Road freight transport statistics

From Statistics Explained

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

This article presents the main trends in road freight transport up to 2012 in the European Union (EU). The analysis is carried out for national, international, cross-trade as well as cabotage transport. A focus on road freight transport by distance classes is also presented.

Figure 1: EU-28 quarterly road freight transport
(billion tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_tq_tott)
Table 1: National, international loaded and unloaded, cross-trade and cabotage transport (million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 2: Evolution of EU-28 road freight transport based on tkm, 2004=100)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 2: EU-28 road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Figure 3: EU-28 road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), 2012(1)
(% on tonnes and tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Figure 4: EU-28 total transport by distance classes, 2012(1)
(% on tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dc)
Figure 5: Figure 5: EU-28 total transport by distance classes (2008=100, based on tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dc)
Table 3: Road freight transport by distance class (million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dc)
Figure 6: EU-28 road freight transport of 300 km or more by group of goods (NST 2007), 2012 (1) (thousand tonnes and million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)
Table 4: EU-28 road freight transport by distance class and group of goods (NST 2007) (thousand tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)
Figure 7: Goods moved on the countries' territory (national; international transport loaded, unloaded and cross-trade),2012 - million tonnes
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott) (road_go_ia_ugtt) (road_go_ia_lgtt) (road_go_cta_gtt)
Table 5: Main country-to-country flows in extra EU-28 road goods transport, 2012 - million tonnes
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott) (road_go_ia_ugtt) (road_go_ia_lgtt) (road_go_cta_gtt)
Table 6: Main country-to-country flows in intra EU-28 road goods transport, 2012 - million tonnes (1)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott) (road_go_ia_ugtt) (road_go_ia_lgtt) (road_go_cta_gtt)

Main statistical findings

Decline in European road freight transport in 2012

In terms of tonne-kilometres (tkm), European road freight transport declined by 3.5% in 2012 compared to 2011, taking the total to its lowest level since 2004. This outcome reflected the economic climate within Europe.

The major components, national and international transport, declined, while the smaller in share cross-trade and cabotage transport recorded substantial increases.

Poland consolidated its position as the second largest transport country in Europe. Bulgaria and Romania recorded a strong rise in tkm performed, while Belgium and Italy registered substantial declines.

Transport of construction related products fell markedly as a result of the difficulties faced in the construction sector. However, construction industry products remained the major group in tonnage terms, while food dominates transport in tkm.

All distance classes fell between 2008 and 2012 with the shorter and longer distances most affected: Tkm in movements under 150 km are 15% below 2008 level while those over 1 000 km are 14% down.

Poland achieved growth in all distance classes in 2012, while Bulgaria saw growth in longer distances, i.e. over 300 km.

Cabotage and cross trade grew strongly in 2012

EU-28 national and international transport fell in 2012, with national transport falling by 5.2% and international by 2.3%. In contrast, cross-trade and cabotage recorded strong increases of almost 6.4 % and 10.7% respectively (see Table 1 and Figure 2).

At country level, three countries, Denmark, Lithuania and Romania managed increases in all categories of transport with rises in total of 3.5%, 9.0% and 12.6% respectively. Lithuania and Romania recorded very strong growth for cabotage while Denmark, like Romania, had a very strong growth in cross-trade transport. Compared with these encouraging results, four countries, Belgium, Germany, France and Sweden recorded decline across the board. At the total level, the fall in transport tkm was 24.5% for Belgium.

The fall in road transport in Italy at 13%, continued the trend which emerged in 2011.

Among the other countries with a large road transport industry, Spain saw a fall of more than 3.5%, the result of a decline in national transport. Poland recorded a 7% increase, consolidating its position as the second largest road freight transport industry in Europe.

Difficulties in the construction industry caused significant falls in the tonnages of construction related products transported

In terms of tonnage, European freight transport recorded a 7% fall between 2011 and 2012. Within the major product groups, the falls were largely concentrated in products associated with the construction industry. These include mining and quarrying products (-15.7%), wood and wood products (-5.7%), other non-metallic mineral products (-9.8%) and basic metals (-7.8%). In addition, coal and crude petroleum and coke and refined petroleum products fell by just over 6.1%. Furniture was down by 8.9% and machinery by 5.8%.

The major product groups were mining and quarrying products (26% of the total), other non-metallic mineral products (14%), food, beverages and tobacco (12%) and agricultural products (9%) (see Table 2 and Figure 3).

In terms of tkm, the major product groups were food, beverages and tobacco (17.1% of the total), agricultural products (10.8%), other non-metallic mineral products (8.4%), chemicals and metal ores (7.7% and 7.6% respectively) and metal products and wood products (7.2% and 7.1% respectively). There were falls of 10.9% for mining and quarrying products and 9.5% for other non metallic mineral products, both linked to development of the construction industry. Coal and crude oil transport fell by 9.2%. There was a rise of 5.4% in goods moved in the course of household and office removals.

Figure 3 shows the contrast between the importance of individual product groups for transport measured in tonnes and tkm.

In tonnes, two of the dominant groups relate to materials for the construction industry (sand gravel and cement). Food, beverages and tobacco and the products of agriculture are the second largest element followed by secondary raw materials, including municipal wastes, another important group.

In terms of tkm, the most important product groups are food, beverages and tobacco and agricultural products (27.9% of the total together), both groups being carried for relatively long distances and feeding into the food supply chain. Construction related materials, including wood products, form a second group and make up a combined 14.7% of the total. These are followed by chemicals (7.7%) and metal products (7.2%). One final important category is grouped goods carried together, mainly palletised transport, (8.0%), an important group to ensure full use is made of road freight capacity.

All distance classes recorded falls compared to 2008 but with the heaviest falls in very short and very long distance journeys

Figure 4 shows the split of tkm between the distance classes travelled by the freight carried. While 8% of goods travelled under 50 km, 5% travel more than 2 000 km. However, the bulk of transport activity falls between 150 and 1 000 km and transport in these distance classes accounts for 59% of the total. A more important consideration for policy purposes is that 56% of freight journeys are over 300 km. For journeys at these longer distances, there is more opportunity to substitute road transport with more environmentally friendly modes.

Figure 5 shows the trends in transport for broad distance classes since 2008. Transport in all distance classes has fallen since 2008. For long distance movements over 1 000 km, there was a sharp 16% decline between 2008 and 2009 with some recovery thereafter. The very short distance movements under 150 km, fell by 10% between 2008 and 2009 but then stabilised until 2011 before falling by another 5% in 2012. This is a reflection of the economic background, particularly the difficulties in the European construction sector. The middle distance classes also fell between 2008 and 2009 but then recovered before falling sharply again in 2012.

Table 3 shows the change in transport by distance classes between 2008 and 2012 for the EU-28 and individual countries. At the level of the EU-28, tkm declined for all distance classes but especially for the shortest distances less than 50 km and the longest distances over 2 000 km. Poland was the only country to record growth in all distance classes between the two years. Bulgaria achieved rapid growth in all the longer distance classes over 300 km. Lithuania made major gains for distances between 300 and 999 km. Eleven countries recorded falls in all distance classes. Among the major economies, Spain, France and Italy recorded falls across all distance classes. For France and Italy, much of the fall occurred in the longer ones, while Spain saw the major falls in the shorter distance classes as the Spanish economy declined. Germany managed a small rise in transport in the 50 to 149 km class but saw substantial declines for journeys over 500 km. These changes may be an indication of the competitive advantages of the road freight transport industries in the new Member States in the European transport services market.

Table 4 shows transport of goods by type of good split between movements of 300 km or more and movements less than 300 km, all in tonnage terms in 2012. The largest changes between 2011 and 2012 in specific goods are a 15.8% fall in shorter distance movements of mining and quarrying products and 10.0% falls in furniture and other manufactured goods and other non-metallic mineral products. For the longer distance movements, there was a 10.7% drop in textile and leather products, a 9.7% fall in other non-metallic mineral products and a 7.3% fall in wood and wood and metal products. In contrast, there was a 11.5% rise in household and office removals. Products where there was a major difference in the changes between the shorter and longer journeys included mining and quarrying products where there was a 16% fall for the shorter journeys but only 6% for the longer journeys. Again this may be an indication of the fall in construction sector activity at the level of Europe as a whole. Other groups where there were large differences between the shorter and longer journeys were coal and crude oil with a fall of 7% for the shorter journeys but little change for the longer distances, with a similar pattern for coke and refined petroleum products. There was a major contrast for textiles and leather products with a 4% rise in shorter journeys compared with an 11% decline in longer distances.

Figure 6 shows the percentage distribution by group of goods for movements of 300 km or more, both for tonnes and tkm. The main groups transported over these longer distances are food (19% of the total in tonnage terms), grouped goods, mainly movements of goods carried on pallets (11%), agricultural products (10%), chemicals (9%), metal products and wood products (both 8%). It is these goods where there is scope for mode shift to more environmentally friendly modes, like rail or inland waterways for example.

Strong performance by Polish hauliers as third parties in country to country flows

Germany, France, UK (on the basis of 2010 data), Spain, Poland and Italy dominated demand for European road transport in 2012, measured in tonnes loaded and unloaded. They accounted for nearly 69% of the total with Germany on its own taking 21% (Figure 7). Considering international transport only, i.e. goods entering or leaving the country, the pattern changed significantly. While Germany and France remained the largest two countries, the Netherlands and Belgium, with their large North Sea ports, took third and fourth places, ahead of Poland Italy and Spain. Austria and the Czech Republic were larger players in there terms than the UK.

At the more detailed country to country level (Table 5), five extra EU-28 states emerged as main trading partners, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. With one exception all the trading was with close neighbours. Switzerland’s traffic was with Germany (24.6% of the total extra EU-28 transport), France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, while Norway had links with both Sweden and Denmark. Russia traded with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Switzerland’s trade with the Netherlands was the only main country to country flow not to be between near neighbours.

Table 6 explores the same area in more detail, highlighting the main intra EU-28 country to country flows with additional information about the balance between hauliers of the two countries and the penetration by hauliers from third countries.

Not unexpectedly, Germany and France appeared in 14 of the top 20 country to country flows. For France, the share of the total taken by French hauliers in any bilateral flow was normally substantially less than a half, dropping to 9.4% for the bilateral Spain/France traffic. French hauliers achieved their highest shares in Belgium/France traffic (36.4%) and France/Italy traffic (32.8%). The German experience varied substantially. While German hauliers took over 62.0% of the transport with Denmark and just under half with France (46.9%), they fared much less well in bilateral trades with Poland (less than 4.1%) and Spain (just over 10.5%). The penetration of third country hauliers in the main flows varied substantially. Third country penetration varied from 45.2% for Germany/Italy traffic, 40.2% for Belgium/Germany traffic and 38.3% for Austria/Italy. At the other extreme, there were very low penetrations for Spain/Portugal (0.3%), Ireland/UK (0.4%) and the Czech Republic/Slovak Republic (1.1%).

The nationality of the main third party hauliers involved in the transport movements was partly a reflection of geography. An example is the transport between Spain and France where the Portuguese hauliers were the most successful third country operators and the transport between Germany and Austria, with the main third country hauliers being from the Czech Republic. However, one main message is about the success of Polish hauliers in their entry into third country markets. Poland emerged as the most successful third country with its hauliers appearing as the main other haulier in 11 of the top 20 country to country markets, including Germany/Netherlands, Germany/France, Belgium/Netherlands, Germany/Italy and France/Italy.

Data sources and availability

Bulgaria and Romania: While Bulgaria and Romania had no obligation to report 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: Reg. 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 transport.

EU-28 totals calculated in this publication refer to road freight transport reported by the EU-28 Member States excluding Malta which is currently exempted from reporting road freight statistics.

Total transport

Total transport includes national transport, international transport of goods loaded in the reporting countries, international transport of goods unloaded in the reporting countries, cross-trade and cabotage transport.

National transport

Road transport between two places (a place of loading and a place of unloading) located in the same country by a vehicle registered in that country.

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.

Cross-trade transport

Cross-trade transport is defined as international road transport between two countries performed by a road motor vehicle registered in a third country (movement of goods by road from country A to country B by hauliers registered in country C).

Cabotage transport

Cabotage is declared by Member States for hauliers registered in their country performing transport on the national territory of another country. Cabotage was liberalized in 1998 in the EU-15. The cabotage regime was extended to the EFTA states (except Switzerland) following the creation of the EEA (European Economic Area). Cabotage between EU-15 and the new Member States was liberalized in May 2009.

Breakdown by goods groups

Starting with the reference year 2008, Regulation 1304/2007 establishes NST 2007 as the sole classification for goods carried in road freight transport. For detailed information on the NST 2007 classification, please refer to ‘Ramon’, Eurostat’s Metadata Server.

Transport by distance class

Eurostat disseminates road freight transport according to the following distance classes: < 50 km; 50-149 km; 150-299 km; 300-499 km; 500-999 km; 1 000-1 999 km; 2 000-5 999 km; ≥ 6 000 km. More detailed data and metadata are available in the Eurostat dissemination database and on CIRCA

Goods entering a country

The volume of goods entering a country is the sum of international transport and cross-trade unloaded in the country by hauliers from all reporting countries (the declarations from unknown partners are ignored).

Goods leaving a country

The volume of goods leaving a country is the sum of international transport and cross-trade loaded in the country by hauliers from all reporting countries (the declarations to unknown partners are ignored).

Figure 7

This figure presents volumes moved on the territory of each country if there is loading or unloading of the goods. Transit where neither loading nor unloading takes place in the crossed country, is not included in this figure. The weight of goods in international transport is accounted for both in the country of loading and in the country of unloading. The weight of goods in national transport is accounted for only once.

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 26/07/2013.

Country codes

EU-28: European Union of 28 Member States from 1 July 2013: Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), the Czech Republic (CZ), Denmark (DK), Germany (DE), Estonia (EE), Ireland (IE), Greece (EL), Spain (ES), France (FR), Croatia (HR), Italy (IT), Cyprus (CY), Latvia (LV), Lithuania (LT), Luxembourg (LU), Hungary (HU), Malta (MT), the Netherlands (NL), Austria (AT), Poland (PL), Portugal (PT), Romania (RO), Slovenia (SI), Slovakia (SK), Finland (FI), Sweden (SE) and the United Kingdom (UK).

EFTA countries: Liechtenstein (LI), Norway (NO), Switzerland (CH).

In this article:

  •  1 billion = 1 000 000 000
  • "-" = not applicable
  • "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. For the distinction between national and international transport, journey information is used at the European level, which might cause differences in corresponding values from those countries that are using goods information for these statistics.

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 graphs (MS Excel)

Other information

  • Regulation 1172/98 of 25 May 1998 on statistical returns in respect of the carriage of goods by road
  • 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