This pandemic that, for some reason, the world decided to host, is affecting all sorts of systems and institutions in often unexpected ways. One of those unexpected ways is how it appears to be affecting the Polish Army, which seems to have sent out letters to owners of trucks, 4x4s, and other “high-mobility vehicles” demanding that those vehicles be delivered to the nearest army barracks, complete with a full tank of gas, on penalty of 30 days of imprisonment and a fine. What the hell is going on?
According to Kamil, a Polish citizen and member of an off-road driving group I’ve been in contact with, what’s going on is that the Polish Army’s fleet of Tarpan Honkers, the 4x4 truck developed for the army in the 1980s, is being sold off and the old Honkers retired, which, according to Kamil, nobody is really upset about since the Honkers were pretty terrible from the beginning.
Just a few days ago, it was reported that the Polish Army put in an order for 485 Nissan Navara trucks to replace the Honkers, but the Coronavirus pandemic means that the order won’t likely be filled for many months. This delay seems to be the impetus behind the Army’s alleged attempt to confiscate private trucks.
Kamil provided me with the letter sent to the targeted vehicle owners, in this case the letter is demanding the owner’s Nissan Patrol:
According to my Google Translate app, that’s telling the owner to take their Nissan Patrol to a specified parking area, and that they will get it back “after the cessation of use,” which I suppose will be, in the worst case, when those Nissan Navaras finally arrive?
This is a shot of the back of the letter, where the demands that the vehicle be in fully operational condition and have a full tank of gas are.
Kamil also reported that some people were asked to deliver their work vans, even if those vans are required for them to do their jobs.
According to Kamil, there’s really not much people can do; if they refuse, the vehicles can be taken from them by force.
Kamil also noted that
“I’m not sure what’s the reason for this. We are not at war with anyone except the virus.”
I’m not really certain if the COVID-19 virus has much access to “high mobility vehicles,” but I guess they can’t risk it?
UPDATE: A reader pointed me to a Polish article on the site Money.pl that clarifies the policies and what’s happening here; it’s not as dire as the letters make it sound.
The article states:
“So can owners of off-road cars be afraid that the army will suddenly come for their car? We asked about this in the General Staff of the Polish Army. The press office calls for “intelligent reading” of such calls. Because there is only talk about a possible takeover of the car in the event of war. In peacetime, the army of vehicles does not take over.”
The Polish Army also notes that there has yet to be a case where a private car was taken over since 1989, and the Army’s General Staff maintains this is an administrative procedure.
The law does permit the army to take over vehicles, and while they could it does not seem likely to happen any time soon. If it did happen, owners would be compensated as well: it looks like 150 PLN (about $35 US) for a vehicle that can carry up to two tons, and 400 PLN (about $93 US) for a larger truck capable of carrying over eight tons. That appears to be a daily rate, and if the vehicle is damaged or destroyed, the owner would be compensated.
So, yes, this is a real thing, but Polish 4x4 owners most likely don’t have to worry about their trucks actually being taken.