. There is an expectation on the owner to be an expert in these things, but that is not possible given the way the vehicles are moving from a technological and a design point of view. It is not possible, even for some of us within the industry, to be an expert on everything. I believe the building blocks are there to put something in place. This would be a first step. I suggest that if we take the first step, that can lead on to something proper.
Mr. Peter Farrelly:
In some cases, bypasses that were built around towns in previous years have now been designated as motorways. In the case of the M3 near Kells, drivers who are not allowed on motorways can go only half way around the town on the bypass. The council handed over a section of the Kells bypass to the motorway authorities so that it would not have to maintain it. As a result, those of us who drive combines or wide vehicles have to go through the town. We should be able to use the bypass, which is two miles longer, to go around the town. I believe the bypasses in Kells and some other areas should be retained for use by wide vehicles. If there is a bypass around a town, in the interests of safety it should be available to all drivers to keep certain vehicles out of the town centre.
Mr. Farrelly is basically saying that the one-cap-fits-all approach is impractical. I will give him an opportunity to come back in later in the meeting. We will have a further discussion on these matters. I am anxious to give the Fianna Fáil members an opportunity to speak at this stage.
I welcome the representatives of the various groups. I suggest that if the sugar beet industry was still in operation, we would see a bit more blood and bandage between the tractor operators and the lorry drivers. Issues like road safety and hedge cutting have been mentioned. Cyclists are becoming more common on our roads. There has been an increase in paperwork. We have heard from the Irish Road Haulage Association about CPC courses, etc. A person who decides to become a lorry driver is out of pocket by almost €5,000 by the time he or she has the full qualifications to drive a lorry. I welcome the EU directive that has ensured that road driving qualifications from other countries are now recognised in this country. I am concerned about the language barriers in some cases. When our enforcement officers pull over a haulier who is a foreign national and there is a language barrier, how do they go about ensuring he or she is fully qualified? Will Ms Murphy tell us whether there are mechanisms in place to deal with such problems if they arise on site?
I have concerns about good manners on the roads. I might have to contact the farm operators about this issue. Outside the motorways, our roads are not big enough to carry heavy goods vehicles. This often causes frustration among drivers. It has been suggested that the drivers of heavy goods vehicles should pull inside the yellow line, but there are roads that do not have a yellow line for them to do this. I mentioned the sugar beet industry because I remember that when I was a county councillor, we were unable to get a dual carriageway so we asked the council to provide lay-bys at regular intervals along the N72 and N73 so that heavy goods vehicles could pull in to allow faster moving traffic to pass by. I am trying to say that drivers should show goodwill by pulling in where that is possible. It is understandable that there are places where drivers cannot pull in, but they should do so where that is possible. It is up to the Minister to provide good roads and to ensure good surfaces are in place.
I do not intend to ask too many questions, but I would like to raise an unrelated matter. A new regulation that was introduced last year to specify the tonnage that a lorry can carry was based on the number of axles on each lorry. Perhaps Ms Murphy would like to elaborate on this issue. Who determines how safe a vehicle is when it is on the road? Who makes a determination with regard to factors like tonnage and laden weight when loads are being carried? The day of a Fordson Major pulling a small single-axle silage trailer is well gone. We are on the same roads. I am talking about road safety. Maybe Mr. Farrell and Mr. Lee should be asking questions of the other witnesses who are here today. They are making a case for a way to improve road safety. I ask them to comment on the submissions we have received from the contractors and the road hauliers. Have they found any flaws in those submissions?
I would like to make a couple of observations and ask a few questions. I welcome all our visitors and thank them for their excellent presentations. I put it to Mr. Lee that I do not understand the definition of a "write-off". Two of my vehicles have been written off through no fault of my own. Am I wrong in my understanding that if a car is written off, it is chopped up for spare parts and never gets on the road again? Is a write-off just some actuarial term? I ask Mr. Lee to respond to that question. I was struck by the statistic that 10% of cars imported from the UK are problematic from an insurance point of view. I might not have the right terminology, but I think Mr. Lee knows what I mean. I would like him to expand on this striking statistic. I also understand that large numbers of damaged and repaired vehicles are returning to the road without documentation to confirm the status of those vehicles. Mr. Lee might elaborate on that when he gets a chance.
I agree with most of the points made by Ms Murphy in her excellent presentation. I think her proposal regarding the use of headphones by cyclists is a no-brainer. I would like to mention one of two bugbears of my own in relation to the drivers of trucks, lorries and articulated vehicles. I do a lot of driving around the country. If I am driving on the inside lane of a two-lane carriageway in an urban environment, the driver of a big articulated vehicle on my outside might need to turn left. I understand his problem because he has to stay in the outside lane to get traction to make the turn. Has the cyclist or the driver on the inside any rights at all in such circumstances? Is it a case of might is right? I have witnessed some pretty scary situations when the drivers of big articulated vehicles assumed there was nobody inside them as they turned left. I would also like to mention that big lorries on motorways tend to hog the crown of the road, especially in bad weather. This means that a car overtaking such a vehicle has a very small avenue for the manoeuvre. It can be very intimidating for a driver in such circumstances to have a lorry to the left, probably throwing up every kind of spray, and more often than not a concrete carriageway divider to the right. Why do big articulated vehicles tend to hog the crown of the road? It seems to me that the carriageway is wide enough. Ms Murphy might explain that.
I would like to hear the views of the FCI on what Ms Murphy said about tractors on motorways. Would the farm contractors share her opinion? I am not trying to get a row going here or anything. I am just wondering what they think. The FCI is seeking an exemption from the proposed NCT for tractors. I would like to hear the logic behind that. We are all buying into high standards of road safety. I do not really understand the FCI's argument in this respect.
I ask Mr. Lee to respond to Deputy O'Keeffe and Senator O'Sullivan. He will be followed by Ms Murphy and the representatives of the FCI. I am not sure if there were any questions for Mr. Farrell or Ms Kinnarney.
Mr. Harry Lee:
Senator O'Sullivan asked about the definition of "write-off". It is a financial term. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with the motor industry. It gives no indication of the damage caused to a vehicle and therefore no indication of the repairs needed to return the vehicle to the road.
When I began working on this four years ago, I asked people both inside and outside the industry their understanding of the term "write-off" and the majority of them, including, sadly, many within the industry, believed that the term "write-off" meant that it was very badly damaged in regard to structure and chassis damage and therefore should not go back on the road, but it has nothing to do with the damage. It only has to do with cost. There are cases where vehicles are write-offs and they are still roadworthy. That is in contrast to the belief that they are not, and it is one of the reasons I believe we need to change our terminology and our categories so that we have categories that reflect the damage and therefore reflect the repairs that are necessary to make these cars safe again. Just because a vehicle is badly damaged does not mean it cannot be repaired. Vehicles are designed to be repaired in many cases. We just need an infrastructure in place that allows them to be repaired correctly and the correct documentation stating that the vehicle has been repaired correctly and is safe to go back on the road.
On the 10%, which is one of the figures for the imports from the United Kingdom, which are write-offs, that is not necessarily an issue but because there is no paper trail in terms of documentation, I believe it is open for the vehicles that are not safe to come into the country. They should not be brought in and we need some mechanism in place that stops that happening. I believe all vehicles that are imported should be tested. Ms Verona Murphy has just informed me that all commercial vehicles that are imported are tested. We should be looking at that for non-commercial vehicles. I believe the Road Safety Authority, RSA, through the national car test, NCT, would have a big part to play in that regard.
Regarding documentation for write-offs, there is some documentation but there are no set rules. When there is documentation on vehicles being repaired, much of it is private. It is my opinion, based on my experience, that should be public. If an engineer goes out and inspects a vehicle, there should be a report that follows that vehicle, especially when it is a write-off. Even if it is still an economic repair but there are safety and structural repairs, there should be a vehicle report that goes with that vehicle. When it is ready to go back on the road, therefore, the person who will sign off on that, whether it is someone like myself as an assessor or somebody in the garage, the insurance company, the fleet company, will have something to refer back to, but there is no paper trail. There are issues with data protection. What I am talking about is just a report on the vehicle and the damage. I believe if one of them is designed and brought in as the rule for everything, it sets a high standard in terms of repairing vehicles and getting them back on the road. That would go a long way to ensuring that our cars are safe.
Ms Verona Murphy:
To answer Senator O'Sullivan's questions on cyclists, it is not about the right of either the cyclist or the truck driver. It is about a mutual understanding and respect of road use. That is the conundrum. Cyclists undergo no formal training. They learn to ride a bike and that is more or less it for the rest of their lives. A truck driver will be shown how to take that manoeuvre to the left from day one. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport reduced our carrying capacity from 42 tonnes to 40 tonnes on a five axle vehicle. The hope was that would put six axle vehicles on the road carrying six tonnes. In terms of the manoeuvrability of a six axle vehicle in comparison to a five axle vehicle, they would be miles apart. We do not have the possibility of doing it any other way but if the cyclist had undergone any type of formal training, he or she would understand the manoeuvre in the same way that the truck driver only has the traffic light system to complete the manoeuvre. The cyclist can stay back and let him complete his manoeuvre. They should have respect for one another. Alternatively, what would happen is that the cyclist may be knocked down because of poor visibility.
There is a huge disparity in terms of what can be seen, but we cannot dictate which are which with regard to left hand drive and right hand drive trucks. If a left hand drive truck comes into the country, it is normally of foreign registration. All my trucks are left hand drive because I predominantly work on the Continent and it was for easy access to toll booths when they were in being. The manoeuvre is taken in proper fashion but it is generally the cyclist who does not understand the manoeuvre. It is about safety and respect for one another. We have nothing against cyclists. We want all cyclists to be highly visible. It is not just cyclists that we do not want to wear headphones. We do not believe any road user should wear a headphone, whether they are a pedestrian on a leisurely walk or whatever. In France and the rest of Europe, one will receive a €1,000 fine for the use of headphones while operating a mechanically propelled vehicle. That should not be any different from operating one on the general roadway
With regard to overtaking in inclement weather conditions, it is very frustrating. I have had experience of that and it is more about one's own judgment. I do not believe drivers hog the white line on dual carriageways. The problem is the size of their wheels versus what we are used to but in inclement conditions that does not matter. If there is heavy rain, it is always safer to err on the side of caution. The driver is probably maintaining his proper speed. He is not doing anything wrong but the size of his wheel in comparison to the amount of water that is being thrown up makes it highly dangerous, and it takes great experience to overtake a truck of that size while driving in inclement weather conditions. It is better to arrive alive. I have often sat behind a truck for 40 km or 50 km in inclement weather conditions for the sake of not being able to overtake and see where I am going. Again, it is about mutual respect for all road users. Environmentally, cyclists are encouraged in cities throughout the world. We have no difficulty with that but there needs to be an understanding of the manoeuvre that driver is making and, equally, that the cyclist is the smaller of the two road users. There is nothing we can do. We have all the requirements of DOE testing, which is to a very high standard. We are held to account. There is no longer any slippage in this area whereby one might get away with this or that. Our standards are extremely high. They are set down by the RSA and the CVRT DOE centres and if one does not have the requirement, one does not pass the test.
I had a gentleman with an 03 registration truck complain to me the other day. The manufacturer's mirror that was fitted in 2003 was still on that truck but the standard has since changed, and it is on the basis of vision regarding pedestrians and cyclists. He was aggrieved that he had to change and update the standard of the mirror because it was a manufactured mirror but that is how we evolve. This is how road safety works. Standards change, and it is costly to comply. I do not see that costly updated vehicles are any different. They are all subject to wear and tear. They are all in need of maintenance and roadside checks but as Deputy O'Keeffe said, those roadside checks should not take place on roadways with speed limits of 100 km or more. I have spoken to the RSA and have been diligently told that it is An Garda Síochána which dictates where a roadside check takes place. In no country in Europe will we see a roadside check on a motorway. One will be diverted off the motorway but one will not see a check carried out on the M1, the N9, the M9 or any of those motorways. Equally, one will not see tractors on motorways but one will see them in Ireland. That amuses our European counterparts when it comes to road safety and road standards.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
To respond to Senator O'Sullivan on the issue of tractors on motorways, we would agree that tractors travelling below 50 km/h should not be on a motorway. We are clear about that in terms of road safety issues. We have a positive, supportive attitude towards road safety and we encourage our drivers to be alert to all the other road users.
On the tractor NCT issue, we have bought into road safety but in this situation there is no transparency or consultation whatsoever on it, and no information. We do not even know at this stage the tractors to which this applies.
On that basis, if we cannot get that information, we have to seek an exemption so we can make a decision when we have the information. No information has been flowing from the Road Safety Authority, RSA, as to the detail of this, despite numerous requests.
This impacts on our members to a great extent. On average, our contractor fleet is more modern than the typical tractor fleet. We have in the region of 68,000 tractors registered annually. They pay road tax annually. Of that number, close to 20,000 are in contractor fleets and they are predominantly more modern, better serviced tractors. Contractors will typically carry out their own servicing in the off season at this time of the year. If we get a wet day like today, there is very little activity on the land so most of the guys who work for contractors are in the workshops servicing machines to make sure that, when the weather is good, they do not have any downtime. There is a huge level of self-assessment in regard to safety, which is a huge priority. Contractors are employers and they have requirements under the terms of the employment Acts and health and safety regulations. They make a huge effort to ensure their staff and drivers operate equipment that is safe and roadworthy at all times.
The reason we are looking for the exemption is that, without information, it is difficult for us to say we should go forward because we do not know what we are going forward with.
Mr. Peter Farrelly:
We have looked for the Government to put training in place with us but we have had no feedback on that. Many of our people are trained and training is available. Most staff have lorry licences, but the biggest problem a contractor has is that when he gets a driver a lorry licence, the driver is gone to the hauliers. We are no different from the hauliers. There is a big scarcity of help. No young lad wants to come contracting due to the unsocial hours. We need something to try to keep these people in rural Ireland and to get them working. There should be no reason for unemployment for young lads in rural Ireland because there is plenty of work in the agri sector.
Tractor tickets are available and it is probably costing €2,000 per man each year to get those tickets for driving and doing the work. We are not much different from the hauliers. We have tickets and we have training facilities. There is a lot of expense and it is more the case that people do not know the training is available. We signed up last year for a training course for our tractor drivers and it was launched at our conference last year. This means that operators know they are not just sitting up on a tractor and driving it. Drivers need to be trained because our tractors and machines are so costly. We would like support from the Government to try to get a training programme and apprenticeships going so that, when people have three years done on a machine, they have a ticket to show they are competent drivers.
Mr. Moroney referred in his opening statement to contractor-owned tractors and I got the impression it was more a case of self-assessment. He said the tractors need to be in top condition and, therefore, need to be exempt from an NCT. Is this a self-assessment process and what checks and tests are carried out? Why does Mr. Moroney think it would be justified for contractor-owned tractors to be exempt from an NCT on the basis of road safety?
Mr. Moroney raised the issue of cyclists and the 1.5 m overtaking limit. Why does he feel this would not be enforceable for tractors? While he has outlined the problems, does he believe it could be enforceable for tractors?
Mr. Lee referred to automotive assessors. As he is aware, under the new road traffic legislation that has been brought in to cover write-offs, motor insurers are compelled to notify about all domestic write-offs so the records can be locked down and further circulation of the vehicle prevented. Is Mr. Lee suggesting the legislation is insufficient? He said the term "write-off" was a financial term and does not define what most people would term a write-off. Based on what Mr. Lee said, this legislation is not fit for purpose in regard to domestic write-offs. I would like clarity on that point.
Were there consultations with the Minister or the Department in the run-up to the new legislation coming in? Did the Minister take on board the concerns and what was the outcome?
The training and re-education programme was raised by Mr. Farrelly. What is the proposed length of time for the monitoring period and have the proposals been costed? Reference was made to a smartphone. Is the onus on the person to have the smartphone, and if they do not have one, what happens? Has there been any feedback from the National Transport Authority, NTA, the RSA or the Department on the proposals and has the association been in contact with them? Would it be compulsory or voluntary for drivers with six penalty points? Is the carrot the fact two penalty points will be dropped? In particular, I would like to know what consultation the association has had and whether this has been costed.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
In connection with the NCT, at this stage we are saying all tractors should be exempted, not just tractors in contractor fleets specifically. We do not have the necessary information, we do not know what is coming down the line and there has been no consultation on the matter with bodies like ours which have a high proportion of tractors that could be liable to be tested because they are on the road to a greater extent. That is predominantly the reason.
We are very much in favour of road safety. The Deputy asked what tests are carried out. Tests will be carried out daily by contractors on their tractors to make sure they achieve the maximum efficiency. In typical silage-making operations, a silage contractor wants to achieve somewhere in the region of 100 acres of silage harvested per day. The weakest link in that is the machine. Everything has to be running perfectly to achieve that level of output, which is necessary to achieve a proper level of turnover and the minimum level of profitability. It is a very price-conscious sector and legitimate organised contractors need to achieve a high level of throughput. That can only be achieved if machines are in top order. Their priority every single day the tractor goes out is that it must be able to perform to its best. During any downtime that is available due to weather and so on, the equipment is constantly maintained and kept up to date if the opportunity presents.
If we look at the number of non-road related accidents that take place on farms, we see that 50% of fatalities are related to tractors and machinery, but a very small percentage of those are contractor machinery and most are related to non-contractor operated equipment. We are delighted to say that. It is a justification for saying that the equipment is safe and there is no specific requirement for an NCT for tractors, particularly when we have not been made aware of the details of such an NCT. We do not know what is involved and there has been no consultation, which we consider very unfair to the people it has a significant impact on.
On the issue of overtaking-----
Mr. Moroney's argument is that there has been no consultation and the association does not know what the requirements will entail. His defence is that contractors are carrying out a self-assessment, but there is no mechanism to monitor what type of self-assessment it is or how reliable it is.
Any motorist or anybody that operates a vehicle is required to have an NCT. If a similar scheme were in operation for the average motorist, he or she could argue that he or she had checked the car and it is all right, it is grand, it is only four years old. Does Mr. Moroney accept my point?
Mr. Michael Moroney:
I understand the reason for the Deputy's question. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If one looks at European or Irish statistics, the number of tractors involved in road collisions is 1% or less in both Europe and Ireland. Generally speaking, rather than looking at a paper trail, the real proof is what happens on the ground. That is that tractors are involved in such a small number of road collisions and are responsible for such a small number of casualties that it is a reflection-----
At low speed, in fairness. Speed is a major contributor to accidents and tractors are low speed vehicles. That would lower the percentage automatically. I am not arguing that point, I am just asking Mr. Moroney why contractor-owned tractors and other tractors should be exempt from an NCT when all other motorised vehicles have to comply with it, particularly given that tractor owners self-assess their tractors and there is no basis for monitoring that?
Mr. Michael Moroney:
The key response that has been given to the Deputy's question is that there has been no consultation. We do not know what the NCT for a tractor will be because the RSA has not told us. It has not been agreed what a roadworthiness test for a tractor will be in Europe. I do not want to go into technical matters in too much detail but some of these need to be addressed, such as the brake testing of an agricultural tractor compared to a truck. If the technical matters are not addressed, we are looking at a Bill being passed into law without knowing what its impact is going to be. We know that the impact in terms of accidents is quite small. This is within the group that does not require a roadworthiness test at the moment.
Mr. Peter Farrelly:
These are not the tractors that are in the crashes. By doing this we are not improving road safety. According to the statistics, contractors' tractors are not the ones in the accidents. It is the older, poorer condition tractors that are in accidents. Bringing in a road test for 40 kph plus tractors does not make sense when statistics show probably 90% of accidents involve the other tractors. The contractors' tractors' involvement is very limited. If insurance companies are asked what tractors are in accidents, they will say it is slower-moving tractors.
Most of these crashes happen when a tractor is coming out of a junction or coming out of a gateway from a field. To improve safety we need to address the causes of these 99 % of accidents. Safety can simply be improved by cutting the hedges so the driver can see. Hedges within 180 m of exits are supposed to be cut. Tractor drivers are limited because they cannot cut them to see out. If the Deputy looks at statistics or goes to insurance companies she will see that coming out of entrances where the driver cannot see down the road is where most tractor accidents take place. The NCT is not going to improve our road safety. Our issue is that we should improve road safety in whatever way we can improve it and that is visibility. It does not matter whether it is a lorry or a car. If a lorry goes down the road and the tractor driver can see round the corners and see the vehicle coming, that is the easiest and most cost-effective way of improving our roads.
These proposals are hitting tractors that are not in the accident system at the moment.
Mr. Harry Lee:
On the term "write-off", I probably did not explain it properly. The term "write-off" covers all write-offs. From an engineering point of view, the titles usually used are end of life vehicle, now commonly known as the category As or Bs, which are vehicles that are not to go back on the road under any circumstances. Then there are the Cs and Ds, which are beyond economic repair. No vehicle in category A or B goes back on the road. As far as I understand, the Department has been told to lock these down. Within the C and D categories there are a lot of structurally-damaged and unsafe vehicles that need to be repaired. That is where the problems happen. Those vehicles go back out in the market or into the trade and there is nothing to ensure that the person who repairs them knows they have to get it back to a certain standard. It is just not there. The current idea of sending As and Bs to be checked to see if they are fit for purpose is not sufficient. The first step, which can be taken straight away, is to have the insurance companies forward the Cs and Ds and we can deal with them. That could be expanded in the future until it just comes down to the ones that need to be inspected afterwards to receive a report to say it can go back on the road. Not all of them need a full engineer's report.
As I said earlier, many vehicles do not go through the insurance process. There are a lot of benefits to a vehicle going through the insurance process. It changes the attitude of people repairing them because they know there may be somebody coming behind and checking their work. However, when it just goes out on its own there is nothing there to ensure that it is properly maintained. There are a lot of garages and repairers who are doing a great job and doing it properly. They are not where the problems are. The problems are elsewhere. Some of these people do not realise what they should be doing and some, I am sorry to say, do not care. We need a structure in place to ensure that when these vehicles go back on the road, which happens quite often, they are in a safe and roadworthy condition.
I have not consulted with anyone else. In previous years I was in contact with the Road Safety Authority and such agencies. I have been working on today's issues for the past couple of years and I have not directly consulted with anyone.
Mr. John Farrell:
It was a five part question. I will let Ms Kinnarney deal with a couple of parts and I will deal with the rest of them.
Deputy Munster asked about the monitoring. It has to be a reasonable period of time to make it attractive to people. If a person has accumulated points over, say, three years, and the accumulation is six or eight points, two or three or four of which are due to run out within 12 months, one could see a position where a person would decide just to let it run out. There is no attraction there. We see it as somewhere between three to six months. Around three months would be the monitoring period.
There are two parts to the costing question. Because the RSA has protocols in place for dealing with certificates of professional competence and professional drivers' accreditation and reportage they have the systems in place to handle the reports and to send out the penalty points. From our point of view there will be minimum cost.
We are currently speaking to a number of people about the big imponderable, which is the app and its cost. This includes the reporting structure and all the stuff tied in to that. While it is a simple concept, it involves how the app feeds back to one's phone and reports back to the phone. That is a bit of a grey area at the moment and is being discussed with a number of people.
We know the RSA has been given our initial proposal and more recent, updated one. It has written back through a Deputy to say it is very interested. We have not yet met with its representatives but we would love to do so.
I will leave Ms Kinnarney to talk about the smartphone and compulsory or voluntary part of the-----
Ms Yvonne Kinnarney:
The training is voluntary. In some parts of the UK there is compulsory training whereby drivers are requested, on foot of continuous infringements, to retrain. We would envisage that training here would be compulsory so drivers would have an opt-in choice in the context of whether they want to do it. If drivers want points to remain on their licences, they can do so and then allow them to run out after a three-year period. As stated, it would be an opt-in and drivers would take ownership and responsibility for what they have done and, therefore, they would choose to undergo training to improve their driving.
To reiterate what Mr. Farrell stated, as with the current essential driver training, EDT, syllabus, the ADI unit has facilities. The driver details are logged on the RSA portal. That means each individual lesson is logged, individual drivers can access the portal and they are also given feedback on their reports. The training provider can also access the portal to see what areas have been covered. In the context of it being compulsory, the onus would be on a driver to take responsibility for what he or she has done and re-educate himself or herself. From the ages of 17 to 70, unless it is in a professional capacity, there is no retraining for drivers.
Our training would also complement what is being discussed here today. At present, the RSA approvers ADI instructors to train young trained drivers to attain category B licences. ADI instructors only holds category B licences. We propose that our trainers would hold category B licences plus licences to drive trucks or buses in order that they might become educated as to the capabilities of work vehicles and HGVs on the road. In my opinion, and from what I have learned from delivering training for the driver certificate of professional competence, CPC, the trainer also needs to have that experience. As Ms Murphy said earlier, some trainers do not have the qualification. I am of the view that training needs to be put in place to re-educate car drivers and educate them on what happens on roads and on how work vehicles and HGVs work and their capabilities. A car driver will not understand what happens when a large vehicle turns left because he or she may not have been told about it when he or she was taught to drive. The voluntary aspect would be that the onus should be on the driver to undergo training in order to re-educated.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
In the absence of full information on tractor roadworthiness testing, it has been hinted that this will not impact on tractors used for agricultural activities. There is an issue with defining what constitutes agricultural use and commercial use. Farm contractors operate in the agricultural sector for commercial reasons hence the definition will have an impact. If, for example, a farmer has a tractor that is exempt from testing because it is being used for agricultural purposes or if one is a contractor that does some non-agricultural work, the vehicle does not suddenly change. It is still a tractor but because it is on a farm it may be exempt but a tractor in a contractor's fleet will not be exempt. That situation is completely unfair in terms of competition law.
It would be helpful if the committee agreed to seek as much information as possible on the plans, the timeframe, etc. We should do so, as a matter of urgency, given the timescale that is involved. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I welcome everyone to the meeting. I have looked into this matter a small bit. The first point I would make relates to the laws that are coming in. I have a major problem with some of the stuff that the RSA is trying to introduce and with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport due to a lack of clarity about certain matters. I agree with what has just been proposed.
What activity does the RSA define as being commercial in nature, as opposed to an activity carried out by a farmer? A silage contractor on hire can deliver silage to a farmer and does not need to have had a roadworthiness test carried out on his vehicle. If he hitches a trailer to his tractor and brings cattle to the mart for the same farmer, then he will need a roadworthiness certificate. This is despite the fact that he is using the same tractor. The law, as it stands, is an ass. The directive was transposed into law in 2011 and it must be enforced from next year.
If I rip the seat out of a tractor and ask my 16 year old young fella to drive it, then he can drive it on the road. If I have a seat in the tractor, I must pay another person to drive it if my young fella only holds a provisional licence. This shows the stupidity of what is being put in place. I would like to hear the views of the witnesses on these issues.
Hedges are a major problem. I wish to refer to another law that has been introduced. I live 31 miles from Tuam. If I want to bring cattle to the mart in Tuam, I am obliged to install a tachograph on my tractor when I am 30 miles from the town. This is just because I am 1 mile way from the 50 km limit. I have to do this just to bring my cattle to a mart. I spoke to the former Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Donohoe, about this matter and he said that it would be considered by his Department. I do not wish to criticise him but the Department has not considered the matter. If I want to haul a few bales and I travel 61 or 62 miles - and in the west one might need to travel that distance to collect a load of bales - one needs to install a tachograph after 100 km. There was scope to extend the distance to 250 km and to 150 km in respect of cattle. If that was done, we could have complied with EU law but, unfortunately, we did not listen to the proposal.
My next question is for the FCI and Ms Murphy. I have a major problem with the fact that money has been thrown at the RSA. Do the witnesses think that instruction on how to ride a motorbike or drive a car or tractor should be introduced for transition year students in second-level education? Some Oireachtas committee should make the proposal. I am not a member of this committee and I thank the Chairman for affording me an opportunity to speak. Should we have a scheme whereby a person could get 20 points or whatever if he or she does X amount driver training during transition year Such an initiative would ensure people learned what happens to a person cycling a bicycle on the inside lane when a lorry turns left. Lord God, it is terrible to think about what happens on the roads at times.
I worry about Ms Murphy's call for tractors to be banned. It is fine if people want to ban them but what should be done with 75 year old people who drive their cars at 30 mph and cause long tailbacks? This would drive a person mad at times but does Ms Murphy want to ban them from driving as well? Such people are allowed to drive their cars on motorways.
I agree with what the witnesses said about having a three-year course. I have a background in driving lorries and tractors. I am a certified transport manager and I completed an intensive course in three months.
It is a while since I completed the course. One can complete a transport manager course quickly. A three-year course will not appeal to a young person. I understand all the different sides of the argument but I believe it is possible for a person to complete an intensive course in a year.
I wish to ask Mr. Lee a couple of questions. I understood that all English vehicles coming into this country can be checked for A, B, C and D and to see if they were hit. Am I correct? I understand that such cases require an NCT and that one cannot register an English vehicle and drive it here if the vehicle does not have a NCT certificate. I also understand that one can draw insurance on anything that gets hit here. When one looks for insurance, the insurance companies have all of the data relating to a vehicle.
I presume the NCT people know their job as they are qualified mechanics. I would imagine that if they were doing an NCT, they would know. Is the FCI trying to make more paperwork and more work for its own people?
I have driven lorries and have done the driver certificate of professional competence, CPC, and, to be frank, I knew more than those who were training me. There is frustration among lorry drivers when the person testing them as na leabhair. Always remember that word. Many people have read the book but to do it in practice is different. There is a major problem with CPC courses. I believe France is not doing it and their youth have been told to go where the sun does not shine, as I heard the other day. The courses here need a revamp. If a person wants to do five days in a row over the five years, he or she should be allowed to do it that way. Currently, if a person wants to do that, he or she must call the RSA and give this bullshit story that he or she could not do it the other way and then do two together. A person should be able to do the five days if he or she wants to do so.
I propose that the committee writes to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to ask that the upper limit with regard to kilometres travelled would be pursued and implemented if there are no issues in that regard. Is that agreed? Agreed. A number of issues were raised by Deputy Fitzmaurice for the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors, FCI, and we will take them in that order, please.
Mr. Richard White:
I will reply to Deputy Fitzmaurice's statement about transition year students. It would be a great idea and we should start as soon as is humanly possible. In terms of the younger people who work on contractors' outfits, I see that there is a lack of drivers' safety awareness. To be fair, if they have attended agricultural college, we know that they have had safety beaten into them since the day they went in. The people who have not gone to agricultural college, however, and who come to a contractor looking for a summer job for six to eight weeks present the biggest problem of all in terms of the lack of safety awareness around agricultural machinery and vehicles. The problem for the contractor is the high risk because the contractor becomes the trainer as well as being the employer. The training should have started in school and transition year is a great place to do that. There should be more connection between rural businesses and the schools and we need to do that going forward to bring up the skills base.
Ms Verona Murphy:
I do not disagree with Deputy Fitzmaurice's suggestion. My only argument would be that it should start a lot earlier. This would be presuming that everybody is going to drive a car or ride a bicycle. That is not the case in urban areas but in the same vein there is a huge disparity understanding how a mechanically propelled vehicle operates, be it a car or a heavy goods vehicle, in comparison to pedestrian or cyclist safety awareness. If a driver of a vehicle uses a mobile phone it incurs penalty points because it is a huge safety risk. If a pedestrian steps off the footpath with a mobile phone in his or her hand while Googling or reading texts it is not an offence. It should be an offence because the person is in the public area, whether driving or otherwise. Everybody has to have respect for what he or she does on the roads.
I really want this committee to look at the issue of hedges. There is no disparity between us and the forestry and agricultural contractors around road safety. We want the same thing. NCT, road haulage licences and one versus the other are all competitive issues and we can deal with them outside this arena. Hedge cutting, however, is a basic fact of road safety. It is the easiest measure to administer. The county councils have the power. Whether or not they have the money or the wherewithal to go after the landowner is another thing. It is the primary cause of most road accidents in rural Ireland. It has not been mentioned much today. The height of a mirror of a truck tractor or a bus is 4 m. There is no height requirement in the legislation. It should be best practice and it should be practical in application. The county manager in Wexford is a very proactive individual. Last week they cut hedging in Wexford under the special provision of road safety, which was outside the hedge cutting period. It can be done as it is already regulated for. The law is there so it should be used.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
The Deputy is correct. This is an area on which we need clarification in terms of how we get the definition for what is commercial and what is agricultural. We are fairly clear about what land-based contractors are, what they do and what our members do, such as providing mechanisation and skilled services, etc. for financial reward.
Mr. Peter Farrelly:
We must also seek clarification on the yellow line situation and if we can drive inside it. A man in Mayo received seven penalty points, a man in Tipperary received two points and a man in Mullingar got two points for pulling in to allow traffic to pass by. We need clarification across the State on the yellow line issue. Can we pull in to relieve traffic? The Garda in different areas seem to have a different interpretation of it.
Mr. Peter Farrelly:
In regard to the hedges, our councils are ending up in court over hedge cutting. That is a big problem. We hear that the councils can go ahead with cutting if they believe the hedges are unsafe but Longford County Council was in court over it. The contractor was fined €3,500 as was the council. I was in court because I cut hedges outside a football pitch to make it safe. The law is there to allow hedges be cut but the law is not working. Only 4% of hedges are on roadsides, so there are plenty of other places in the fields for birds to live. All hedges that need cutting for road safety should be cut. We would have less of the leaves, debris and hassle that we see with stormy weather.
Mr. Peter Farrelly:
Why should a council need to apply for permission? They are the people who look after our roads and our safety in that regard. The council should not have to ask for permission if it believes a tree will fall in the wind. The council should be entitled to cut the tree without running anywhere.
Mr. Peter Farrelly:
It is pointless that councils are being brought to court for doing something that will make our roads safer. When there is no muck or leaves a road can be dry on frosty mornings when the sun gets at it. There would not be as many potholes because there would be no shelter for the water that could lie there. We must look for our roads to be exempt from the Wildlife (Amendment) Act.
Ms Verona Murphy:
No. There is no stipulation. It is our best practice. With due regard to all present, that is the height it needs to be; 4 m and upwards. There is no point in less. There are several roads that we must avoid because of overhanging branches. Our drivers avoid those roads because their trucks would have to go onto the other side of the road or they would seriously damage their vehicles.
Ms Yvonne Kinnarney:
Reference was made to transition year, TY, and driver safety awareness. I definitely agree that the subject should be compulsory in transition year. As a trainer I currently go out to the TY students.
One of my trainers is out there today and there is one next week with local schools in Mullingar. We do a three-day training course with the transition year, TY, students. The issue that arises is the cost. The cost goes on to the parents. In most cases, they do not have a problem because the course starts the driver off in the right way, but the board of education does not contribute enough, though it contributes a small amount. In some schools, there are up to 70 students doing TY every year.
Ms Yvonne Kinnarney:
I have driven lorries. With regard to the driver CPC, I agree drivers definitely should be given the option to do it over a five-day period. There is an overlap of content between certain aspects of the modules. Ms Verona Murphy, Mr. Peter Farrelly and Mr. John Farrell would know what I am talking about. One of the flaws of the driver CPC is that there is no exam at the end of it.
Just one second. I wish to clarify this. Everyone is fond of exams and getting people to press buttons and answer questions. At the end of the day, there are some people driving, as Ms Verona Murphy mentioned, who are 55 years and over. Some of those people could be the best drivers in the world and be doing things right. However, they may not have had the opportunity that the witness or other people might have had of getting an education to be able to read and write very well. I have put proposals forward for the trailer licence process in order to replace this thing of putting them into the back of a lorry and pressing buttons. I have put proposals forward that the applicants would be at Mondello Park or somewhere where they can drive, turn and twist a trailer. This is why the academic side is so much about exams. There are exams for everything. They are sat down to write it down and they are made to sweat. Until the day comes that we have more of an apprentice system with people and work with them that way, we will never achieve road safety.
I was very impressed by all of the presentations that were made this morning. I wish to focus on Mr. Lee's presentation, which was alarming in showing the headline figures in terms of the 10% of insurance write-offs. It is good to get clarity on what a write-off is. I thought the presentation was comprehensive and interesting. With regard to the presentation of Mr. Farrell and Ms Kinnarney, it was clear that there has been a sharp increase in terms of road fatalities, unfortunately, from 2015 to 2016, as well as the evolution of road safety methods. We have to get into a situation in which some aspect of lifelong learning is introduced into road safety. In every other sector nowadays, there is some aspect of lifelong learning coming into it. The fact that it is non-compulsory can be a huge incentive for people to take an interest in it. Obviously, if someone has a driver's licence over a 53-year period or got the licence in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s or whatever decade, there have been evolving safety issues over that time. I wish to ask Mr. Farrell about incentives for people who may do the course. If there is a headline figure of approximately 61,000 drivers on six or more penalty points, are there any incentives for those in terms of insurance value? Has the witness been talking to any insurance companies in terms of assessing whether there could be an incentive? We know that the cost of insurance has gone up largely over the last number of years but is there a benefit in that role?
Mr. John Farrell:
With regard to incentive from an insurance company's point of view, if one has no points on one's licence, one is charged a figure. With two points, that figure increases. It increases proportionately for four and six points. What also happens in insurance is that one will have difficulty getting alternative quotes. If one is with a particular company and one's insurance is annually renewed with it, the company is quite happy when the driver has no points and other companies are quite happy to quote against it. It gives the driver the chance of getting a competitive rate, for want of a better word.
If the driver accumulates points, two things happen. One is that the driver is not as liable to get a quote from a competitor. The second thing is that the driver's existing insurance company treats the driver as an increased risk. Obviously, the driver has more offences and is seen as an increased risk on the road. Therefore, it will increase the premium. Premiums were increased from last year to this year. There is a committee in the Oireachtas looking at that at the moment. Anything that helps to bring that back down is a good thing. Therefore, if the driver takes our proposal by which he or she undertakes monitoring and a class, at the end of that period, by showing the company that the driver was monitored and has a reduction in points, he or she obviously comes back into a position in which he or she can look for competitive quotes. Straight away, there is a financial benefit for the driver, as well as getting the number of penalty points down, improving road skills and contributing to road safety.
Has the witness had interaction with the insurance sector about the fact that the programme is actually improving a driver's skill? Penalty points expiring through natural wastage is one thing, but on the other side, drivers are going to get additional upskilling in their driving and will obviously be in a better position to use the road than they would have been previously, due to the development they have undergone.
Mr. John Farrell:
Yes, we have spoken to a number of insurance companies. The general feedback is that this is completely welcome. They see it as making absolute sense. They cannot see why it should not happen quickly. They believe in anything that upskills drivers. Again, I go back to the figure of 53 years. While that is the longest period of having a licence, since then roads have changed, vehicles have changed and the whole world has changed. The fact that we have a mobile phone in the car now means that the car is an office. There are the possibilities of using other things. It is not a computer at home on the desk anymore. Everything is sitting on our phones in front of us. All of these thing contribute. We can help to change driver behaviour.
The big thing for the insurance companies is the monitoring and the feedback. If we have someone monitored with feedback over a period of time, not over a day or anything like a one-day course, behaviours are changed. In the same context of insurance, we spoke to the companies about young people and novice drivers getting a licence and an N-plate. I am using the term "young people", but obviously someone can be 30 or 40 when getting a licence. Young people are given a novice plate for two years. The premiums they are being asked for at times are astronomical. Some companies are already giving reduced rates for monitored drivers. They see this as very important. Perhaps this is something that should be looked at from a road safety point of view for the upskilling of drivers. Maybe drivers should be monitored for a longer time during the novice period. It would mean that when they become fully qualified drivers, they are actually able to drive and learn good habits over a period of time.
I thank the Chairman for allowing me to pose these few questions. Logistically, in terms of how the app would work, has the witness more detail on how it would connect in the car and what monitoring would take place in the driving session?
Mr. John Farrell:
There are a number of different options, but I will explain two options. One option is that the app is attached to the phone only. It would be on the phone as an ordinary app would be at the moment. It is on all of the time. When one drives or goes above walking speed, it starts to work straight away. It takes measurements. It basically works on inertia. If one goes around a corner, the phone knows that one has gone around the corner very fast. It knows if a driver brakes very hard or accelerates. It is location-based, so it knows if the driver is speeding in an area. What is very relevant is that it knows if the driver has manually used the phone. If the driver picks up the phone to look at a text, it knows that has been done and it reports on that.
If the driver does any of those negative things, the driver gets minus points. It is worked on a points basis. The driver is trying to get his or her points up rather than seeing them go down. If the driver does not use the phone, leaves it sitting in the glove box of the car for the duration and drives safely within the speed limit with no rapid acceleration away from traffic lights or roundabouts and no rapid braking, it will measure that and the points will increase. Over a period of time, the driver will get better. The driver can start off with ten or 20 faults.
Those faults would be shown in the evening and the following day the driver will think about them and have fewer faults. Over time the driver will look at this. Most modern cars have an arrow to tell the driver to change up or down gear. It is simple but it makes the driver more fuel efficient. The app is pretty much the same idea.
The second option is to have a plug-in unit in the car that goes into the socket where the mechanic plugs in his computer. That links with Bluetooth to the driver's phone. It does the same thing but is much more expensive and a bit unwieldy. We believe the simpler we can make it the more attractive it becomes. Everybody who has a smartphone has some shape or form of app on it.
I welcome our guests and thank them for taking the time to come here today. We suggested that the committee have several sessions on road safety because, unfortunately, in the past 12 months there has been a reversal of the positive trend in road fatalities. It is very important that the stakeholders come in and give us worthwhile suggestions on what we as a committee can do to feed into any upcoming road safety Bill. It is unfortunate that the Minister seems to be fixated on one issue as the sole and exclusive way to alleviate road fatalities. It is up to the committee to try to bring pressure to bear on him to take a wider approach.
Mr. Farrell's proposal is very innovative and worthwhile and needs a bit more clarification. He talks about monitoring driving patterns and using a carrot rather than a stick because anyone who has penalty points sees an increase in insurance premium, whereas reporting positive driving patterns over a period would result in a reduction in the premium. Anything that improves driving patterns and road safety is very welcome. How quickly could this be rolled out? Who would Mr. Farrell envisage monitoring this? Who would be the monitoring body? How would he see that body reporting or using the data that could be extrapolated from the app?
I am worried about the use of mobile phones in a car, lorry or tractor. Ms Murphy would say we should not use them on the footpath in case we walk off it. We have to be careful how far we go in policing the use of mobile phones. If a person is using the phone when driving a vehicle, how would Mr. Farrell ensure that person never has to take up the phone? Would a requirement for the app be that the phone must be in a permanent cradle in the car or the cabin of the lorry? I recently sent a text message to someone and received an automatic reply to say the person was driving and would respond on reached the destination. Is that a new service or in certain cars?
Mr. John Farrell:
Monitoring should be done by the RSA. Initially we will monitor and will give feedback as a cohort because there may be freedom and civil liberties issues. We will bring the details of each individual into a secure location and that cohort can be fed back to the RSA, for example, everybody speeds on a 50 km zone going into a certain town. The number of people using mobile phones while driving will be measured and fed back. This is voluntary. If a driver decides to take this course and to be monitored and does not adhere to best practice or improve, the driver will not get the two points back. The driver has to take the good with the bad, and if he or she does not abide by the rules of the road or drive according to best practice, he or she will retain penalty points.
There is a facility in each smartphone to show whether a person has pressed a button. Doing that would be a minus point. Insurance companies are using smartphone apps with individuals to get reduced premia. I have not asked but I have not read that the phone must be in a fixed position in the car. If it is in a pocket, a bag or the glove compartment, it moves with the driver. If the driver brakes hard, it will move, but I am not sure that it has to be in a fixed place.
What were the first two questions?
Mr. Farrell says there is already an app and certain insurance companies are working with Mr. Farrell or some provider of an app that monitors driver behaviour which is reported back to the insurance company.
Mr. John Farrell:
It is being done on a commercial basis for an insurance company's premium evaluation for want of a better word. As I recall from a previous committee meeting, the RSA is talking to a motor manufacturer about a fixed unit in a brand of car. The app is probably the easiest bit in that there is enough technology around and we just need to bring it together and agree what we will do. The agreement would be the manual and the course content. It could be set up in a reasonable period, which could be 12 months.
Would the monitoring be indefinite? For argument's sake, when I was a young driver, Aviva, I think, offered a special discount for anyone under 25 who participated in a day's driving course. At 20% or 30% off a premium of €3,000 it was worthwhile taking a day off to do the course. Mr. Farrell is considering doing something similar indefinitely and continually.
Mr. John Farrell:
There are two parts to it. From the point of view of training, we see that drivers need to be monitored and given feedback for a period to change their behaviour. The period must be reasonable, by which I mean three or four months although I am not sure. We will be told what is best in that regard but we consider three months to be reasonable. On this basis, drivers would get their penalty points removed. Insurance companies could ask drivers to be monitored for periods of six, nine or 12 months so that their next premiums be reduced, but the fact that they would already be coming back down by two points would mean they would be in a better place applying for renewal of their premiums for the following year.
I wish to move on to Ms Murphy from the Irish Road Haulage Association. Her presentation states that the cycling Bill, as proposed, to her mind, will be totally unworkable. It has not yet come before the committee. I find that everyone wants to blame somebody else. The drivers say the cyclists are irresponsible; the cyclists say the drivers are irresponsible. In fact, all of us, including cyclists, drivers, etc., bear an element of responsibility on the road to ensure that best practice is adhered to. I too have concerns about the separation distance and whether it will be feasible at all because of the width of the roads in certain locations. It simply may not be feasible, but we will have to work on that as the Bill passes through Committee Stage.
I welcome Ms Murphy's suggestion that everybody be compelled through legislation to wear high visibility jackets. I put forward such a proposal a few weeks ago in our first meeting. Everybody, including pedestrians and cyclists, should wear high visibility vests.
The IRHA calls for a full review of the CPC programme. I ask Ms Murphy to expand a little further on this. A great challenge for her organisation is how to maintain a pool of professional drivers, and it is a profession. It is important we have people who can capably and competently drive lorries. It is a highly skilled job and a very important one because if they do not drive correctly, it can cause widespread carnage on our roads. Is there anything we can do, or is there anything that needs to be done at a departmental level, to try to encourage or put in place a system which would help the IRHA? In light of the large road haulage movements of the IRHA's members between here, Britain and the rest of Europe, will Brexit have a detrimental impact on the IRHA's drivers, and could that in turn have an impact on road safety in the future?
My colleague, Deputy Fitzmaurice, raised the point about imported cars. Perhaps I missed it, but I do not think Mr. Lee answered the question and I ask him to come back to it.
Ms Verona Murphy:
I absolutely agree with Deputy Troy's point about high visibility vests. We do not want this to sound as if the IRHA has a mantra against other road users. Many bicycles in the city and in rural areas have flashing lights, but a bulb can blow, just as it can on a car. However, it is highly unlikely if one is wearing a high visibility vest that it will be ripped off. There is nothing electrified or mechanical about it. It is a high-vis vest doing its job. If a cyclist's bulb goes, there is some hope; if a cyclist's bulb goes and he or she is not wearing a high-vis vest, God help us all.
Much has been said about the CPC. From our perspective, it is an EU regulation, but in Poland and some of the other eastern European countries, it can be done, as the Deputy said, over a five-day period once every five years. One does all one's courses and modules and that is it. There is no requirement here on a foreign national driving a HGV to drive on an Irish licence. There is a recommendation that if a driver has been here for ten years and wishes to renew his or her licence, it should be renewed in this jurisdiction. It is only a recommendation. However, the driver must then carry out his or her CPC in this jurisdiction. It is delivered in English, full stop. I would much prefer that a Polish driver driving in Ireland go back to Poland to do his CPC in his own native language and come back to drive in Ireland. All things being equal, every CPC course is supposed to have the same aim, that is, to update professional competence. Therefore, the country in which one does one's CPC does not matter. My drivers go to Italy. They sit their CPCs in Ireland in their own language and they drive in Italy. The competence is about driving and updating. It does not warrant a written examination. It is a practical application of what we do. One can pass a written exam - we all know there are academics - but one might not be able to drive. One might be well capable of passing the exam; it is a matter of obtaining the information in a meaningful manner that assists with road safety and updating.
If I started talking about the pool of drivers and Brexit, we would need a whole committee of its own. The IRHA, particularly during my term of presidency, has for almost two years consulted with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to try to obtain non-EU work permits. There is a deficit of 40,000 drivers in the UK. There is probably now, in Ireland, somewhere in the region of a deficit of 10,000. This sounds outlandish and ridiculous but it is not. We are unable to expand business because of the shortage of drivers. We are heavily regulated. The chaps in front of me can drive all day and all night with what they do. There is no regulation. Our drivers can drive nine hours over a 15-hour period daily - that is it - and the 15 hours do not exist if they get their nine hours' driving done in ten hours. We are heavily regulated. If we want to operate a truck beyond a nine or ten hour period twice a week, we must have two drivers. The drivers are not there. They are not coming in. We need the non-EU permits to try to sustain us for what Brexit might bring. It is about planning and preparation.
I am told by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, DJEI, that 174,000 people are on the dole. I do not dispute the figure, but how many of them are drivers who have HGV licences and whom we could retrain or do anything else with? I have never been told this. I have been virtually ignored in trying to get the non-EU work permits. It is about planning and it is about our consumers. If we do not have the drivers to drive the trucks, the trucks do not move and the good do not get to their destinations. We have several hundred South African drivers asking to come to this country to work. They speak English, they drive on the same side of the road as we do and they could undertake one of these courses or a proper HGV. We are prepared to put them through that but we cannot get them here. To my mind, this is a particular lack of foresight in the planning for Brexit and what it may or may not bring.
All we are asking is something simple. If we get our driver apprenticeship up and running, it will take three years to turn out fully qualified, competent drivers. We are asking for interim non-EU work permits for that period so that we may be sustainable. We are currently not sustainable. All these laws proposed by the Minister, Deputy Ross, and the cycling Bill are levelled at our profession from the point of view of when it gets enforced. If there is an accident between a truck and a cyclist, who will measure the road? There is no spacing between the cycle lane and the carriageway beside it of 1.5 m. It is nonsensical, unenforceable legislation and we will take more time arguing about it than doing anything else. It is a waste of everybody's time. There is enough law in this area for us to deal with. We can have non-EU work permits - the law is there - but nobody wants to give them to us. This causes ripple effect problems and people taking on drivers who are not properly trained. They are probably qualified but they cannot drive. However, "needs must". That is my worry. For some people, needs must, while others have responsible attitudes. They are not always the same.
If we are talking about road safety, why not take the drivers who speak English, drive on the same side of the road whom we could bring to Ireland and train them to work safely, instead of allowing somebody who has acquired a HGV licence through army conscription and thinks he or she can drive a truck for commercial purposes? That is all relevant to road safety.
Ms Verona Murphy:
I hope not. Again, the RSA is stringent in what it does. We do not have to be stopped on the side of the road; we are subject to inspections of tachographs on the premises. An infringement is very costly and the haulage licence is always in jeopardy because of multiple infringements. A driver working a 45-hour week can have multiple infringements because anything over his or her driving time limit constitutes an infringement, whether it be one minute, five minutes or ten minutes. We are heavily regulated. One can have a driver who is keeping to Regulation 561; it does not mean that he or she can drive all the time. Similar to car drivers, one has good drivers and bad drivers, but we are prepared, if we achieve non-EU work permit status, to bring people in and train them properly. There are no requirements to be met if someone is European and coming from a country in which they have acquired his or her licence through conscription. Such persons can come into the country because they are from within the European Union, but, as I said, it does not mean that they can drive.
Ms Verona Murphy:
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is responsible for issuing permits and has not given me a cohesive response. What really frustrated the Irish Road Hauliers Association is that when we wrote to it in July 2016, its response was that a consultative group had recommended that it would be far more advantageous for the IRHA to set up an apprenticeship programme. Our programme was actually due to be rolled out the previous May but there had not been certification. We had a major Department telling us that we should set up such a programme. In the application for non-EU work permits in 2016, we indicated that we had an apprenticeship programme but that a person would be in training for three years and that we would not have professional drivers until 2019. It was as if the letter we had written had not been read. We received a narrative in response in that we were asked to set up a driver apprenticeship programme. It was indicated that there was no need for permits.
Ms Verona Murphy:
We have tried to do so. I have passed business cards to various officials. At this stage, we have exhausted our avenues. We have met different individuals and the drivers are not available. I request the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to tell us where the HGV drivers who are unemployed are among the 174,000 unemployed. We could then reassess.
Mr. Harry Lee:
I thank Deputy Robert Troy for bringing up this matter because I realise I did not respond to Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice. On imports, there is not a full history. What I am talking about in respect of vehicles being brought into the country and tested does not relate soley to what is tested in the NCT but also repairs. When imports are brought to the NCT centre, as well as what is tested for routinely, they should be checked to see if there is any indication of repairs having been carried out. It is the same in England. A percentage of vehicles do not go through the insurance system; therefore, there is no paper trail. When a vehicle is brought in from abroad, not just from the United Kingdom but from further afield, there is no paper trail.
Mr. Harry Lee:
My personal view is that we should go further than just having the standard categories, the insurance categories, in order that they would cover all damage such that when something happened to a vehicle, it would be categorised by the motor trade, as well as by the insurance industry.
Am I correct in saying the insurance industry in Ireland knows when a car has been hit and written off for financial or other reasons, as the issue comes up when the vehicle is being reinsured?
Mr. Harry Lee:
That is not the feedback I am getting. People purchase vehicles which are insured and then something happens. I remember a case I dealt with last year in which an insurance company asked me to look at a vehicle which had been written off by a previous insurance company and involved in an accident. When it went for repair in a garage, there were issues and I was asked to have a look at it. When the front part was stripped off, we realised it had been involved in a serious accident. There was evidence that the chassis leg and sub-frame had been repaired and certain other bits of the chassis were missing. The vehicle had been insured by an insurance company. The number of such vehicles may be low, but the fact is that there are a number of them. If there are certain tests, there is a ripple effect such that when people, especially in the motor trade, bring vehicles to be tested, they will know the tests which have to be passed and that the vehicle will have to be at a certain standard, as otherwise they will be caught. I do not believe this means more work for me or my colleagues, for whom I do not speak. It is an issue for NCT and CVRT to carry out tests and if something is spotted or needs further investigation, that is when one should bring somebody else in from outside. There is a difference between the role of testers which is very important and that of independent motor engineers. When serious work is being carried out, whether it be repairs, a conversion or modification, the assessor should be involved from the start. When a vehicle is brought to a test centre, one cannot see everything. There has to be someone to whom the people doing the work can go when they are not 100% sure about what work needs to be done.
I wish to address a question to Mr. Moroney. I am really surprised to learn from his opening statement that a driver who holds a learner's permit is required to have a fully qualified driver accompany him or her. Should there be a second seat in the tractor cab? It has been mentioned that if there is only one seat in it, a person who holds a learner's permit is okay to drive on his or her own. That seems to be totally and utterly wrong. I would like to know what Mr. Moroney's opinion is. As has been said, if there are two seats in a tractor cab, one could pull one out.
Mr. Moroney is also opposed to an NCT for tractors.
In fairness, the delegates mentioned the NCT and the European average. Are we above or below the European average when it comes to tractors being involved in accidents?
Mr. Farrelly from the FCI referred to hedge cutting. I come from County Louth and agree with him that something will have to be done because hedges are far too high which is causing a great deal of hassle.
I come from a farming background and during the years it was easy to find drivers. I am concerned that we will need to have greater enforcement for eligible drivers. The machines used are no longer similar to a Honda 50.
I want to ask about the plan for testing. I had two fatalities from contractors operations. They were not in the fields, they were out on the roads. Recently I saw another major crash involving a big tractor and trailer. The driver lost control. Years ago we always had courtesy. I pulled a tractor and trailer myself. In the countryside a driver would pull in, but nowadays they do not pull in. They would pull out and keep going by on the road. I would ask that some mandatory courses be put in place. I am familiar with contractors at home, and they are going to schools and trying to pull out the drivers because they cannot find drivers any more. A training course needs to be put in place.
I understand that there is a requirement for continuous professional training to be given in the language of the person. It was said that it would be preferable that they went back to Poland or their respective home countries because in Ireland the training is only given in English. According to our research there is a requirement under law that the training has to be carried out in the first language of the person presenting themselves.
Ms Verona Murphy:
Yes, of the holder of the licence. If the Polish driver drives in Ireland even though he holds a Polish licence does his licence in Polish. If he transfers to an Irish licence it is in English. Do not confuse the two. He is on a Polish licence. He does not sit his CPC in Ireland. If he does he has to sit it in English, but he cannot because his licence is Polish. Unless he has transferred his licence to the Irish NDLS licence under the-----
Ms Verona Murphy:
The truth is that even if he did transfer his licence into an Irish licence it would not mean that his first language was English or that he could adequately understand the course in English. It is a very basic knowledge. The point is that this is the same all over Europe. At the height of our building boom we had drivers who did not have a word of English sit safe pass courses that were absolutely irrelevant because they did not understand a word. I would not like to have the 30% foreign national driver population in Ireland sitting CPC courses because I know that their English would not be good enough. This is not a problem on the roadside checks for gardaí. We cannot speak Italian, French or German when we travel the highways and byways of Europe. If one is wrong they are wrong, and the language does not matter. Road safety legislation must be met. Tachograph legislation is the same in all languages, and it is shown on a digital card. Whether one can speak the language of the officer looking at it or not is irrelevant.
Ms Verona Murphy:
There has to be change. For this to have a significant benefit for road safety it has to be meaningful. Adult men who are used to doing practical work are sitting in a classroom for seven hours, and everyone knows that most of that time, at least four hours of it, is spent watching YouTube videos because the relevant content of the course can be delivered in three hours.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
With regard to the issue that Deputy Fitzmaurice raised about the second seat in the tractor, we agree with the Deputy that this is a crazy situation. It almost encourages people to use older, less safe tractors. We would love the committee to get that point to the RSA and to the driver testing group and to get better clarification on that.
We have had them in already and it did not come up on the day. This is a very specific point, and I propose that as a committee we would write to the RSA to seek clarification and ask if the anomaly can be addressed in a practical way. Is that agreed?
That is the anomaly we are looking to have addressed, because it makes no sense. It is a disincentive to have a more modern piece of equipment, and it makes no sense. That is why we are looking for the RSA to address this.
Mr. Michael Moroney:
We are very aware that there is a need for proper training. It is similar to the road haulage sector, where there is a huge skill shortage in the farm contractor sector. One of the difficulties is that most of these farm contractors will not have a single farm payment or a farm number so they are not really farmers. We have some meetings arranged with Teagasc to try and bring up the fact that we need to get a training programme in place for tractor drivers in contractor fleets, a programme that is sustainable and that will ensure that all the issues of safety and driver alertness and awareness are brought to the fore. That is high on our list of priorities.
I have a couple of questions before we conclude. I am conscious that we have been here for three hours. In terms of the app that was mentioned - technology, in terms of overall road safety, is the way to go - we have a great opportunity now with the various new technologies that are available to make massive progress on the overall issue. Can the witnesses tell me how fool-proof the system is? For example, could I give it to my grandmother and could she take my phone and drive for three months if I have ten penalty points and drive at 30 km/h in a kind of 'Driving Miss Daisy' scenario? Is that something that the witness could address?
Ms Yvonne Kinnarney:
The system does need to be transparent. When one takes insurance on their vehicle one makes a declaration to say that they do not have penalty points. It is made in good faith. In downloading the app there would be a requirement to say that this app will not be used by any other driver. It also records the driving style, the style of the breaking and acceleration. If half way through the monitoring period the style changed and the driver was not reaching their parameters the style would show up as a different style of driving. Questions would have to be raised in the monitoring of the data. It is similar to reading a tachograph. If there is a change in the behaviour there are questions to be raised.
In terms of speed limits and travelling within speed limits, the app records where a person is using GPS and knows when one is in a 50 km/h zone or an 80 km/h zone. This is why there are ramifications for the general travelling public. This is something that could easily be applied to every single vehicle, as opposed to having speed guns at the side of the road. What Ms Kinnarney is saying to us is that the technology exists so that every vehicle could have this register of the speed they are travelling in respect of speed limits.
Mr. John Farrell:
The app will do this because it will be location based. To go back to Ms Kinnarney's point, this is voluntary. It is not compulsory. As in all cases one starts out for the right reason. We envisage that there are roughly 600,000 people with between one and 12 points on the road at the moment.
We do not envisage all of them deciding on a Monday morning to undertake the course and be monitored, but a percentage will do so. However, the people who break the law will continue to break the law.
My question relates to the person who has ten penalty points. He or she is clearly an irresponsible driver and will be conscious that he or she needs to hold on to their licence. Such a person might view this scheme as a way to get rid of some penalty points and not be 100% honest in terms of the scheme.
Mr. John Farrell:
That means if a person with ten penalty points is found speeding and does not pay the fine the tally will be 15 penalty points. Even if a person with ten penalty points loses two points, he or she will still have eight points. If he of she is caught speeding and does not pay the fine, then his or her total tally will be 13 penalty points. I have outlined some of the control aspects.
I have spoken to many parents who have young drivers in their families. I am not being ageist when I say that some parents are genuinely concerned about their children who have a novice or full licence driving their cars on the roads. Can this scheme be used by people who wish to monitor how their cars are driven by their adult children who have borrowed a car for the weekend or whatever? Can the scheme be made available to such people?
Mr. John Farrell:
Yes, one could make it available. There is no reason not to do so. Insurance companies have already made it available and what we have outlined is just a different method. One becomes a learner driver, then a novice driver and, finally, a fully qualified driver. Insurance companies think it is good idea to monitor novice drivers as a means of instilling good behaviour and complementing road safety.
Ms Verona Murphy:
In terms of the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA, apprenticeship programme, insurance companies use the exact same system to monitor young drivers of HGV and rigid vehicles as they try to attain their licence. We have a stipulation in Ireland that one can only be insured between the age of 25 and 70 once one has two years of driving experience. The insurance coming on board with the HGV driver apprenticeship programme is crucial because we expect that many of the young drivers starting off will be in or around 18 years of age. This is the process that the insurance sector expects to use to monitor drivers.
I want to ask Ms Murphy about speed limiters for HGVs. The statistics are encouraging as the number of road traffic collisions, RTCs, involving HGVs has reduced considerably. Do members of the IRHA have issues with the practicalities of the scheme?
Ms Verona Murphy:
No, not particularly. The scheme is commonplace. The only thing is that the UK jurisdiction has raised the speed so HGVs are allowed to travel up to 100 km/h, but we are limited to below that figure here. There is a disparity whereby a Northern Ireland registered vehicle can do more speed than our members can. We do not particularly have a difficulty with the scheme.
IRHA members have experienced how this scheme operates. We have a speed limit of 120 km/h bar emergency services, yet there are vehicles on our roads that can easily do 200 km/h. Why the disparity? One either has a speed limit or one does not.
Ms Verona Murphy:
The speed limit for HGVs ensures we do not slow down the road users who are capable of driving at 120 km/h. Plus, HGVs must haul huge amounts of weight. The speed limit is probably related to the risk factors as well as everything else. In general, the provision exists to allow traffic to flow. There is a huge disparity. HGVs are not allowed to overtake on dual carriageways on which there is loads of room and everyone is travelling in the same direction. However, we can overtake on a rural road that has an 80 km/h speed limit, which is crazy. The garda on the roads needs to understand that there should never be a prosecution for labouring in the overtaking lane but not for overtaking on a dual carriageway.
Ms Verona Murphy:
I do not see the initiative working for cars as it would be dangerous. The acceleration of a vehicle is very different in all instances because it depends on the ability of the driver. The situation is different for trucks because it all depends on the style of driving and the load being carried. Although HGVs have speed limiters, on the Continent a vehicle could roll down a hill and still reach 100 km/h. In that instance, the reading on the speed limiter would be 100 km/h because of travelling downhill. Limiters in cars and trucks work completely differently. I am not versed enough in this matter to say whether a speed limiter would work for cars. When it comes to young people-----
Ms Verona Murphy:
Yes, one would have to do so. Education is key. We have a come a long way in recent years. When I sat my driving licence, I did not have to have driving lessons, but nowadays one must have 12 driving lessons. My 22 year old daughter has attained a higher standard of driving than I had at the same age. Speed will always be a factor. There is always a way around limiters because they can be disconnected. Therefore, they are probably more dangerous than productive.
Ms Verona Murphy:
Yes, it has. All vehicles can produce a huge amount of spray. One can go above the regulation and have better brushes on the side of the gear and whatever. Much of the problem has to do with the design of motorways and the way water lies on them. One must understand that the vehicle and rotation of its wheels are bigger so the spray is bound to be bigger. Just because one can do 100 km/h does not mean one can always do so. If the weather is inclement then everyone must err on the side of caution. That is practical common sense.
Ms Verona Murphy:
Not so much alco-locks. Some of our members conduct random testing or all testing, especially on drivers who have spent the weekend on their premises or whatever before going to work on a Monday morning. The reason alco-locks can never be a mandatory application is as follows. My drivers can be in Italy on a Monday morning and, therefore, I would unable to tell whether they have been drinking. I cannot be entirely responsible in that regard and I do not think any employer can be. What if people, like these chaps in front of me, got into a tractor but had a few scoops the night before? Who will say whether that man is fit to drive? One could test them.
Ms Verona Murphy:
A scheme must be workable and use technology that cannot be manipulated. Mobile phones are the root of all evil. Whether one is walking or driving, mobile phones should be placed in a stationary position. Do not get me wrong, I am no angel when it comes to mobile phone usage and I have tried to improve my behaviour. Mobile phone usage can be manipulated. The Chairman thought that maybe one's granny could take the phone. The person concerned could have a second phone and that is the trouble.
If a person decides to try to avoid getting penalty points and leaves one phone stationary, where is the other phone that he or she may have?
Mr. Michael Moroney:
In response to the comment by the previous speaker, I wish to clarify that tractor drivers are subject to the same rigours of the law when it comes to drink-driving as truck drivers. I say that in case the impression was given that tractor drivers are immune; they most certainly are not. Contractors are very conscious of that aspect of their business.
One of the main issues that other motorists have raised with me regarding tractors is inadequate lighting. Do the witnesses understand the concerns of other motorists in terms of the need for regulation and an NCT? Reference was made to the percentage of accidents involving tractors but what percentage of overall journeys made, in kilometre terms, involve tractors?
Mr. Michael Moroney:
On the first point, obviously we understand the concerns of every road user in terms of what tractor drivers do. The law, irrespective of any roadworthiness testing, requires that any vehicle that is on the road after lighting up time must have appropriate lighting, indicators and so forth. From January 2016, it became mandatory for every tractor to have a hazard warning light on it when it is being used on public roads, irrespective of its age or size. Everybody who uses a tractor is aware of that. It is important that the legislation is enforced and FCI members would encourage that enforcement. We continue to be concerned about some operators who are using what are called ploughing lights, which are rear facing white lights. That is a major concern and there should be more awareness raised about that issue because such lights distort the road for other road users-----
Mr. Michael Moroney:
It should not be the case, no. We would urge people in the strongest possible terms not to use rear facing white lights on the public road. On the issue of agricultural accidents, the only research that has been conducted in the area was done in Germany. We would concur with the view that there should be a Europe-wide database of tractor and agricultural vehicle accidents on the road. That has been called for by many bodies, including our own. We ask that this committee would encourage the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to be part of that reporting system so that it is standardised across Europe. Due to the numbers involved, the risk of an on-road accident involving a tractor is lower compared with other vehicles. However, due to the size and mass of the vehicle, any accident involving a tractor is more likely to be more serious or significant. That is the only point I can add in that regard.
Mr. Harry Lee spoke about logging all work done on cars. If someone changes the timing belt, for example, is Mr. Lee suggesting that this would be logged and entered on a central system? What way would he see that working?
Mr. Harry Lee:
The end-goal would be to have all work carried out on all vehicles saved on a central database to provide both transparency and accountability. Feedback from people in the trade is that there a need for regulation, licensing, rules and guidance in this area. We have too many people doing work from their homes, like changing brakes for their neighbours and so forth. In my opinion, the only way that this can be done correctly for all vehicles, to ensure that they are safe, is to have a record of everything. In that way, there is accountability and a paper trail for any work done-----
Where would it stop, though? What about the motoring enthusiast who wants to change his oil himself? Is Mr. Lee saying that such work would need to be registered centrally or that it must be done by a regulated operator? Where does one draw the line?
Mr. Harry Lee:
To be honest, I do not know where the line is and that is an issue that will require further research and investigation. As we go forward with such research, the line will become more visible. If one takes the gentleman who is replacing the oil in his car, the question arises as to where the old oil goes. There are certain regulations in place for garages for changing oil, brake pads and so forth. There are garages that are doing good work and adhering to very high standards but they are up against others who are not. The introduction of a centralised logging system will raise standards for everyone. It needs to be centralised because if people are going to do work on their own vehicle, they should have somewhere to go to check if they are doing it correctly, according to protocols and processes.
I thank everybody for their time. We have been here for more than three and a half hours and had a good discussion today. Issues were raised that we will be pursuing with the relevant agencies and Departments and we will respond to the affected parties at a later date. Everyone in attendance today is here for the right reasons and the issue of safety is the heart of the matter. Contributions from witnesses are important for this committee. What we are trying to do, apart from addressing pressing matters like the NCT, is to put together a broad range of proposals on how we can improve road safety in general. Every single life saved is a massive achievement and every single life lost is one too many. I thank everyone for their contribution to this effort. I propose that we suspend the meeting for a few minutes before moving on to the motion on Bus Éireann.