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Road freight transport by journey characteristics

From Statistics Explained

Data from August 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article presents road freight transport in the European Union (EU) regarding the type of transport operation performed. It presents total, national and international transport performed, with a special focus on international road freight transport. It presents also average loads carried and average distances on which goods are moved.

Together, this article and both articles 'Road freight transport by vehicle characteristics' and 'Road freight transport by type of goods' present a complete overview of road freight transport in Europe.

Table 1: Total road freight transport, 2008-2012
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 1: Evolution of EU-28 road freight transport, 2008-2012
(based on tonne-kilometres, 2008 = 100)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 2: National road freight transport, 2008-2012
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 3: International road freight transport, 2008-2012
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 2: Share of international transport in total road freight transport, 2008 and 2012
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 3: Share of each Member State in EU-28 total international transport, 2012
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 4: Share of cross-trade and cabotage in international transport, 2012
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 4: Share of international transport in total road freight transport, 2008-2012
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 5: Average loads for total transport, 2012
(tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 5: Average vehicle loads for total transport, 2008-2012
(tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 6: Average distance on which goods are carried, 2012
(kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 6: Average distance on which goods are carried for total transport, 2008-2012
(kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

Main statistical findings

Road transport by type of operation

Trends in road freight transport

EU-28 road freight transport fell by 4% in 2012 compared with 2011 to a total of around 1 675 billion tonne-kilometres.

Table 1 shows that in 2012 most of the Member States reported a decrease of their road freight transport compared with 2011. The biggest decreases in road freight transport were observed in Belgium (24%), Italy (13%) and Portugal (10%), while the highest increases were observed in Bulgaria (15%) and Romania (13%).

Between 2008 and 2012, the highest increases were registered by Bulgaria (59%), Poland (35%) and Lithuania (15%). Important decreases were observed in Romania (47%), Ireland (43%) and Belgium (35%).

EU-28 national road freight transport fell by 5% in 2012 compared with 2011. Twenty Member States have recorded a decrease in national road freight transport, while only five Member States have recorded an increase. The highest decreases were recorded in Belgium (18%), Slovenia (15%), Hungary (13%) and Italy and Portugal (12%); the highest increases can be found in Romania (7%) and Lithuania (5%), but their level is very low.

The importance of national transport at country-level is very different: in 2012, it accounted for more than 90% in France, Italy, Cyprus, Sweden and the United Kingdom, but less than 25% in Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Slovakia. Contrary to Cyprus with 98%, Luxembourg had the lowest proportion of national transport: only 7% of the output of Luxembourg-registered hauliers concerns haulage in their own country. This can be explained by the small geographical size and location of the country.

Focus on international road freight transport

An important factor in the increase of road freight transport observed up to 2008 is the development of international transport. Indeed, an increase of international transport implies longer distances travelled and often heavier loads are carried: international transport is usually performed by heavier vehicles, empty journeys are avoided as much as possible and distances travelled are longer.

In 2012 compared to 2008, an increase in the share of international transport in total road freight transport can be seen in all Member States that joined the EU since 2004, except for Estonia, Latvia and Romania. The highest increases were recorded in Cyprus (107%) and Bulgaria (39%). In contrast, it has decreased over the same period in most of the other countries (see Table 4 for complete data). In particular, important decreases of more than 20% of the share of international transport were recorded for four countries between 2008 and 2012: Denmark (42%), Italy (38%), Germany (24%) and France (22%).

When looking at the evolution of international transport for the EU total, the impact of the increase of a Member State’s international transport is also linked to the share represented by that Member State in the EU total international transport. This information is provided in Figure 3. In 2012, Poland continues to have the highest share in EU international transport (23%) and saw its share of international transport growing from 56% in 2008 to 60% in 2012.

Figure 4 shows the share of cross-trade and cabotage in international transport for 2012. EU-28 share of cross-trade is 21% and 4% for cabotage. For four countries (Bulgaria, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Slovakia) the shares of cross-trade in international transport represented more than 45% of international transport. It can be observed that for Luxembourg the share of cabotage is also very high with 23%. This can be explained by the small geographical size and location of the country.

Average vehicle loads

In this article, the "average load" has been calculated by dividing annual freight transport performance (tonne-kilometres) by the corresponding laden distance travelled (vehicle-kilometres, equivalent to kilometres). This indicator provides information on the average weight in tonnes carried per road vehicle in each Member State and at EU level.

EU-28 average vehicle loads were 13.7 tonnes in 2012, with national loads of 12.7 tonnes and international loads of 16.1 tonnes. Greece had the highest international load at 19.9 tonnes while Sweden had the highest national load at 16.3 tonnes.

In general, vehicle loads were higher for longer distance journeys with some exceptions, particularly Sweden. Here heavier loads are legally allowed in national transport than in international journeys. For the same reason, the average load in national transport in Sweden was around 30% above the EU average. The average load in national transport in Slovakia was around 57% below the EU average.

Table 5 shows the development of average vehicle loads for EU Member States, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland over the period 2008 to 2012. Between 2008 and 2009, the EU-28 average vehicle load has fallen from 13.7 tonnes to 13.4 tonnes, a reflection of the financial crise. In 2010, EU-28 average vehicle load increased to 13.7 tonnes, value that remained quite stable in 2011 and 2012.

At individual Member State level, 2010 showed an increase in most of the countries (only four Member States have recorded a small decrease of maximum 2%), while 2011 and 2012 show a more mixed picture; in 2012, fifteen Member States recorded an increase and eleven Member States recorded a decrease in the average vehicle load compared to 2011. The highest increases can be observed in Finland (8%), Bulgaria, Cyprus and Slovakia (6%), while on the other end Romania (3%), Croatia, Italy and Austria (2%) have recorded the highest decreases.

The thirteen Member States that joined the EU since 2004 all recorded increased average loads during the last five years (except Croatia, Hungary and Romania). The growth was substantial in the case of Bulgaria (increasing from 12.9 tonnes in 2008 to 14.7 tonnes in 2012), the Czech Republic (12.1 tonnes in 2008 to 13.2 tonnes in 2012) and Poland (13.5 tonnes in 2008 to 14.5 tonnes in 2012). These substantial changes possibly reflect the increasing integration of these countries into the EU and investment in upgrading their commercial vehicle fleets.

This data shows a strong trend of carrying heavier loads on road vehicles, especially in the Member States that joined the EU since 2004. Moreover, after a slight decrease in 2009, 2010 showed a rise after the impact of the financial crisis, while 2011 and 2012 remain at the same level as 2010.

Average distance travelled

The average distance on which goods are carried used in this publication has been calculated by dividing tonne-kilometres by tonnes for laden journeys only. This indicator provides information on the average distance travelled per journey in each Member State and at EU level.

Average distance of journeys performed in road freight transport in the EU-28 was 121 kilometres in 2012. This average distance was 86 kilometres in national transport and 602 kilometres in international transport. The average distance obtained for individual Member States depends on the size of the country and on its involvement in international transport where longer distances are travelled.

Among Member States, distances travelled by Lithuanian, Slovenian and Latvian hauliers were much higher than in most other countries, reaching 484 km, 253 km and 231 km respectively. This is a reflection of the importance of international transport in these countries. In contrast, the distances travelled by hauliers registered in Cyprus and Greece were much lower at 39 km and 52 km respectively.

Table 6 shows the evolution of average distance travelled for EU Member States, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland over the period 2008 to 2012. Between this period, average distance in the EU-28 recorded an increase of 10%.

In 2012, compared to 2011, EU-28 showed an noticeable increase of 4%, following an increase of the average distance travelled in nineteen Member States. The highest increases were recorded in Greece (28%), Portugal (27%) and Slovenia (16%). Only six countries have recorded a decrease, the highest ones being recorded in Belgium and Austria (6%).

Data sources and availability

Bulgaria and Romania: While Bulgaria and Romania had no obligation prior to their accession in 2007, they started to report data for the reference year 2006.

Croatia: While Croatia had no obligation prior to their accession in 2013, it started to report data for the reference year 2008.

Luxembourg: As road transport data for 2012 did not pass Eurostat validation, 2011 data have been used instead.

Malta: Regulation 70/2012 does not apply to Malta, so long as the number of Maltese-registered goods road transport vehicles licensed to engage in international transport does not exceed 400 vehicles.

Finland: National and international surveys have been harmonised and follow a common methodology from Q1 2011 onwards, leading to a break in time series in 2011.

United Kingdom: As road transport data for 2011 and 2012 have not been reported yet, 2010 data have been used instead.

Liechtenstein: Liechtenstein reports only international road freight.

EU-28 totals calculated in this publication refer to road freight transport reported by the 28 Member States excluding Malta which is not reporting road freight statistics.

International transport loaded and unloaded: International transport as presented in this publication is based on goods loaded and unloaded in the reporting Member States. Double counting is avoided since reporting relates only to resident carriers of the reporting countries: the figures sum up the goods transported by resident carriers to all other countries of the world and the goods brought into the reporting country by resident carriers from all other countries of the world.

Data availability: The figures presented in this publication have been extracted from Eurostat’s free dissemination database and reflect the state of data availability on the 02/08/2013.

In this article:

  • 1 billion = 1 000 000 000
  • "- "not applicable
  • ": "not available

Context

Data presented in this publication were collected in the framework of Regulation (EU) No 70/2012 on statistical returns in respect of the carriage of goods by road (recast). These data are based on sample surveys carried out in the reporting countries, i.e. EU Member States, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and record the road goods transport undertaken by vehicles registered in these countries.

Reporting countries use their own national surveys for the collection of data based on returns from road hauliers. The results are micro-data referring to vehicles and their linked journeys providing detailed information on goods transported. At the European level, common aggregation procedures have been used that might diverge from national practices. Therefore differences might occur between the figures in this publication and national values.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Road transport (t_road)

Database

Road transport (road)
Road freight transport measurement (road_go)

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Other information

  • Regulation 70/2012 on statistical returns in respect of the carriage of goods by road (recast)
  • Regulation 1304/2007 of 7 November 2007 amending Directive 95/64, Regulation 1172/98, Regulations 91/2003 and 1365/2006 with respect to the establishment of NST 2007 as the unique classification for transported goods in certain transport modes
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