Consumers could face higher food prices because the Minister for Transport Shane Ross has cut the maximum load that trucks can carry on the Republic's roads.
Minister Ross this month reduced the maximum load that five-axle articulated trucks can carry to 40 tonnes from 42 tonnes to bring the State into line with an EU directive.
Irish Road Haulage Association president Verona Murphy warned on Friday that the decision could lead ultimately to consumers paying higher prices for everyday goods such as milk.
“Consumers are going to see things like the cost of a litre of milk rising as a result of this. It might not happen today, but I’d say it could happen by next year,” Ms Murphy said.
Her organisation has seen a more immediate impact, as many of its member companies have priced contracts on the basis of 42-tonne loads and now have to absorb the extra cost imposed by the 40-tonne limit.
“I know of one operator who is taking nine trucks off the road and putting nine drivers on protective notice,” she said.
Responding to a parliamentary question on the issue, from Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Robert Troy, the Minister told the Dáil the Republic has had a derogation from the 40-tonne rule since 2003, which had allowed the industry 13 years to adjust to the new rules.
According to the hauliers, the five-axle trucks are widely used in the Republic because they are the most suitable for rural roads. For this reason, Ms Murphy said many in the industry are unable to change.
The alternative is for truckers to use six-axle vehicles, which are allowed carry up to 46 tonnes, but hauliers say that they cannot use them on most rural roads.
"The six-axle vehicles are fine on motorways and in business parks near Dublin, which are designed for trucks, but they are not suitable for rural roads or farms, this is a rural Ireland problem and once again it's being ignored," Ms Murphy said.
Other EU countries allow five-axle trucks to carry more than 40 tonnes, once they are not travelling between member states.
However, Minister Ross said that part of the reason for ending the derogation was that five-axle vehicles carrying more than 40 tonnes caused “road and bridge infrastructure damage”.
Ms Murphy said that the Government has never shown her association the evidence to support this claim.