Transport Coping with COVID-19 No.4 #StrengthInUnity

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Another week of lockdown as the Trade Associations and State Agencies try to guide road hauliers and passenger transport operators through uncharted and what seems more unsustainable territory. We bring you the facts and some opinion’s about where this virus will take our Industry. Let us know how you and your company are getting through this uncertainty.

On Tuesday afternoon Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced that Ireland is in the midst of a severe recession, GDP will reduce by 10% and unemployment will rise to almost 14%. “All of this,” he said “was based on a 3 months lockdown period”. So what is the Minister preparing us for? Was he taking the negotiations to form a new Government into the public domain? Is he hoping that a stark warning like this might make the Department of Health to twice consider every comment made? Who knows for sure. Politicians are in a difficult situation, they must balance the health needs of the country with its economic requirements. Economic commentators are divided on the speed our economy will recover and how fast we will see real activity return. Nobody can be sure how quickly the public are prepared to travel using buses. Or will they want to return to the security of their cars? Will consumer confidence bring road freight levels back to pre-virus volumes? Or are we facing a an even bigger move towards on-line shopping?

Small businesses do not stand on ceremony and are by their nature optimistic. Once the current restriction are eased and eventually lifted, they will not need to hear a starting whistle to get moving. Like patients after surgery, every recovery will be different. So it will be necessary for significant support from the State and its Agencies. Banks and insurance companies will have a big role to play here. During the last crisis, many felt these institutions could have done more to assist business. There is no doubt that the road haulage industry has been less impacted than the passenger transport sector, nonetheless everything is relative to the situation each company finds itself in. Trade associations have an important role in the recovery. In recent times both freight and passenger transport are seen by the Government and its Agencies as important components of the economy. It is important that no other vested interest is allowed to “steal” their agenda. I heard a teacher on the radio last week giving some opinion’s about how school buses should be operated. A teacher is entitled to be concerned about student welfare, but coach operators are the experts when it comes to buses and generally they do not interfere in the management of classrooms, teachers should respect that boundary too. It is similar for hauliers, all too often agents try to interfere with advice here too.

On the bright side, Europe seems to be opening up, MAN Truck & Bus for example has announced the resumption of assembly at its plants. Many European countries are starting to come back to life, out of the slumber like a modern day ”Rip Van Winkle” coming back to life. An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, on RTE TV’s Prime Time last night seemed to be honest and sincere as he looked towards the future, optimistically, but understandably, without commitment. Here is to a bright future for all road hauliers and passenger transport operators.

Keep Safe. Jarlath Sweeney & Sean Murtagh, Fleet Publications Group.