More than 60% of Polish carriers are downsizing their staff and vehicle fleets

The Polish road freight transport sector is facing many challenges. The number of bankruptcies has risen sharply and most carriers are downsizing their fleets and/or staff.

According to ZMPD, more than 60% of carriers are retrenching their workforce and fleet or plan to do so in the coming months. 13% have stopped paying their financial obligations, and the number of bankruptcies in the first months of 2024 increased by 100% compared to last year.

This is related to the fact that over the recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the costs of doing business, primarily fuel prices, as well as personnel costs due to the shortage of drivers.

The outbreak of war in Ukraine led to an increase in fuel prices, which already account for 40–50% of transport companies’ costs. The economic downturn across Europe triggered a fall in orders, which in turn drove down transport rates, while operating costs continued to rise. On a human level, the rising cost of living also played a role.

Almost simultaneously with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the EU introduced the Mobility Package, which placed an additional financial burden on carriers in terms of compensation for their staff and the need to return to the base every few weeks.

In December 2023, the increase in road tolls in Germany totaled a cumulative 83%. Given that 40% of Polish carriers’ cross-border operations take place in Germany, many carriers are affected.

The European Union also granted Ukrainian companies open access to the European market. As a result, Ukrainian carriers were able to benefit from the fact that they are not subject to so many EU regulations and requirements, while the cost of their services is clearly lower. As a result, Polish carriers have lost their eastern markets, while being squeezed out of their domestic markets by competitors not bound by the same rules.

As one of the measures to support Polish carriers, the Ministry of Infrastructure has proposed to suspend the issuance of road transport operator permits for two years.