Mobilization at border: Risks of truck drivers not returning to Ukraine
Photo by Darek Delmanowicz/EPA

The Association of International Road Carriers of Ukraine (AsMAP) initiated a discussion in early May about the possibility of reserving truck drivers.

For in-depth analysis and longer stories, follow us on LinkedIn spoke with representatives of the transportation business to assess the scale of the problem for entrepreneurs.

Current situation with driver reservation

Starting May 18, all conscripted men, including truck drivers, must update their records at territorial recruitment centers (TRCs), at administrative service centers (CNAP), or via the "Rezerv+" application. As of now, according to AsMAP, less than 5% of truck drivers have reservations. From May 18, due to the new mobilization law coming into effect, drivers will fear making cross-border trips where TRC representatives are stationed.

Dmytro Lyoushkin, founder of the logistics company Prime Group, states that without 100% reservation of truck drivers, the entire transportation system will come to a halt.

"A 50% reservation option doesn't work here. It’s not feasible to operate with only 50% of the trucks while the rest sit in garages. You can't just choose key employees. Each truck has only one driver, and that driver is key," Lyoushkin notes.

Serhiy Nechay, a representative of Transpele Group of Companies, says that due to the risk of mobilization, drivers are afraid to return to Ukraine.

"The shortage of professional drivers in European countries reaches 40-50%. Therefore, those truckers who remain in Europe have no problem finding employment with foreign companies. On the other hand, as business entities with licenses for international transportation, we are responsible for returning these drivers to Ukraine. Unfortunately, the methods to combat drivers not returning are ineffective," Nechay says.

Serhiy Kuyun, director of A95 Consulting Group, has a different opinion. He believes the main problem is drivers who don't want to work legally and avoid getting into any state databases.

"So the question is: how do they plan to work even without leaving the country if they are eventually stopped at a checkpoint? Not to mention unloading/loading places that are also well-known," says Kuyun.

He notes that a significant problem for businesses is that they often cooperate with drivers illegally, paying salaries in cash, and therefore do not fall under the "critical" status defined by the Ministry of Economy.

Businesses against percentage reservation reached out to AsMAP to find out the exact number of drivers not returning from abroad, but the association did not provide such data, ignoring the request.

Not all businesses are willing to comment on this issue. Many companies did not respond to requests, and one of the leaders in agricultural products production, Agroprosperis, stated that they are not ready to comment on the topic at this time.

Mykhailo Rizak, Director of Government Relations at Nibulon, told about incidents when people went to the TRCs on their own initiative, even with valid reservations, and disappeared. For example, he mentioned four employees of the company's elevator department who were taken from the city of Pervomaisk to a territorial recruitment center in Mykolaiv and lost contact. Rizak notes that such cases do not occur in the Odesa Oblast, where the company has its river terminal on the Danube. There, drivers move freely.

Assessing the overall situation, Rizak states that the legislation does not consider the possibility of a collegial higher executive body for reservation. The 50% reservation approach does not work; a production cycle reservation approach is needed. In conditions where taxpayers support the military, the current TRC approach disrupts logistics chains and the foundation of economic security as an element of the country's defense security.

"I can say that the exponential dependence led to 1,350 employees ensuring the production cycle at the beginning of the war, which was 37%, in 2023 – it was already 48%, and now – 77% of conscripts," says Rizak, estimating the number of conscripts at Nibulon.

The Ministry of Defense did not respond to's request regarding this issue.

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