Release Date: 15 May 2005
Release ID: 56
Haulage in Ireland is a multi-billion euro industry - but not generally a business that attracts the entrepreneur looking for a return on his investment. Why is that?
It’s not because of the high investment, high costs and high risk. Entrepreneurs are used to that. The problem is that haulage provides an unacceptably low return. As hauliers, we all know that, and are never done bemoaning the fact. But whose fault is it?
Some say it’s the Government’s fault - they tax us too much! Others say it’s the insurance companies and the oil companies - they charge us too much! I’ve even heard it said that it’s the Association’s fault – that they don’t do enough for us! Most would probably say it’s the customers’ fault – they don’t pay us enough!
There is a substantial element of truth in the latter, in that some (fortunately, not all) customers don’t pay a fair and proper rate for the job. Whose fault is this though? Who facilitates these customers? Who says, “Yes, and thank you very much” when it should be “No thank you”?
We probably all do, or have done, to some extent. The extent to which we continue to do it possibly dictates how near we are to going out of business.
Our industry has reeled from one crisis to another for the past twenty years and one simple issue has been at the core of every one of them – our reluctance and significant failure to pass on increasing costs to customers. Why is that? Why, when everything else is going up, do so many haulage rates stand still or decline?
It shouldn’t go unnoticed that this is the one area of the business that is supposedly under our control – and it is the area where, as an industry, we fail miserably. We can continue to blame illegal haulage, green diesel, stupid competitors and Uncle Tom Cobbly and continue to do nothing about it. Or we can take some responsibility – responsibility that is rightfully ours and that we have so far failed to accept.
Costs are high, they are rising and they will continue to rise – forever!
Only a fool would believe that we have the power to stop them or that we have the wherewithal to soak them up. We can resist, protest, whine all we like – but the fact is that we don’t and never will control the incoming costs to our industry.
As individual companies, we could however, control, monitor and be in a position to stand over our own selling rates a lot better than we do. We are not permitted to do this collectively under competition law, so individual companies have to accept the responsibility themselves. Those that don’t wont survive in the long term and are damaging the industry in the process.
The damage we are doing ourselves far outweighs anything anyone else is doing to our industry. It is critical that we stop letting (some) customers dictate rates. We have to accept the responsibility to know what the correct rate for the job is – what it is based on – and when it needs to be adjusted as elements of our costs increase. We have to ask for the correct rate and to realize the power and appropriateness of “No Thank You” if is not accepted.
The inability to say “No” to unscrupulous customers who will not pay a fair rate simply facilitates ongoing manipulation and abuse of the industry. Companies that genuinely cannot afford to pay the correct price have no right to ask for the work to be done in the first place. There is nothing we can or should do for either of these groups. Both drag our companies and our industry down.
Business interests will be quick to realize that they cannot sell what cannot be delivered. A fair and realistic rate will seem very attractive indeed if our response is “No Thank you” to unfair rates.
Haulage is an essential industry and it will always survive. Those of us in the industry today may or may not continue to be part of it. Maybe when we are gone the entrepreneurs will come in and make a commercial business out of it.
Or we could do it. It’s up to us. The “No Thank You” can only come from us.
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