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Ukraine’s road transport industry set to be put under severe strain amid new army mobilisation laws

Road transport companies in Ukraine have expressed fears that their country's haulage sector is on the brink of a significant crisis. With changes to the law on mobilisation set to take effect on May 18, industry representatives are deeply concerned about the devastating impact the new rules could have on the sector.

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AsMAP of Ukraine, a major national haulage association, recently organised a meeting in which transport companies highlighted how the new mobilisation rules fail to take account of present-day realities in the road transport sector.

At the gathering, industry experts stressed that the mobilisation of drivers would not only severely harm the haulage sector, but also hurt Ukraine’s economy.

Despite the restoration of the Ukrainian maritime corridor, and the development of alternative inland shipping routes through the Danube, road transport remains crucial for large-scale exports and imports. Hauliers argue that the importance of international road transport thus cannot be overstated, and it should be recognised as critical for the function of the country’s economy.

“Today, the economy cannot function without road transport,” emphasised Volodymyr Balin, Vice President of the Association of International Road Carriers of Ukraine (AsMAP).

Industry leaders from the haulage sector state that along with drivers, other essential positions such as vehicle maintenance workers, mechanical engineers, mechanics, and gas-electric welders should also be included in the list of scarce labour market professions crucial for Ukraine’s international road transportation industry.

During the meeting, it was also pointed out that every second representative of the transport industry is subject to mobilisation. Extending the amount of exceptions was thus deemed necessary.

Petro Yakovenko, a lawyer at Trans Logistic, stressed at the event that the mobilisation of even 20 truckers could potentially lead to the bankruptcy of a company with 200 vehicles and drivers.

As of May 6, 18 companies had applied to the Ministry of Infrastructure for critical status, with only 5 proving successful.

Currently, less than 5% of drivers have protection against mobilisation. The process for an essential business to receive an employee exception application takes about a month, and any errors can delay it further. Meanwhile, drivers are being sent for training at the Armed Forces of Ukraine training grounds.

Another issue is that of May 18, international drivers at the border will require military registration documents with a special barcode. Without the proper documents, truck drivers will not be waved on. This has led to fears that drivers might refuse assignments or abandon their trucks abroad and not return to Ukraine.

The shortage of professional drivers in European countries is significant, and those who remain in Europe have no issues finding employment. Moreover, the combatting of driver non-return has so far proven to be ineffective. In Ukraine, training centres prepare international drivers who often gain experience and then move to work for companies in countries like Poland and Lithuania.

The Ukrainian Government has been urged to recognise the transport and logistics industry as critical, ensuring drivers can continue to support the Armed Forces and work towards victory.

Haulage industry’s leaders and other participants at the aforementioned meeting remain hopeful that a transparent and understandable reservation system for international drivers and other specialists will be established promptly, thereby prevent a collapse in both the transport sector and the Ukrainian economy as a whole.