The recession is causing the haulage sector in Northern Ireland to haemorrhage badly and is threatening more job losses, the Northern Ireland Exporters Association (NIEA) warned today.
The Association, which represents most of Northern Ireland’s export companies, expressed concern after new statistics were published about the state of the haulage/logistics industry.
The Department of Transport said that the number of heavy goods vehicles on UK roads in the last quarter of 2008 showed a 7% drop on the same period in 2007.
A spokesman for NIEA said: “The Government has indicated that export revenue is one of the key factors in a recovering economy.
“This is all too good for exporters who look to Government for support, but the logistics industry is crucial to cost effective exporting.
“Whilst all other industries, whether through any fault of their own or not, have been supported by Government, the haulage industry has been left to carry the can.
“Over past years exporters and logistics providers have worked hard to be ‘lean and mean’ and still remain competitive.
“As a result, Northern Ireland has become a well known exporting region across the globe, not withstanding the inward investment this has drawn to the province.” NIEA said the number of lorry drivers looking for work was showing a fivefold increase on the situation a year ago.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said the sector was losing jobs more quickly than almost any other.
It estimated that there were one million people in the UK who relied on the haulage and logistics industry for work.
“Office for National Statistics data shows that a year ago there were just over 3,000 lorry drivers receiving jobseeker's allowance in the UK.
“Today that number is more than 15,000 — an increase even more dramatic than that for bricklayers and masons.
The RHA said the haulage business was a key indicator of economic buoyancy and its survival is vital to Britain's recovery from the recession.
It said: “Hauliers have little or no opportunity to diversify in tough times, so they tend to feel the pinch even more keenly.”