Rechtsanwalt Frank Geissler 

 Ihr Fachanwalt für Transport, Spedition und Versicherung in Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein

Transport law in Poland

Transport law in Poland is defined as a set of regulations governing not only the issues connected with the transportation that is with transferring of people or transporting the objects (goods, parcels and freights) using the means of transport designated for it, but also as a set of standards governing the organization of transport, understood as a section of national economy and additional services associated with the transport.

In Poland, there is no uniform legal regulation encompassing all branches of transport. Due to the criterion of means of transport, the following sections of transportation law are distinguished: railway law, road transport law (automotive law), maritime law, inland navigation law and air law. Also the legal regulations referring to the postal transport or municipal transport, as well as combined transport performed using different means of transport are inclueded thereto.

As part of the general taxonomy of law, the transportation law in Poland does not constitute a separate branch of law, and the regulations of the transportation law referring to the given branch of transport are distributed in the acts including standards belonging to different fields of law, such as civil law (e.g. transport contract) or administration law (e.g. issues connected with the authorizations to the professional conduction of transportation activities or regulations referring to the organization of particular transport branches).  

The most general regulations concerning the carriage of people and goods have been included in the Civil Code. The regulations of the Civil Code in the scope of carriage contract are merely of primary character. They are directly applicable only with regards to the horse-drawn transport (e.g. to the horse cabs in holiday resort) and to other untypical transport (e.g. to the carters carrying their loads). In relation to other branches of transport, the application of the regulations of the Civil Code governing the carriage contract is only of an auxiliary nature (subsidiary). The particular regulations referring to the particular transport types with consideration of their technical, economic and organizational character include the normative acts of law category, to which the Maritime Code of 2001, the Air Law of 2002 and the Postal Law of 2003 belong.

Moreover, the regulations of the Civil Code are merely relatively valid, whereas the special regulations, except for the Maritime Code, are mandatory.  

By definition, it results from the carriage contract as formulated in the Civil Code that the transport regulations are not applicable to the carriages performed free of charge, by courtesy. Therefore, this type of transport is evaluated according to the general rules referring to the contractual obligations regulated in the Civil Code. If the transport is performed free of charge within the branch of transport regulated by the Transport Law, the provisions of this law shall apply.

The civil law regulates also the issues referring to the relations of financial character between the transport companies and their customers, arising from various types of contacts, such as shipping, reloading, storage, warehouse, as well as renting, leasing or charter contracts for the time of transport means made for carriage.

In order to standardize the transport law with regards to different branches of national transport, the act as of the 15th November 1984 was passed – the Transport Law (Journal of Laws 200, no. 50, item 601). The scope of the act covers the basic branches of national transport, such as railway transport, road transport law, inland navigation law, as well as combined transport involving mentioned branches of transport. In this act, only the civil law issues connected with the carriage contract were raised.  The issues concerning the administrative law were not regulated in this act.

However, the regulations of the Transport Law refer only to the basic principles of transport law in the scope of transporting the people and goods without considering the attributes characteristic for the given branch of transport. The consideration of the character of the given type of transport is possible as part of the executive regulations to the act. 

The mutual rights and obligations in the scope of the transport that are not covered by the act are also established in the regulations. The carriers are also entitled to establish them. The regulations of the carriers are of contractual nature and do not constitute the normative acts. Therefore, they are not subject to the publication in the promulgatory bodies, and their interpretation is performed according to the methods referring to the interpretation of the will statements of the parties, in this case will statements of the carrier.         

The Transport Law as of the year 1984 pursuant to the provisions of article 1 sec. 3 regulates the rules for national transport, whereas in case of the international transport its provisions are applied only auxiliary. The regulations of the mentioned law are also supplementary in the absence of the normalization of the given issue in the act of international law. They are applied directly only for the inland navigation, as there is no relevant international norms in this respect.    

Poland is the member of the international agreements and conventions referring to the particular branches of transport whose aim is not only to standardize the financial relations between the transport companies and customers with regards to the international transport, but also to harmonize the legal regulations of administrative nature, as e.g. standardization of the technical requirements with regards to the transport means, router, road signs, railway track width, as well as the authorization issues in case of customs clearance. Among the acts of the international law that is binding for Poland, the following conventions are to be mentioned: Berne Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) of 9 May 1980, Geneva Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR) of 19 May 1956, Chicago Convention of 7 December 1944 referring to the administrative issue of international air transport, Warsaw Convention of 12 October 1929, with further amendments on the Carriage by Air, Geneva Convention of 15 March 1960 relating to the unification of certain rules concerning the civil responsibility resulting from the collisions in inland navigation, Universal Postal Convention as of 1964.

In relations with the states not belonging to the given convention, the regulation of the European Parliament and Council of 17 June 2008 no. 593/2008 is applied on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I) stating that in the absence of the law applicable for the goods transport contract, the law applicable for such a contract is the law of the state, in which the carrier has the habitual residence, provided that it is the same country, in which the goods receipt for transport is performed or it is the place of delivery or the habitual residence of the sender. If these terms are not met, the law of the state is applicable, in which there is the place of delivery agreed by the parties.

On the other hand, with reference to the transport of people, if the parties have not selected the law applicable for this contract, it is subject to the law of the state, in which the traveler has the habitual residence provided that in the same state there is the place of departure and destination. If these terms are not met, the law of the state is applicable, in which there is the habitual residence of the carrier.

With regards to the Polish transport law, two most frequently contracts concluded by the parties may be distinguished: the carriage contract and the forwarding contract. Both contracts varies not only with regards to their subject, but also with regards to the issue of responsibility for the possible damage during the transport. In the event of concluding the carriage contract, the carrier accepts the transport order consisting in the transferring of goods from point A to point B. Whereas, the forwarding contract lays a duty upon the shipper to organize the transport of goods from point A to point B, consisting in the sending or receiving the package or performing other services connected with its transport. Both in the forwarding contract, as well as in the carriage contract, it is possible to delegate the transport to another entity – subcontractor. If the parties are jointed by the carriage contract, the issue of the possible liability is specified by the CMR convention or the Transport Law. The possible delegation by the carrier of the contractual transport order to another carrier does not relieve him from the liability for the possible damage. In case of the forwarding contract the liability is regulated by the provisions of the Civil Code: the carrier is liable for the damage, provided that the results of the possible damage will also be charged to the forwarding agent. The liability of the forwarding agent is however limited to the negligence in choice (culpa in eligendo). The forwarding agent in order to free himself from the liability in this scope has to prove the lack of negligence in the choice of the carrier.