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Freight Caviar: What the trucking industry is like in Poland

This commentary was written by Freight Caviar founder Paul-Bernard Jaroslawski. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

By Paul-Bernard Jaroslawski

It’s funny. I remember when I got hired for my first role at a logistics company, my first thought was, “What exactly will I be doing?” The title given to me was carrier sales rep. 

Hey, that sounds like an excellent, competent job for a recent college grad.

I had just graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Psychology and was super-happy to have a job lined up. Little by little, I grasped the industry. I realized that being a freight broker isn’t rocket science, but what is funny is that I had no idea that freight brokers even existed prior to getting hired. 

My friends and family members who aren’t in logistics would be startled when I told them what I did. I then started to wonder if freight brokers existed in Europe. I thought, well, maybe they don’t need freight brokers — the same way my family and friends thought of the industry in the US. 

It turns out they are very much part of the logistics industry in Europe and the rest of the world. 

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to interview Jacob, who works as a domestic freight broker in Poland. (Last name withheld to protect his identity.) Here is what I learned.

Lublin to Gdańsk (530 km/329 miles) is a popular domestic lane. According to Jacob, it costs approximately 2500 PLN ($600), which comes out to about $1.82/mile. 

At Jacob’s company, popular outbound lanes from Lublin are destined for Poznan, Silesia, (Sosnowiec, Katowice), Wroclaw, and Legnica. The less-popular routes are from Lublin to Szczecin and Koszalin (northwest part of Poland). 

Many drivers do not want to go to that market, as there are fewer opportunities for backhauls back to Lublin. In such cases, brokers have to pay more to cover these less-desirable routes. 

In contrast, U.S. destinations like Florida and Colorado also present the same problem and you have to pay more for the outbound trip.  

Load boards and rates

“If we have a load, we first try to assign our own trucks. If we do not have our own trucks available, we use the load board site trans.eu,” said Jacob. 

Another popular load board site is Timocom.com. Calculations for the load rates are based on distance, weight and pallet positions.

Truckload (TL)

When dealing with TLs, typically the customer informs the freight broker the highest amount they are willing to pay for the shipment. The broker will then look for a carrier that will transport it cheaper in order to make a profit. 

For freight brokers to keep track of the location of independent carriers, they use the app E-toll in Poland.

 “E-toll was introduced recently, it replaced Via Toll. It has a built-in GPS. It is also used for road tolls,” Jacob said. “We as freight brokers do not have access to the location, but we can ask the carrier to send it.”

Driver earnings

A company truck driver in Poland can expect to earn 5000-8000 PLN ($1,200-$1,900 USD) per month. The amount is calculated per kilometer, the average rate being 50 groszy/km (19 US cents per mile). In the US, company truck drivers are paid per mile in the region of 50-60 cents per mile.

Driver working hours

The working hours are slightly different between the two markets. In Poland, a driver has a 9-hour working day that can be extended twice a week to 11 hours. 

“The driver drives 4.5 hours, takes a 45-minute break, and drives another 4.5 hours,” said Jacob. 

With speeds of approximately 90 km/h (65 mph), a driver can cover a maximum of 800 km (500 miles) per day. Loading also takes up the allotted working time.

Double brokering

When I asked Jacob whether this problem exists in Poland, he confirmed that it does happen quite often. 

“From my experience, I could tell you, they often do this with sea containers,” he said. 

He also told me that he avoids working with such double brokers, but he is in constant contact with such companies just in case he needs their help.

Impact of the war in Ukraine

The ongoing war in Ukraine presents several challenges to the logistics industry in Poland. The biggest challenge is that fuel prices have gone up since the war started. 

Another challenge? “A lot of drivers in Poland are from Ukraine and a lot of them decided to go back home and fight,” said Jacob. 

In addition, the sale of goods has increased due to the influx of refugees. A lot of humanitarian shipments leave Poland for Ukraine. 

The decline in the number of trucks on the market and the increase in demand of goods being sold has caused truck prices to go up. Before the war, a load from Lublin to Lviv cost around $400 and now it costs $2,200-$2,500. 

The rate to go from Lublin to Lviv is about 6 times the average domestic rate at 28 PLN/km ($10.57 USD/mile), mainly because not many carriers want to make the trip. With current gas prices, the domestic rates are 3.70 to 5.50 PLN/km (54 to 81 cents per mile).


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