TSL Industry Grapples with Financial Challenges Amidst Rising Costs, Declining Demand


Wage pressure, rising fuel and energy prices, inflation and unstable interest rates – these are the challenges currently facing the TSL (transport, freight and logistics) industry. Its problems are reflected in the database of the National Debt Register. Payment arrears of companies in this sector increased by PLN 155 million over the last year to almost PLN 1.3 billion. On the flip side, the TSL industry secures its own transactions and checks the financial credibility of its contractors before delivering services. This limits its own financial risk.

According to the “Road Transport in Poland 2023” report, developed by SpotData commissioned by the Association of Transport and Logistics Employers Poland, road transport is the industry that contributes most significantly to the economic development of the country. However, the functioning of the TSL market is limited by high driver wages, inflation and fluctuating energy prices. The sector entered 2023 with decreasing demand for transport and shrinking prices for transport services. In the coming years, both logistic and transport companies will face an even greater shortage of staff than before, which is attributable to demographics.

Fewer orders, more financial problems

Market data suggests that 2023 will leave a mark on European road transport, which is crucial for Polish operators. In the previous year, they accounted for 20% of transport in the entire European Union. However, according to GUS (Central Statistical Office) data, fewer goods were transported in Poland in the first quarter of 2023 than the previous year. Freight availability across Europe fell year on year by 25%. This means fewer contracts for Polish carriers. In this situation, the challenge becomes increasing operational costs, particularly vehicle fleet maintenance.

– This year, in comparison to 2022, the demand for transport services is noticeably lower. Depending on the company the decrease ranges from 15 to 20 percent. This results in financial problems for the sector. Our database reflects this trend as within just a year the debt of companies in the TSL industry has increased by PLN 155 million – explains Adam Łącki, President of the Management Board of the National Debt Register Office of Economic Information.

The total debt of the TSL industry amounts to PLN 1.3 billion. On average, one company in this sector has to pay PLN 44.3k. This is PLN 4.4k more than a year ago. During this time, 670 entities emerged that have financial problems. Today, the KRD lists 29.3 thousand debtors involved in transport and warehouse management.

The majority of arrears burden companies dealing with road transport of goods – they have to return one billion złoty. There are also the most of these debtors – almost 21 thousand. Debts of companies dealing with passenger transport amount to PLN 128 million. They are owed by 4.4 thousand entities. Warehousing and support transport activity is just over PLN 107 million. The number of debtors in this segment is 2.2 thousand entities.

Transport companies less tolerant of payment delays

– Rising fuel and energy prices, driver wage pressure and high inflation have reduced tolerance for unpaid invoices in the TSL industry. Companies, in fear of losing financial liquidity, want to receive payment for their work as soon as possible and commission debt collection cases faster than last year, when the economic conditions were not as extreme as they are now. We also observe a new trend: claiming debts for the transport of coal and grain from Ukraine. It’s clear that companies want to recover their wages to avoid payment backlogs. This threatens honest businesses and is a heavy burden for the entire economy – notes Jakub Kostecki, President of the Board of debt collection company Kaczmarski Inkasso.

The most difficult situation among companies dealing with transport and warehouse management is in Mazovia, where they have PLN 268.3 million in unsettled liabilities. They are followed by companies from Śląsk (Silesia) with a sum of PLN 158.1 million, and the podium is closed by entities from Wielkopolska, which have accumulated PLN 148 million in arrears.

Among the debtors in the TSL industry, the largest group is sole proprietorships. This shouldn’t be surprising, as this sector has been known for years as one of the most fragmented. Small businesses are indebted for PLN 854.8 million, and this sum is spread over 21.8 thousand entities.

Companies engaged in transport and warehouse management have most of the unpaid obligations towards financial institutions – banks, factoring companies, leasing and insurance companies – which totals as much as PLN 500 million. Second in line to recover money are securitization funds, which have purchased debts from the original creditors, primarily banks. They are waiting for a return of PLN 392 million. TSL companies should also pay PLN 120 million to the commercial industry, including PLN 32.7 million for wholesale fuel sales. They owe another PLN 56 million to other transport companies.

Growing number of customers checked in the TSL industry

The economy is a system of connected vessels, so TSL industry companies themselves are creditors. Customers should pay them over PLN 381.2 million for services. This is almost 1/3 of what they themselves have to return to their contractors.

A way to protect against non-reliable customers is to verify business partners in business information offices. The TSL industry year by year draws more and more of such reports from the KRD. In 2021 it was 319 thousand reports, and a year later 342 thousand. This year, which is not over yet, companies from the transport industry have already downloaded 329 thousand reports about contractors. Every 7th verified contractor turned out to be a debtor. The transport industry is increasingly using not only a simple verification of the potential customer’s NIP (Tax Identification Number), which gives an answer whether they are currently a debtor or not, but also reaches for a payment credibility analysis which allows assessing the credibility of any company in Poland based on numerous available sources of information and using machine learning.

– TSL is one of the most complicated industries when it comes to settlements with customers. And it’s not just about delaying payment, but avoiding payment altogether. Unfortunately, many carriers are tricked in a nuanced way, which is a result of high competitiveness in the TSL market. They accept orders under which dishonest contractors are hiding, and it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish a scammer from a normal potential customer. Therefore, verification of contractors is crucial before cooperation is started. It’s good not only to check if a given company is not indebted now, but also what the likelihood is that it will be entered into the National Debt Register within the next six months. Such an analysis considers not only the situation of a given company, but also the industry in which it operates, or the province where it’s based. Transaction risk is, of course, a part of running a business, but it can be reduced – comments Tomasz Gadziński, transport market expert in the National Debt Register Office of Economic Information.