Road freight transport by type of goods

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 commodities carried. It presents total, national and international transport performed according to the type of goods carried. It also gives complete information for the transport of dangerous goods. Finally, road freight transport by type of cargo is presented.

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

Table 1: EU-28 total transport by group of goods, 2009-2012
(in thousand tonnes and in million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Figure 1: Share by group of goods (NST 2007) in EU-28 total transport, 2012
(% in tonnes and in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Figure 2: Share of each NST 2007 group in EU-28 total, national and international road freight transport, 2012
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg), (road_go_na_tgtt)
Figure 3: Share of transport of dangerous goods in total transport by reporting country, 2012
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg), (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 2: Transport of dangerous goods by reporting country, 2008-2012
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)
Figure 4: Transport of dangerous goods by type of operation, 2012
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)
Figure 5: EU-28 transport of dangerous goods by type of dangerous goods, 2012
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)
Table 3: Road freight transport by type of cargo, 2012
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tcrg)

Main statistical findings

Road freight transport by type of goods (NST classifications)

A new commodity classification has been introduced for all transport modes in 2008. In the new NST 2007 classification, there have been changes to all commodity groups compared to the previous NST/R. New groups have been introduced, covering:

a) secondary raw materials including municipal waste,

b) mail and parcels,

c) equipment used in transport and

d) household and office removals.

Secondary raw materials and municipal waste has emerged as a single transport category. These new groups in total account for 7.5% of total tonnage and 3.5% of tonne-kilometres in 2012.

All this means that there has been a reduction in the figures recorded for the headings for unidentifiable or grouped goods. Overall, this leads to a better appreciation of the transport market by goods type.

In the new classification, in terms of the tonnage lifted, the category metal ores and other mining and quarrying products, mainly building materials, was by far the largest with a share of 26.2%. It was followed by other non-metallic mineral products, again largely construction related, with a share of 13.5%, and then by food, beverages and tobacco with a share of 11.6%.

However, once the distances on which products are moved are taken into account by measuring tonne-kilometres, food, beverages and tobacco come to the fore with 17.1%, followed by agricultural products (10.8%) and then the other non-metallic mineral products group with a share of 8.4%. This reflects the fact that heavy construction materials are either sourced locally or will be transported over longer distances by modes other than road.

The large share of Group 18 ‘Grouped goods: a mixture of types of goods which are transported together’ (8%) is due, in part, to goods transported in containers where the exact nature of the goods is not known to the transporters or there may be a mixture of various goods in the container.

Figure 2 shows the share of each NST 2007 group in EU-28 total, national and international road freight transport. It shows that groups 7 and 9 mainly "Building materials", group 3 “Metal ore and other mining and quarrying”, group 4 “Food product”, group 14 "Waste related products", group 15 “Mail, parcels” and group 19 “Unidentifiable goods”, have higher shares in national than in international transport. The opposite can be observed for group 1 “Agricultural products”, group 6 “Wood products”, group 8 “Chemical products”, group 10 “Metal products”, group 11 “Machinery and equipment”, group 12 “Transport equipment”, group 13 “Furniture”, group 16 “Equipment and material utilized in the transport of goods”, group 18 “Grouped goods” and group 20 “Other goods”.

Road freight transport of dangerous goods

Figure 3 shows the share of dangerous goods in the total transport of each country in 2012. For most countries, the share of dangerous goods transport hovered around 4%. All the major economies recorded figures in the 4% to 6% range; only Poland which has become the second largest transport industry in Europe had a lower share at 3%. Some countries had a substantially greater proportion: Cyprus recorded 18%, while Greece has recorded around 11%. At the other extreme were Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania between 1% and 2%.

The transport of dangerous goods in the EU-28 remained quite stable from 2009 to 2011 at around 76 billion tonne-kilometres, but has decreased by 2.4% in 2012 and was just over 74 billion tonne-kilometres.

Between 2008 and 2012, most of the Member States have observed a fall in their transport of dangerous goods. The highest fall was recorded in Ireland (67%), followed by Portugal (61%) and Denmark (39%). On the other side, very high increases of their transport of dangerous goods were registered in countries like Luxembourg (43%) and Bulgaria (34%) (Table 2).

Figure 4 shows the repartition of the transport of dangerous goods between national and international transport in 2012.

For most of the countries, more than half of their transport of dangerous goods is performed on their national territory.

Luxembourg has a special pattern: as most of its transport is international transport, more than 90% of its transport of dangerous goods is performed in international transport.

For most countries, the share of dangerous goods carried in international transport is linked to its share of international transport (total of all goods).

Exceptions are Estonia, Poland, Portugal and Romania: international transport represents more than half of these countries’ transport, but most of these countries’ transport of dangerous goods is performed on their national territory. International markets of these countries concerns mainly transport of non-dangerous goods.

Figure 5 shows the type of dangerous goods involved in such transport in 2012. The largest specific product group was flammable liquids, taking over more than half of the total. Two other groups, gases (compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure) and corrosives, accounted for 14% and 10% respectively. This represents very little change compared with previous years when there was a very similar distribution between the product groups.

The methodology being used in the collection of the data means that there are considerable uncertainties about the figures, both in total and in terms of their allocation by country and type of dangerous good. This implies that not too much weight should be attached to the significance of any one number.

Road freight transport by type of cargo

Around 40% - i.e. 617 billion of tonne-kilometres - of the EU-28 road freight transport is recorded as palletised goods. The second type of cargo mostly used in road freight transport is solid bulk with almost 20% of totals road transport (Table 3).

Cyprus had less than 10% of tonne-kilometres performed by palletised goods. For this countries large freight containers and solid bulk had the highest shares. When regrouping palletised goods and solid bulk, only four countries have a share less than 50%: Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania and Finalnd. It has to be noted that the category ‘Other cargo not elsewhere specified’ can have a high share in some countries.

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.

Hungary: Hungary started to report data on dangerous goods for the reference year 2007.

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 and excluding confidential data reported by the Member States.

Total international transport includes international transport loaded, unloaded, cross-trade and cabotage.

Breakdown by goods groups

Starting with the reference year 2008, Regulation 1304/2007 amends Council Regulation (EC) No 1172/98 and establishes NST 2007 as the sole classification for goods carried in road freight transport. Germany still collects data according to NST/R but reclassifies them according to NST 2007 before the submission to Eurostat. For detailed information on the NST 2007 classification, please refer to ‘Ramon’, Eurostat’s Metadata Server).

Dangerous goods

Council Regulation (EC) 1172/98 stipulates the collection of information on different categories of dangerous goods on an obligatory basis. Annex E of the Council Regulation (EC) 1172/98 provides the categories to be used. As the carriage of dangerous goods by road represents only a small percentage of total road transport and the data are collected on the basis of sample surveys, the margins of error in any statistics will be substantial. Any figures for the transport of dangerous goods should be treated with caution.

Type of cargo is the appearance of the cargo unit on presentation for transportation.

Tonne-kilometre (tkm): Unit of measure of goods transport that represents the transport of one tonne by road over one kilometre. The distance taken into account is the distance actually run. It excludes the distance covered when the goods road vehicle is being transported by another means of transport.

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
  • "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, 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 microdata 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


Main tables

Road transport (t_road)


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

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures

Other information

  • Regulation 70/2012 of 18 January 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