IBEC refers truck ban to European Commission

IBEC claims the heavy truck ban in Dublin city centre may contravene EU internal market rules. By Emma Browne

The Irish Business and Empolyers Confederation (IBEC) has written to the government to advise that it is referring Dublin City Council's Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Management Strategy, which bans HGVs from the city centre, to the European Commission for consideration. IBEC argues that the HGV ban, which came into operation on 19 February, may contravene EU internal market rules.

The aim of the HGV management strategy is to get 9,000 trucks out of Dublin city centre every day and into the Port Tunnel. It was implemented by Dublin City Council. As of 19 February all five-axle trucks delivering in the city centre during daytime hours are banned unless they have a permit.

The most controversial part of the HGV management strategy is the closure of Sean Moore Road to trucks. This change means that trucks coming from the port delivering to the south side of Dublin must now travel via the Port Tunnel and M50 to Dun Laoghaire and Sandymount, rather than traveling via the East-Link toll bridge. For instance the distance from the port to Dun Laoghaire via the East-Link is 11km, but it is 50km via the Port Tunnel and M50.

IBEC is to refer the HGV ban to the European Commission under EU Regulation 2679/98. This regulation deals with the free movement of goods among member states and the functioning of internal markets. The regulation also established a monitoring mechanism to eliminate the major obstacles to trade which inflict serious losses on individuals.

In a letter to the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment, IBEC outlined the reasons for the referral.

It argues that the HGV ban will “significantly impact on the ability of companies to conduct freight and distribution activities in an efficient and cost-effective manner”, and will “result in increases in road haulage costs and there will be large-scale additional administrative costs for companies”.

IBEC also says that there are a number of problems with the permit system which is “complex and lack[s] transparency”. The system only operates in English and you can only pay by credit card.

IBEC is also concerned that Dublin City Council plans to implement a more restrictive regime in the future, banning more types of trucks.

IBEC concludes, “There is a very high probability that in a number of respects these proposals are in breach of internal market rules.”

Jimmy Quinn, spokesperson for the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) says: “We estimate that the cost of compliance with the ban is €29m in mileage time and distance.”

He says the HGV strategy is “hamfisted” and there is “a very flawed logic to do away with large vehicles in favour of lots of smaller trucks”.

The Port Tunnel opened on 20 December 2006 and it is estimated that 6,000 trucks a day have been removed from the city centre as a result of it.

The major concern with the HGV ban is that the M50 will not be able to handle the additional 2,000 trucks estimated to go onto it once the HGV ban is in place. The M50 is currently full to capacity and although an upgrade is already underway, by the time that is completed it will be at full capacity again. The National Roads Authority (NRA), the IRHA and traffic planners in DCC have all expressed concern about the HGV ban being implemented before the upgrade was completed.

When the Port Tunnel finally opened it was three years behind schedule and the final cost was €715m, three times the original estimate.