Category Archives: Roads & Traffic

Keane Welcomes NRA Funding for roads upgrade and maintenance in 2014

Senator Cáit Keane has today (Thursday) welcomed the announcement by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, that the National Roads Authority of Ireland has awarded funding of €1,474,918 to South Dublin County Council towards roads maintenance and upgrades for 2014.

“This is very positive for the South Dublin area and I widely welcome the news of this funding to be allocated to South Dublin County Council for investment in our roads network in the county area. Two of the major road projects to benefit from the funding are the Leixlip/M50 junction and the M50 Upgrade Phase 1 having been allocated 437,500 and €500,000 each. the remainder of the near €1,474,918 million figure will be spent on other roads in the South Dublin area.

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Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill -May 2013

The primary purpose of the Bill is to provide for a system of declaring vehicles off the road for motor tax purposes in advance, closing a tax evasion loophole, whereby owners can declare, retrospectively, that a vehicle has not been in use on the public road, which is unverifiable. It is estimated that the cost of this loophole is in the order of €55 million per annum. The new arrangement for making off-road declarations in advance will make no difference to those maintaining their vehicles on the road and paying tax correctly and will only require those planning to take their vehicle off the road to notify this fact in advance rather than retrospectively. The Bill also provides for transitional financial arrangements, following the transfer of the driving licence function from the licensing authorities to the Road Safety Authority.

Motor tax is payable on most vehicles used in public places. Approximately €1 billion is paid into the local government fund from motor tax each year. The motor tax evasion rate has been estimated at approximately 5%. Currently, it is possible to claim back motor tax if more than three months remain on the tax certificate and a declaration is made that a vehicle will be off the road for a certain period. If motor tax has lapsed and a period elapses prior to renewal, it is possible to declare the vehicle off the road for that period and thus avoid paying tax for the period. The making of a declaration is not verified. Evidence shows there is a problem with false off the road declarations being made with a consequent loss to Revenue. Since 2010, only 160 cases have been taken in respect of the offence of making a false motor tax declaration. This Bill is aimed at stamping out this tax evasion and close off a loophole that has been there for too long.

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Statement on the Motor Vehicles (Duties and tax) Bill 2012 March 2012:

I welcome the Minister to the House today to discuss this important Bill. The Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2012 gives a permanent legislative basis to the increases in motor tax rates and trade plate licences contained in the Financial Resolution passed by the Dáil on Budget day last December.

In the 2007 Budget Statement it was announced that to support the environmental policy of reducing carbon emissions, the system of Vehicle Registration Taxation (VRT) was to be changed to encourage the purchase of lower emission vehicles.

Further to this aim, it was also announced at this time that the system for motor taxation would move to one based on the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. These measures were described as “broadly revenue neutral” that is, having no adverse or positive impact on the revenue raised.

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Road Safety Authority Bill (Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Bill) 2012:

This Bill deals with the reform of commercial vehicle roadworthiness testing and the designation of the Road Safety Authority as the driver licensing authority.  This Bill is the latest road safety legislation introduced as part of the government‘s road safety strategy.

Media coverage has claimed that the Bill transfers functions from local Authorities to the RSA. However, it does not assign the functions to the RSA but rather allows the Minister to assign such functions to the RSA in secondary legislation. The Bill does assign administration of the driving licence system to the RSA but as published, it does not make any reference to the introduction of new style of driver license. However, part 3 of the Bill provides for the RSA to become the licensing authority. This is done by amending the Road Traffic Act 1961 to designate the RSA as the licensing authority instead of the Local Authorities.

The plastic card licence is on course for introduction in January 2013 and the new centralised licencing system will come on stream during next year and the RSA will take over responsibility for the production of the new cards which are to be introduced in line with the 2006 EU Directive governing the issue of driving licences.

Since coming into office just over twelve months ago, this Government has tackled the various issues facing road safety by introducing necessary road safety legislation- the road safety act 2011 was passed last autumn and the road traffic bill 2012 is expected to be published later this year which will provide for impairment testing and unconscious driver testing. The changes introduced by this Bill arise primarily from the government strategy to reduce the number of deaths on Irish roads as well as the implementation of EU legislation.

The background to this legislation is the significant progress that has been made in the area of road safety over the past decade. 2011 was the sixth consecutive year that the number of road safety fatalities fell in Ireland and the year in which there was the lowest recorded number of road fatalities on Irish Roads at 186. EU results show that the number of fatalities in road traffic accidents in the Republic fell by 13% last year compared to EU average of just 2%.

We have made great progress in terms of enforcing the road safety messages for road users and advertising campaigns by the RSA and DIAGEO over the past decade have been successful. A combination of safety measures that have been introduced including the penalty points system, a lower legal blood alcohol level for drivers are working and the evidence is the fewer deaths that are occurring on our roads.

However, while we can reflect positively on the declining numbers of road deaths, now is not the time to be complacent and take the attitude that the work in this area is all but done- it is not. We cannot forget the terrible tragedy that occurred on the roads of Kentstown and Clara in 2005 and 2006 when six school children lost their lives when the respective buses they were travelling on crashed. An investigative review took place after the tragedy and the RSA carried out a comprehensive review of testing for the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles in Ireland.

This review was a necessary one and it has highlighted a wide number of issues in the current system. The review that was carried out made a number of recommendations for change in the present system and Minister Varadkar has sought to prioritise the introduction of legislation on foot of these recommendations.

The recommendations involved two courses of action that would seek to raise the standard of commercial vehicle testing across the country on a permanent basis. The first element was a complete overhaul of the CVR testing system incorporating a three strand approach of Risk Based Monitoring, Continuous Compliance through Roadside Inspections and the need for testing to be carried out in a consistent, impartial and correct fashion at all times. The legislation provides for all three strands made as part of these recommendations.

The second element was the transfer of responsibility for the management and operation of the commercial vehicle testing system from local authorities to the RSA. The intention of this legislation is to contribute to greater road safety but also to help promote a culture of safety within the transport industry in respect of the use and maintenance of commercial vehicles including trailers. This will have the added value of helping to maintain the commercial fleet for longer as higher standards of maintenance and care of vehicles by fleet managers will be required.

By improving the quality and consistency of commercial roadworthiness testing, and furthermore introducing risk based targeting of operators, the new CVR regime will allow those operators who operate in a responsible manner and maintain their vehicle to operate largely unhindered. In addition unfair competition from unscrupulous operators will be reduced. Intelligent, risk based enforcement is a more efficient and fair way at targeting operators, rather than just relying on random testing.

In addition, improvements in the maintenance standards of Irish commercial vehicles will over time help to eliminate the negative perception of Irish road operators by overseas enforcement agencies. This will – in time- result in fewer stops and inspections by such agencies of Irish hauliers, bus operators and so forth, who are operating abroad. However, the most important aspect of this will be to improve road safety amongst our commercial vehicle fleet. Based on the period 1996 to 2010, an estimated 17.5% of road fatalities involved commercial vehicles. The new safety regime should help reduce the number of such road fatalities.

In terms of driver licences, the main recommendation from the review was that a centralised model for dealing with all aspects of the plastic card driver licence should be proceeded with. The advantages flowing from such an approach cover identity features, security, customer service, efficiency and value for money. Having examined the review, it was concluded that the RSA was best positioned to undertake responsibility for centralised processing and production of driver licences.

This Bill reflects the recommendations for a centralised system through its provision for the RSA to become the licensing authority in section 3. The RSA already holds responsibility for the driver theory test and for driver testing. The extension of its functions to including licence processing and production will provide the customer with a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach to driver licensing.  This will make it easier for people who are applying for them and for the licencing authority, the RSA to deal with driver licencing in a more cohesive way. The new centralised model option was described as ― more beneficial from the perspective of identity, security, customer service, efficiency and value for money.‖

The plastic card licence is on course for introduction in January 2013 and the new centralised licencing system will come on stream during next year and the RSA will take over responsibility for the production of the new cards which are to be introduced in line with the 2006 EU Directive governing the issue of driving licences.

Overall, this Bill is to be welcomed as it introduces measures that will help to ensure commercial vehicles are roadworthy and this will in turn lead to a reduction in the number of road deaths in Ireland that are caused by such vehicles. In addition, the centralisation of the driver licence system will lead to a more efficient, cost beneficial and customer service delivery for drivers.