Fact check: Poland needs 120,000 drivers, so surely they must have even bigger shortages than Britain!

Image courtesy of the author

There is that map circulating the internet, used by Brexiters to show that driver shortages are nothing unusual across Europe, and thus the situation in Britain is not specific to this country only and, surely, it has nothing to do with Brexit. You can find that map for example in this Daily Mail article; for easiness of reading I will pull that map from that article and post it here under the copyright exception allowing me to quote other work for criticism:

Daily Mail

So what’s wrong with the map? Well, its problem is that the context is missing. Poland is the biggest transporter in the EU. It has only 7.4 per cent of the population of the EU (data source from 2019), but it transports about 23 per cent of goods within the EU (data source from 2020). That means many Polish truckers work abroad, serving the needs of the other countries, transporting either cabotage loads in other EU countries or transporting between two third countries.

Britain, on the other hand, is a pretty isolated market and it was even before Brexit. The vast majority of British hauliers serve the local market only.

So if Poland is short of drivers, it still has plenty of reserves, as thousands of its trucks come to Poland only once in a period of several weeks, and can always be recalled to do some work in Poland. Also, the local needs can be served by trucks from other European countries, who are free to do cabotage loads within Poland or, thanks to freedoms provided by European Union, there is nothing that would stop, for example, an Estonian truck transporting goods between Poland and Italy.

In other words, despite that shortage, in practice, Poland still has more drivers than Poland itself needs, and even if they are not available domestically, it can easily plug the gaps with drivers from other EU countries (or even non-EU. Remember that Poland is a transit country, and on the Polish roads you can spot plenty of trucks from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and beyond.

Meanwhile, Britain has not have enough drivers for its own needs and, mostly thanks to Brexit, has very few options to fill the gaps in its market or get trucks from other countries to help with transporting British goods.

So while both Poland and Britain lack over 100,000 drivers, Britons see the impact in their supermarkets and Poles do not.

I came up with this analogy that, I think, explains it pretty well:

Britain wants to eat one apple, but it has zero apples.
Poland wants to eat one apple, and then give one apple each to its four friends, but it only has three apples in total.
As we can see: both countries have at least one apple less than they need. On paper, it looks as if Poland is worse off…
But the outcome of this story is that Poland ate its apple and four of Poland’s friends ate half of an apple each – not much, but it will keep them going for the time being.
Meanwhile, Britain goes hungry.

This article first appeared in my blog.