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Polish transport companies face mounting problems: competition from Ukraine and numerous intermediaries operating on the EU market

TSLPolish transport companies face mounting problems: competition from Ukraine and numerous intermediaries operating on the EU market

One of the most serious issues facing transport companies today is the involvement of a large number of intermediaries in the EU market. “They cleverly buy up orders, holding them until the last moment when they can sell them cheaply,” says Jan Buczek, President of the Association of International Road Transport Operators in Poland. As a result, carriers undertake freight at a value that does not cover the costs of such transport. According to Buczek, the Polish transport industry is currently in crisis, triggered by a series of overlapping factors, including a slowdown in the European economy and challenges related to emissions reduction. Disruptions caused by recent protests and the blocking of the Polish-Ukrainian border only exacerbate these problems.

“Recent months’ protests and border blockades have been a major nuisance for the entire economy, including our industry,” says Buczek in an interview with Newseria Biznes. “I feel quite awkward expressing my view on this topic because colleagues from my industry also blocked the Polish-Ukrainian border for several months, so it’s hard for me to unequivocally criticize this. However, it doesn’t change the fact that such blockades disrupt transport, disrupt economic processes, and are a nuisance for companies that buy and sell abroad, for importers and exporters. That’s why it seems like a good idea for the government to introduce a regulation that would define border crossings as critical infrastructure, where such protests would not be possible.”

The Polish-Ukrainian border has been periodically blocked for over six months not only by loud farmer protests but also by road carriers, who began their protests last November, demanding the restoration of the requirement for transport companies from Ukraine to have permits. Following the Russian invasion and the outbreak of war, the European Union – under a liberalization agreement signed with Ukraine – allowed them open access to the common EU market. However, the problem is that Ukrainian carriers operate there with a significant competitive advantage – their costs are several times lower, making them cheaper, and EU community regulations do not apply to them. This has led to a crisis: carriers in Poland and several other EU countries started losing their livelihoods and were on the verge of bankruptcy. Therefore, at the end of last year, they began protests, resulting in miles-long queues at border crossings. As a result, trade between the EU and Ukraine was seriously disrupted, and businesses operating on both sides of the border incurred significant losses.

Unfavorable regulations for Polish companies, according to which Ukrainian carriers do not need permits to transport goods within the EU, are to remain in place at least until the end of June 2024. This situation continues to be difficult for Polish transport companies, especially those from eastern Poland, including Lublin and Subcarpathia. This issue was discussed during talks that began at the end of April this year at the Ministry of Infrastructure.

“Everyone has the right to express their dissatisfaction through protest, but what we have been dealing with lately is no longer just a demonstration of dissatisfaction. Some even describe it as terrorism against citizens, because after all, people with sick children, ambulances, fire brigades, and just other road users – who, like those protesting, also want to earn – are also moving along the roads,” says the president of the Association of International Road Transport Operators in Poland. “I think the further scenario for the development of this situation may indeed be to lead to a ban on registering any pickets or protest actions in the border area, which will only have positive consequences for the economy and for ordinary people.”

The expert points out that the industry is currently in a serious crisis triggered by a series of overlapping factors, including a slowdown in the European economy.

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