Truckers get caught in Ukraine conflict by sanctions, deadlines

April 19, 2022

Chuck Robinson


North American truckers know what it’s like getting caught in the middle by issues bigger than them. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that all too well. So it’s not surprising to them that freight drivers in Ukraine are getting caught by the cataclysmic war there.

There was a rush to the borders once the European Union announced April 8 that it would ban Russian and Belarusian trucks. Starting April 16, Russian and Belarusian freight truckers have been banned from working in the EU except if they are hauling essential items such as food, mail, medicine and energy.

The ban is part of many sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union. The war began Feb. 24. Russian troops recently launched an assault on east Ukraine.

Belarus has been an ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin in his war against Ukraine. Belarusian leader Aleksander Lukashenko allowed Russian troops to mass in his country in the months leading up to the war.

As many as 400 vehicles were still waiting at border crossings as at midnight April 16, Quartz reported. Some truck drivers were stuck at the border for up to 33 hours, and thousands more were believed to be in the EU. Long lines also were reported in the Polish town of Bobrowniki.

Reuters News Service has published drone videos showing the long lines of Russian and Belarusian trucks at the Polish border. A driver interviewed on the video related his experience of waiting hours in line just to get to a checkpoint and told to go somewhere else. He was just driving with a load, and he didn’t know what was going to happen, he said, according to the captioned translation.

Thousands of Russian and Belarusian vehicles are likely trapped in the EU, according to the BBC. If they are seized by national authorities, there may be retaliation against Polish trucks headed home in Russia and Belarus.

The Federal Association of Freight Transport, Logistics and Disposal estimated in March that more than 100,000 Ukrainian truck drivers could be drafted into military service, Quartz reported. Many of them work for Polish and Lithuanian hauling companies. LL