Tuesday, 11 June 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I convened a meeting last week in Leinster House at the request of the Irish freight industry, led by Seamus Leheny of Freight Northern lreland and Verona Murphy of the Irish Road Haulage Association. We were accompanied by a number of representatives from transport companies north and south of the Border, many operating in the transportation of food and perishable products. Last night, I visited a refrigerated freight company less than 20 miles from the Border, which is responsible for nearly 30% of the agrifood freight between North and South, in order to see at first hand how complicated a process this was. It is a depot where over 2,000 palettes per night were shifted in the business of feeding people north and south of the Border, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. It paints a bleak picture of what will happen after Brexit and there are particular concerns within the freight industry regarding a no-deal Brexit, especially the impact in the area of agrifood. Concerns were raised last week in Leinster House about the number of extra vets necessary to carry out inspections, with one company stating that it would need 35 vets per night because some loads would have to be inspected three times.Concerns were raised about groupage work and hundreds of loads with multiple drops per lorry every night. Concerns were also raised about supply chains, resourcing and the potential impact on agriculture, farm businesses and, ultimately, jobs. Concerns were further raised about stockpiling currently and the negative impact that has.
Seamus Leheny shared some interesting facts about cross-Border traffic on social media in recent days. The A1 crossing between Newry and Dundalk is currently a frictionless, strategic crossing. On 5 June, in one 24-hour period, 8,390 goods vehicles crossed the Border via the A1, namely, 3,038 articulated vehicles, 919 rigid vehicles and 4,434 large goods vehicles, averaging 167 vehicles per hour or one lorry every 35 seconds. If we consider six of the 300 crossings, we find that 13,483 vehicles crossed in the same 24-hour period. If we consider that the average delay at a border is ten minutes, with agrifood presenting extra complexity due to sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, controls, and the fact that 33% of the sales to the Republic of Ireland is agrifood, we can then deduce that at peak times this equates to 115 lorries carrying agrifood and subject to these controls, with up to 50% undergoing physical inspections. These means that one lorry would need to be inspected every 32 seconds. In one hour, there would be a backlog of 70 trucks stretching 1 km down the motorway. Bearing in mind that these trucks work on a delivery window for perishable goods of 45 minutes at depots, very large penalties and costs will be incurred. A no-deal Brexit will create paralysis on the Border, add costs and cause friction and congestion. Ultimately, trade and business on both sides of the Border will suffer. No technological solution currently exists. The complexity of this situation cannot be understated and the potential damage to the economy cannot be overstated. When this group was asked about the one takeaway point from the meeting, it cited uncertainty and lack of clarity as the main concern.