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PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 00:14 
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Patric Cunnane wrote:
Interview: Jimmy Quinn, President at the IRHA
Patric Cunnane
Thursday 28 February 2008 00:00

Jimmy Quinn, serving a second term as president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, finds the old problems haven't gone away - and there is no shortage of new ones. For many years, Jimmy Quinn has been an outspoken voice on behalf of Irish hauliers. Frequently quoted in newspapers and heard on radio, his readiness with a memorable phrase makes him the envy of less gifted representatives for any cause.

Last year, he was elected president of the Irish Road Haulage Association for the second time. In between times, he has not gone away as a public presence, becoming instead an increasingly effective press spokesman for the association. When he is not busy being the voice of the IRHA, Quinn runs his own reefer operation in Greenore, Co Louth, specialising in meat transportation.
Protest

CM catches up with Quinn at a Dublin public hearing where the IRHA is protesting at an electronic tolling scheme on the M5O West Link Bridge in Dublin. The levy is due to cost operators €6.10 (£4.34) for each crossing, and affords no alternative route due to Dublin's daytime HGV ban. At these prices, it is easy to understand that the cost of toll roads is a major problem for hauliers, especially when they can't avoid using that particular route. "Our principal problem with tolling is that the toll operators hide behind their sticker price and fail to recognise our purchasing power," says Quinn. "Toll road spending can run into five figures for some operators, and that warrants a commercial deal."

He reels off the problems Irish hauliers face, along with their exasperation with a government that depends on them to ensure domestic products get to their markets overseas. "It seems the hurdles are being raised all the time. Increasing regulation is order of the day," he says. The Working Time Directive was introduced in Ireland in 2006, and Quinn doesn't have a good word to say for it. "The Directive is an insult to the intelligence of the working man," he argues. "A driver can run out of time under the regulations, but still have driving hours left. You have foreseen and unforeseen delays, many of which are related to ferry crossings. Factory workers don't have much call to work beyond 48 hours, but transport workers are more like the crews of oil rigs."

He argues that mobile workers should have an opt-out, believing drivers' hours regulations provide sufficient safeguards: "We are going to lobby the transport minister for exemptions that were originally promised." He maintains that the level of fuel duty continues to be the main problem faced by Irish operators. "The biggest challenge we have is to convince finance ministers to view the tax on fuel differently from that of other road users," he says. Over just such an issue, Quinn adds, Italian drivers brought their country to a halt.

Quinn says €305 per 1,000 litre is the base-line fuel duty beyond which countries should not go. In Ireland, duty is €367 per 1,000 litres. "An operator running 10 trucks is chipping in about €25,000 a vehicle to the State in fuel duty and road tax. He earns a fraction of that," Quinn argues. "And then you have toll charges on top. To add further insult, transport minister Noel Dempsey has asked ministers to assess the cost to society of road transport in terms of the problems that trucks create. "They see us as a pimple on the backside of society," fumes Quinn.
Digital tachos

We move on to digital tachographs, which Quinn claims have thrown up a whole new set of operational problems: "In the past, people would look at a tacho chart and get an idea of how the guy had worked that day and the day before. But the digital tacho is the same as having a policeman sitting in the cab for 28 days. If anyone can convince me the average driver will not commit any offences in 28 days, he's a genius." He describes the kind of scenario that could land a haulier with an unexpectedly heavy fine. "An operator running 30 cards a week times 52 equals 1,500 cards. If an inspector finds 10 offences over those cards, that could lead to €5,000 in fines or a stretch in jail." He adds that an operator in Macroom, Co Cork has just been imprisoned.

Quinn is approaching the end of his first year as "recycled president", as he wryly dubs himself, having been elected for his second term during the IRHA annual conference in Easter 2007. Membership recruitment is going well, and the association is about to acquire a larger headquarters close to its existing site in Blanchardstown on the outskirts of Dublin. "We have outgrown our current premises and we want to offer training at the new site on subjects such as driving regulations," he says. The Dublin Port Tunnel opening in December 2006 was a positive development, believes Quinn. It has removed 9,000 trucks a day from the city centre, making life much more pleasant for the LGV drivers who have escaped the claustrophobic congestion that existed before, and for Dubliners liberated from the enveloping pollution of diesel fumes.

Quinn reveals that transport minister Dempsey is meeting the IRHA for the first time since the Irish general election last spring: "Meeting the transport minister shows we must be rising in his list of priorities. In the past, the government appointed a junior minister with a specialist brief to deal with road haulage." He does not, however, hold out too much hope that the entrenched attitudes will change quickly. "Ministers see haulage as a low priority - except when it stops," Quinn explains. "We are a bit like First World War soldiers - lions led by donkeys, in terms of political leadership."

For more in-depth interviews with industry figures, visit Roadtransport.com's interviews page.
All very concerning - all the surrounding issues and problems are many and varied.
Surely we need traffic flow for the freight services as a minimum ? Why has common sense been so discarded ?

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