Road freight transport by journey characteristics
From Statistics Explained
- Data from August 2012. 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.
Main statistical findings
Road transport by type of operation
Trends in road freight transport
Table 1 shows that in 2011 most of the Member States showed an increase of their road freight transport compared with 2010. The biggest increase in road freight transport was observed in Latvia (15%), Lithuania (11%) and Bulgaria (9%), while the biggest decrease was observed in Greece, Italy (19%) and Cyprus (13%). Almost no changes were observed in Austria.
Between 2006 and 2010, the highest increase was registered by Poland (62%), Bulgaria (54%) and Slovenia (36%). Big decreases were observed in Romania (54%), Ireland (42%) and Greece (29%).
EU-27 national road freight transport fell by almost 1 % in 2011 compared with 2010. Thirteen Member States have recorded an increase in national road freight transport, while eleven Member States have recorded a decrease. The highest increase was recorded in Denmark (14%) followed by Luxembourg (13%) and Estonia (12%), while the highest decrease can be found in Greece (21%), Italy (14%) and Cyprus (13%). Only Belgium showed a relatively stable evolution.
Unlike 2010 when most of the countries showed a global increase, 2011 shows a mixed situation of Member States national transport (Table 2).
The importance of national transport at country-level is however very different: in 2011, it accounted for more than 85 % in France, Italy, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden, 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.
EU-27 total international road freight transport fell by almost 2 % in 2011 compared to 2010. Over this period, we can observe a balanced situation, where twelve Member States recorded an increase of their international transport and twelve Members States recorded a decrease. The highest increase can be observed in Latvia (18%), Lithuania (12%) and Bulgaria (10%), while the highest decrease can be seen in Italy (43%) followed by Finland (28%) and Cyprus (14%). A stable evolution was recorded in Sweden.
The importance of international transport at country-level is however very different: in 2011, it accounted below 15 % in France, Italy, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden – countries registering high decreases in their international transport between 2007 and 2011 (except Sweden) – while more than 70 % of road freight transport was international transport in Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Slovakia. This is shown in details in Table 4.
Focus on international road freight transport
An important factor in the increase of road freight transport observed up to 2008 is the development observed in 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 2011 compared to 2007, an increase in the share of international transport in total road freight transport can be seen in most of the Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 (except for Romania). The biggest increase was recorded in Cyprus (28%) and Spain (18%). On the opposite, in most of the other countries it has decreased over the same period (see Table 4 for complete data). In particular, an important decrease of more than 20% of the share of international transport was recorded for four countries between 2007 and 2011: Denmark (42%), Italy (29%), France (26%) and Germany (24%).
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 2011, Poland continues to have the highest share in EU international transport (20.9 %) and saw its share of international transport growing from 54 % in 2006 to 57 % in 2011, with a peak of 59% in 2010.
Figure 4 shows the share of cross-trade and cabotage in international transport for 2011. EU-27 share of cross-trade is 20 % and 4 % for cabotage. For four countries (Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Slovakia) the shares of cross-trade in international transport represented more than 40 % 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-27 average vehicle loads were 13.6 tonnes in 2011, with national loads of 12.7 tonnes and international loads of 16.1 tonnes. Finland had the highest international load at 21.3 tonnes while Sweden had the highest national load at 16.6 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 61 % below the EU average.
Table 5 shows the development of average vehicle loads for EU Member States, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Croatia over the period 2006 to 2011. Between 2006 and 2008, the EU-27 average vehicle load has risen from 13.5 tonnes to 13.7 tonnes, a reflection of the developments in the Member States that joined the EU in 2004, where average loads have grown substantially since their entry. However after the financial crises, in 2009, this average vehicle load decreased to 13.4 tonnes. In 2010 EU-27 average vehicle load increased to 13.7 tonnes, value that remained quite stable in 2011.
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 shows a picture more mixed, with fourteen Member States recording an increase and eleven Member States recording a decrease in the average vehicle load. The highest increase can be observed in Portugal (4.1%), Denmark (3.3%) and Luxembourg (2.2%), while on the other end Cyprus (16.4%), Finland (8.2%) and Romania (3.6%) have recorded the highest decreases.
The ten Member States that joined the EU in 2004 all recorded increased average loads during the last six years (except Cyprus which has recorded a decrease of 21.1%). The growth was substantial in the case of Latvia (increasing from 8.4 tonnes in 2006 to 16.5 tonnes in 2011), Poland (12.4 tonnes in 2006 to 14.3 tonnes in 2011) and the Czech Republic (11.8 tonnes in 2006 to 13.36 tonnes in 2011). 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 in 2004. Moreover, after a slightly decrease in 2009, 2010 showed a rise after the impact of the financial crisis, while 2011 remains more or less 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-27 was 116 kilometres in 2011. This average distance was 84 kilometres in national transport and 596 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 and Latvian hauliers were much higher than in most other countries, reaching 467 km and 225 km respectively. This is a reflection of the importance of international transport in both countries. In contrast, the distances travelled by hauliers registered in Cyprus and Greece were much lower at 36 km and 45 km respectively.
Table 6 shows the evolution of average distance travelled for EU Member States, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Croatia over the period 2006 to 2011. Between this period, average distance in the EU-27 recorded a small increase (6 %).
In 2011, compared to 2010, EU-27 showed a small decrease of nearly 1%, following a mixed evolution of Member States’ average distance.
At individual Member State level, twelve countries have recorded an increase of their average distance in 2011 compared to 2010, of which the biggest ones were recorded in Slovakia and Finland (14%). Twelve countries have recorded a decrease, the highest ones being recorded in Greece (14%) and Estonia (13%).
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.
Greece: As road transport data for Q3 and Q4 2011 have not yet been reported, Q3 and Q4 2010 have been used instead. 2011 annual figures have been estimated by summing up Q1 2011, Q2 2011, Q3 2010 and Q4 2010.
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 have not been reported yet, 2010 data have been used instead.
Liechtenstein: Liechtenstein reports only international road freight.
EU-27 totals calculated in this publication refer to road freight transport reported by the 27 Member States excluding Malta which is not reporting road freight statistics and excluding confidential data reported by the Member States.
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 31/08/2012.
In this article:
- 1 billion = 1 000 000 000
- "- "not applicable
- ": "not available
- "c" confidential
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, Croatia, 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.
Further Eurostat information
- Decline in European road freight transport in 2011 reflecting the economic climate - Statistics in focus 38/2012
- Illustrated glossary for transport statistics - 4th edition
- Methodologies used in surveys of road freight transport in Member States and Candidate Countries - 2011 edition - Methodologies and working papers
- Road freight transport methodology - 2011 edition - Methodologies and working papers
- Energy, transport and environment indicators - 2012 edition - Pocketbook
- Transport, see:
- Road transport (t_road)
- Transport, see:
- Road transport (road)
- Road freight transport measurement (road_go)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- 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