March 26, 2023
Spaceknow’s Truck Stop dataset provides insights into the economic activity and logistics lines of the Russian army in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, as well as the impact of Western sanctions on different regions, highlighting the importance of understanding economic nuances in a complex geopolitical environment.
In the midst of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Spaceknow’s Truck Stop dataset has emerged as a powerful tool for monitoring economic activity, even identifying logistics lines of the Russian army. These indices monitor the number of trucks and cars in the parking areas that provide refueling, rest, and often restaurant services to truck drivers. As the index reveals, truck stop activity in the Southern Federal district of Russia has experienced a significant surge since the end of October, pointing to the region’s central role in the conflict. Through its unique insights, the index offers a fascinating window into the complex geopolitical environment of modern-day Russia.
SpaceKnow’s Truck stop dataset is primarily built to monitor economic activity – with higher number of trucks implying more goods being transported to customers or factories, but it also often captures extraordinary events such as various congestions and together with our container indices, can indicate supply chain issues. As the analysis below shows, in extreme cases, it can even tell us about the ongoing war effort.
Figure 1 above shows our Truck Stop index for the Southern Federal district of Russia, and we can see a very significant rise in truck stop activity starting in November 2022. Additionally, Figure 1 indicates that this increase is notable even when compared to the same period in the previous year. We believe the reason we see this behavior is because of the region’s key position in the Russian war against Ukraine. The region is centered in Rostov-on-Don and borders Ukraine, including Donetsk and Luhansk, two key occupied regions where even now the hardest fighting is taking place. Moreover, it is this region where annexed Ukrainian territories, including Crimea were incorporated. Therefore, we believe that the index primarily shows logistic lines of the Russian army leading to the front in eastern Ukraine.
To show that the Southern regions behave differently from the rest of Russia, we can compare the Southern region with the overall development of the truck stop index in Russia. The indices are normalized for comparison. Figure 2 shows that since autumn 2022 the southern district is experiencing a change in behavior that is much stronger than anything we see in Russia. We can also see that both indices were strongly correlated until very recently.
To distinguish between war efforts and the ongoing migration of Russians trying to escape conscription and persecution, we look at the Volga region. This region borders Kazakhstan, a sought-after destination for Russian migrants last year.
Figure 3 shows that truck stops in the Volga region do not show an increase in any way similar to the one seen in the Southern district, further suggesting that the behavior in Figure 1 is war related. The reason why the truck stop index is rising in the Volga region can be also connected with the Russian attempts to circumvent western sanctions through Kazakhstan leading to rising truckloads brought to and from Kazakhstan and softening Russia’s shrinking economy.
It is hard to decompose the overall impact of sanctions in terms of changes in foreign trade and the macroeconomic environment, but we can effectively show regions without any direct military logistics. The Volga district analysis showed us the probable impact of levied sanctions by the West. The Northwest federal region which includes Saint-Petersburg can show us the opposite side of those sanctions. This region is the only one that directly borders the EU (including Finland and the Baltics).
Figure 4 above shows a comparison of the index between 2021 and 2022, unlike in Volga district, the index values are lower compared to the last year (and 2019) for the last two quarters, almost entirely missing the December peak.
From the economic point of view, our indices show the impact of Western sanctions are varied and depend on the region’s neighbors. We have also seen that the areas near the front line are significantly affected by the war, as seen in the increased activity shown in Figure 1.
In conclusion, Spaceknow’s Truck Stop dataset is a valuable tool for monitoring economic activity and identifying extraordinary events in Russia. The index has provided insights into the logistics lines of the Russian army leading to the front in eastern Ukraine, as well as the impact of Western sanctions on different regions. The analysis shows that the areas near the front line are significantly affected by the war, as seen in the increased truck stop activity in the Southern Federal district. These findings highlight the importance of understanding the nuances of economic activity and supply chain issues in a complex geopolitical environment.
SpaceKnow’s Russia dataset package also includes airport and cement refinery indices, in addition to the truck stop index. For clients interested in the US market, SpaceKnow offers a state-specific Truck Stop Index as part of its US Supply Chain dataset package. If your organization values near-real-time, satellite activity-based data, consider subscribing to our indices today, or reach out to our sales team to learn more about our datasets.
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