Nigel Whyte has had a career in haulage that spans the past 15 years. Like his father before him, the Donegal man first sat into a cab at the age of 18, after securing his HGV licence.
He has been driving all his adult life and just three years ago, he purchased a Volvo FH and went into business as an owner/driver.
Nigel began hauling products such as fertilisers, animal feeds, coal and sand as he had been working in this line previously and knew many people in the business.
As the threat of hard-line Brexit moves ever closer, one of the most immediately affected industries will be haulage, particularly those that are based in Co. Donegal.
The ability to travel to Dublin and the rest of the country without large expenses or obstruction is crucial to the survival of their business'.
The quickest and most efficient way to travel to the capital from Donegal is to enter the Northern Irish counties and keep travel time to under three hours.
As it stands, hauliers must pay a €1,200 levy every year or a €10 a day, to the UK exchequer to use roads in Northern Ireland. This amounted €4.5 million in a single year, according to a UK government publication.
Brexit has come into the discussion with hauliers from Donegal quite frequently of late, but the worry for the company owners is too serious to ignore.
“Our usual way to Dublin would be through Omagh, Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone and into Monaghan. If we had to avoid Northern Ireland, we would have to go to Sligo or Cavan, meaning that we couldn’t do a run to Dublin in a single day," said Nigel.
“Brexit would be a disaster for me,” he added.
Being based close to Lifford, the Donegal man would cross the border into Derry as many as six or eight times a day because although many of his customers are from the Republic, a lot of their produce would be imported through Derry.
Being a one-man outfit, the haulier usually takes up to eight loads in a day, however, any border delays means that he won’t have time to take as many loads, thus reducing his earning ability. This obstruction coupled with the premium levy could have devastating effects on his business.
Nigel also addressed another concern; “The Irish Government are not going to recognise the HGV licence that we did in the North”, he said, “90% of the lorry men in the northern border counties all got their licence in the north, so we’re going to have to re-do our haulage licence”.
"If they don’t have some kind of law that says that we can transit through the north, middling quick, we will be hammered,” noting that his three most local mills are all operating from Northern Ireland.
Finding his optimistic side, Nigel did say that the result of Brexit may simply and eventually fizzle out, but the immediate impact will be the greatest.
The lorry-driver also pointed out that there was a UK bank holiday recently, but the shops were open in the republic and they were panicking that the raw materials wouldn’t be in their shops due to the holiday. “That was a real tester for Brexit,” said Nigel.
The haulier has three teenage daughters and he has been married to his wife Marcella for 19 years. He said that it can be tough, having to spend time away from his family.
The girls have yet to show any sign that they may want to become hauliers, indeed, the Donegal dad laughed and said that he has grown accustomed to chat about nail polish, hair extensions and make-up.
His voice lightened with the mention of his daughters and you can tell that he is happy talking about his family. His tone communicates a grateful distraction from the threatening topic of Brexit.
Nigel had intentions of expanding his business by purchasing a new lorry for the winter, however, this has been put on hold for the moment and things between Europe and the UK have settled. “It’s just too unpredictable at the moment,” he said.
Nigel works with two trailers, a bulk and a curtain trailer. Most of his business in the winter is animal feed, but for the moment he is carrying mostly raw materials such as barley and maize from the mills to the distillers.
Despite the recent challenges, the 43-year-old does enjoy his job, “It’s nice that your day is planned out and you know when you’ll be home, I’ve been doing it all my life and It’s just something I enjoy,” he concluded.
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