HAULIERS IN THE Republic of Ireland are calling on the Government to seek an exemption for them on a new levy to be introduced in Northern Ireland – or to refund them the money they have to spend on the annual charge.
Meanwhile, an MEP has asked the EU to examine the issue and try to find a solution before the levy, which is being imposed by the UK government on 1 April, comes into play.
The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) says that the matter is “particularly urgent for licensed haulage operators who are based in the Northwest of the country”.
According to the IRHA, these will have to pay either £1 per day for a transit journey, or use an alternative route which is more costly and time consuming.
A spokesperson for the IRHA told TheJournal.ie that following an emergency meeting yesterday they are appealing to Environment Minister Phil Hogan
He said they were disappointed that they believed Hogan knew about the levy for four years but that steps had not been taken to avoid issues.
Hauliers who want to avoid paying per visit over the border have to pay £1000 per year.
They want Hogan to put a system in place to rebate any Irish haulier that has to pay the annual UK levy.
“They need to take a stand otherwise you’ll have the whole Irish fleet registering in the UK. You’ll lose 4000 drivers,” said the spokesperson. “I couldn’t compete as a haulier with my northern counterpart.”
MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher met with Siim Kallas, the EU Transport Commissioner and Vice President of the European Commission to discuss the levy, and also raised the issue with the Minister for European Affairs, Paschal Donohue, TD at the European Parliament.
Gallagher said that Commissioner Kallas has agreed to request his services to examine the situation and to establish whether the European Commission can intervene in the situation.
I emphasised to the Commissioner the practical difficulties for Irish hauliers and in particular for Donegal hauliers due to their geographic location and for other hauliers based in the border counties.
Gallagher described the levy as “a penal and totally discriminatory tax on Irish vehicles”.
According to Gallagher, hauliers travelling from Donegal to Dublin could have to spend as much as €30/40 per trip.
The charge of €10 per crossing is based on a 24 hour rate commencing at midnight, therefore, the cost is double if a vehicle leaves Donegal on one evening and returns after midnight on the next day.
He also told the Commissioner that he believes that the UK authorities “must take into consideration the funding being provided by the Irish taxpayer for road developments in Northern Ireland, as part of the Good Friday Peace agreement”.
I recently attended a briefing session by Donegal hauliers and I am extremely fearful that Donegal companies and other companies along the border may locate to Northern Ireland and I outlined the serious implications of this for jobs in the border counties.
Gallagher has also contacted the Minister for Transport requesting that he urgently prevails upon the British Government to exempt Northern Ireland and to ensure the issue is resolved before 1 April.
Details on the levy
The UK government is introducing the road user levy for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) which weigh 12 tonnes or more.
It said that this levy is aimed at “ensuring these vehicles make a contribution to the wear and tear of the UK road network”.
According to the UK Government, the levy amounts will vary according to the vehicle’s weight, axle configuration, and time.
All UK-registered vehicles will pay levy costs from 1 April, while vehicles registered abroad must make levy payments before entering the UK. Failure to pay the levy will be a criminal offence.