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Amid rise in UK hauliers entering administration, similar patterns are being seen in Germany and Poland

Last month, we reported in detail on the problems facing the road transport sector in the UK, where a worrying amount of haulage companies have gone into administration over the last 6 months in particular. The problems faced by British hauliers are not all unique however, and there are similar signs of trouble in both Germany and Poland.

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According to official data, in January 2024, Germany’s district courts reported 1,622 filed corporate bankruptcies. The frequency of insolvencies was highest in the transport and warehousing sectors.

Concern in Germany

Since June 2023, regular insolvencies in Germany have been growing at a double-digit rate compared to the previous year.

Forecasts point towards the trend continuing in 2024. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the number of corporate bankruptcies rose by more than 27.6% in January.

The frequency of insolvencies was highest in the transport and warehousing sectors, which accounted for the most insolvencies per 10,000 companies with 9.1 cases. Company bankruptcies also increased in February and March compared to the same period last year.

“The increased numbers in 2023 primarily show a normalisation of insolvency events. We assume that the insolvency figures will continue to develop dynamically in 2024. Sectors and long-term causes of crises play a role here. The key issues are labour shortages, transformation and digitalisation,” says Christoph Niering, from Germany’s Professional Association of Insolvency Administrators.

Evidently, the trend should not be ignored.

Germany’s Federal Logistics & Transport Association (BLV-pro) recently warned that the transport industry is struggling with a significant increase in insolvencies. It anticipates that companies affected by the effects of the current economic and geopolitical situation will face difficult decisions and have to adapt to new realities.

Citing insiders, the association estimates that around 1/3 of the road toll costs in Germany cannot be paid according to contract due to a lack of liquidity, and that leading insurers are even terminating contracts with customers who are struggling to make payments.

“At the moment we no longer hear about a driver shortage as it actually doesn’t exist anymore! So many transport companies have already given up or are threatened with bankruptcy and drivers are now looking for jobs,” said Ralf Kalabis-Schick, BKF representative at BLV-pro.

“Now the apocalypse begins for many,” says the association, summing up the situation.

Similar issues observed in Poland

In Poland, too, the number of transport companies that have filed for bankruptcy is steadily increasing.

Although there is no talk of a wave of bankruptcies yet, Maciej Wroński, President of the Transport and Logistics Association (TLP), has warned that the loss of many small hauliers is going under the radar:

“Transport companies are dying slowly and quietly. The fact that bankruptcies of large companies are more quickly noticed by the public does not mean that the situation for small companies is good.”

If the economic situation does not improve, the TLP president expects bleak prospects for the transport industry.

“For most Polish transport companies, the biggest problem is maintaining liquidity and obtaining a positive profit margin from the transport business. Unfortunately, these problems are objective and result from the current imbalance between the demand for transport services and their supply. Hence the justified fears of the specter of insolvency. And if the market situation does not improve by 2024, these fears will in many cases become reality,” warned Wroński.

Text written in collaboration with Dorota Ziemkowska-Owsiany