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Freight companies ‘on their knees’ during pandemic, committee warned

The Freight Transport Association urged the reform of insolvency rules to make it easier for those bankrupted by the frozen economy to start again.

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Some freight companies are on their knees and will fail following the coronavirus lock down, an industry spokesman in Northern Ireland predicted (Gareth Fuller/PA).

Some freight companies are on their knees and will fail following the coronavirus lock down, an industry spokesman in Northern Ireland predicted (Gareth Fuller/PA).

Some freight companies are on their knees and will fail following the coronavirus lock down, an industry spokesman in Northern Ireland predicted (Gareth Fuller/PA).

Some hauliers are on their knees and will fail following the coronavirus lockdown, an industry spokesman in Northern Ireland has predicted.

Seamus Leheny, policy manager at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), urged the reform of insolvency rules to make it easier for those bankrupted by the frozen economy to start again.

He said some logistics companies had been relatively unaffected.

Others are on their knees, they have seen 90% of their trade vanishSeamus Leheny

Mr Leheny said: “Some have seen a lift in trade.

“It comes down to the lottery of who your client base is.

“Others are on their knees, they have seen 90% of their trade vanish.”

It costs a pound a minute to run a 44-tonne lorry, Mr Leheny said.

Some firms are paying £500 a week per vehicle in finance costs to have hundreds of them laid up in yards.

Mr Leheny told the infrastructure committee at Stormont there should be greater flexibility in the Government’s jobs furlough scheme to allow employees to resume work for one or two days a week.

Some hauliers running from Northern Ireland to Great Britain are returning empty because the closure of most shops means there is little local demand for items like clothing.

Mr Leheny said: “Some companies will fail during the period later this year.”

He added they would go out of business through no fault of their own due to extraordinary circumstances surrounding the pandemic.

“They have to be able to let those operators recover quickly.

“When they apply for an operator’s licence it could be harder for people because of Covid.”

Ferry companies have received a £17 million support package from Stormont and the UK Government.

Mr Leheny claimed they were not transparently passing on savings in the cost of fuel during the Irish Sea crossing to hauliers.

“There is a lot of empty running, a lot of trailers coming back to Northern Ireland empty but they are still paying the fees they have always paid.

“The industry here needs to see some fairness and transparency about how fuel is charged for in the ferry crossings.”

PA