At last a Minister for International Transport & Logistics

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Supply Chain and Logistics came into focus during the COVID-19 crisis and even though these sectors may not seem as important as the work of front-line medics, they were essential to maintaining that the economy and society continued to function, according to Aidan Flynn, General Manager, Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI). 

“140 days after the General Election, FTA Ireland welcomes the formation of a new Government, a historic Collation between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party. We welcome the new Ministers Eamon Ryan to the Department of Transport, Climate & Energy and Junior Minister Hildegard Naughton, for International Transport and Logistics. FTA Ireland has long called for a Minister for Logistics and the timing could not be more pertinent. Never before has there been such focus on supply chain and logistics with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global supply chain network connectivity that will have long lasting ramifications. The new trading relationship with Britain requires a focus and understanding from our political leaders that has been wanting in the past. The need to deal with the climate crisis and the mandate from the European Union (EU) to change our behaviours in this regard certainly set a high yardstick for the new Government.

The agreed Programme for Government provides lots of hints on the direction this Coalition will take with a standout point being its commitment to an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030 (a 51% reduction over the decade). A Climate Action Bill will be introduced in the Dáil within the first 100 days of Government alongside a newly established Climate Action Council. This is very laudable and one area of scrutiny not just in Ireland but across the EU. The introduction of the ‘EU Green Deal’ mandates that considerable emphasis is placed on reduction of carbon dioxide levels and improved air quality. On the 14 January 2020 the European Commission presented the European Green Deal’s Just Transition Mechanism and the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan. Key points outlined below also ensure that the success or otherwise of the new Minister for Transport will be based on the success or otherwise of introducing sustained supports and mechanisms for the freight transport and distribution sector to transition to the new cleaner efficient operations.

  • Speed up deployment of alternative fuels
  • Speed up deployment of refuelling and recharging infrastructure
  • ‘No one is left behind in the green transition’
  • Financial package worth at least €100 billion.

If the Programme for Government is to be successfully implemented collaboration with industry is critical to its success. While welcoming the incoming cabinet, the FTAI stands ready and willing to work closely and proactively with them, we will ensure that the key issues facing the freight distribution and logistics sector are articulated and presented in a fashion that delivers solutions to benefit the Irish economy, protect jobs in our sector and ensure Irish competitiveness on the global stage.

The new trading relationship with Britain takes on additional significance considering the repercussions of the global COVID-19 pandemic. A key priority for this Government must be to represent Irish interests with the EU Commission particularly in the areas of road transport, connectivity, facilitation of transit though Britain to continental Europe and Cabotage rights for hauliers. It is unlikely that a comprehensive Free Trade will be agreed in the short period of time between now and October when it must be ratified by the European and UK institutions, therefore we must ensure that commercial transport and trade must be prioritised.  The Department of Transport along with other key departments such as Revenue and Department of Agriculture must work more closely with industry in ensuring that the new systems in place for the new trading environment are fit for purpose and workable. This can only be done through active trials and testing. This must commence immediately.

Having a fulcrum within the transport department looking at both national and international transport and logistics will be a new and welcomed experience. Developing links with stakeholders and industry will help shape the political vision needed for Ireland to maintain its global competitiveness, create new markets and continue to be attractive for foreign direct investment. The FTA Ireland has a number of key priorities for this new Government:

  1. BREXIT – Work with the freight distribution and logistics sector in a proactive manner to ensure the interests of the industry are represented effectively to the EU Commission as negotiations escalate with the UK on the future trade relationship with the EU. Ensure that transit rights and the protection of the Land-bridge to allow unfettered access to continental Europe for the haulage sector is prioritised.
  2. INFRASTRUCTURE – over 90% of all trade with the UK transits via Dublin Port. There is an over-reliance on Dublin for connectivity with the UK. FTA Ireland is calling on the Government to invest in our other strategic ports such as Waterford (Lo-Lo & Bulk); Rosslare (Ro-RO) in particular, as this will result in reduced congestion in Dublin and facilitate rural economic development and new routes to market. It is Vital that ‘pinch points’ are assessed and pre-emptive measures are assessed that will facilitate dynamic growth and opportunity for both import and export activity in Ireland.
  3. SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT – support the move to alternative fuelling technologies by working with industry to deliver realistic and fair solutions. Accelerate the implementation of the recommendations from the ‘Low Emissions Vehicle Taskforce Phase 2 Report published by the Department of Transport in December 2019. Importantly roll out grants for alternatively fuelled commercial vehicles as recommended in this report. In addition, review and learn from the causeway project where 14 CNG fuelling stations open to the public were to be available by 2020. Currently there is only 1! Industry is willing to move to cleaner fuelling technologies, but this needs to be matched with commitment and support from Government.
  4. The programme for Government calls for a 10-year strategy for the haulage sector focused on improving efficiencies, standards, and helping the sector move to a low-carbon future. This needs to be extended to the total heavy goods vehicle populations. There are over 80,000 heavy goods vehicles in the national fleet with only 18,000 operating in the haulage sector.
  5. APPRENTICESHIP TRAINING TAX
  6. Tax Credits should be available for 24 months duration or for the duration of an apprenticeship programme. This would allow a refundable tax credit for companies and would support the roll out of the new ‘earn as you learn’ apprenticeship programmes and support the sustainability of such projects. Without employers this model will not work!
  7. Freight distribution and logistics business should be incentivised to engage in apprenticeship programmes as a means to attract young people but to also upskill their existing workforce. This will also help in defining clear career paths and education and training progression opportunities that make working in this sector more attractive.
  8. Tuition Fees – Tuition fees for Apprentices should be paid by the State under the National Training fund. This will have the benefit of providing additional incentives for both employers and apprentices at little cost.
  9. PRIORITISE ROAD SAFETY – support and resource the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Siochana to enable effective and fair roads policing and enforcement of commercial vehicle activities.”