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Road freight transport statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from August 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article presents the main trends in road freight transport up to 2011 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-27 quarterly road freight transport
(billion tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_tq_tott)
Table 1: National, international loaded and unloaded, cross-trade and cabotage transport, 2010-2011
(million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 2: Evolution of EU-27 road freight transport, 2004-2011
(based on tkm, 2004=100)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 2: EU-27 road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), 2009-2011
(thousand tonnes and million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Figure 3: EU-27 road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), 2011(1)
(% on tonnes and tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Figure 4: EU-27 total transport by distance classes, 2011(1)
(% on tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dc)
Figure 5: EU-27 total transport by distance classes
(based on tkm, 2006=100)
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-27 road freight transport of 300 km or more by group of goods (NST 2007), 2011(1)
(thousand tonnes and million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)
Table 4: EU-27 road freight transport by distance class and group of goods (NST 2007)
(thousand tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)

Main statistical findings

Decline in European road freight transport in 2011 reflecting the economic climate - Analysis of trends in EU road freight transport

European road freight transport declined by 1 % in 2011 in terms of tonne-kilometres (tkm) after slight recovery in 2010, reflecting the economic climate. However, there was a small rise in tonnage terms.

National, international and cross trade transport all declined, while cabotage recorded a slight increase.

Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria recorded a strong rise in tonne-kilometres performed, while Italy registered a significant decline.

Household and office removals transport rose sharply in 2011.

Construction industry related products are the major group in tonnage terms; food dominates transport in tonne-kilometres.

European road freight transport under 300 km decreased by 9 % between 2007 and 2011.

Poland achieved growth in all distance classes in 2011, while Bulgaria saw growth in all but the very shortest distances, i.e. less than 50 km.

Tonne-kilometres in movements over 1 000 km are 16 % below 2007 levels.

Cabotage continued its growth in 2011

National, international and cross-trade transport fell in 2011, with international declining by 2 %, cross-trade by 1 % and national by 0.5 %. In contrast, cabotage recorded a slight increase of 0.3 % (see Table 1 and Figure 2).

At country level, Latvia saw growth of 15 %, and Lithuania 11 %. For Latvia, this reflected particularly strong growth in international and cabotage transport while Lithuania saw strong growth for all forms of international transport. In both cases, national transport was relatively subdued. Bulgaria recorded a rise of 9 %, mainly reflected in international and national transport. In all three countries, national transport was not a dominant element of total transport.

Italy saw a precipitous decline in its road transport. National transport was down 14 %, international by over 40 %, cross-trade by around two thirds and cabotage by nearly a quarter. Overall, Italian road freight transport fell by nearly 19 %.

Among the other countries with a large road transport industry, Spain saw a fall of 1.5 %, largely the result of a decline in national transport. In contrast, Germany, France and Poland all recorded small increases, mainly the result of a growth in national transport, particularly for Poland.

Construction materials dominate tonnages while food is the key product for tonne-kilometres

In terms of tonnage, European freight transport recorded a small increase between 2011 and 2010. The major product groups were mining and quarrying products (29 % of the total), other non-metallic mineral products (14 %), food, beverages and tobacco (11 %) and agricultural products (8%) (see Table 2 and Figure 3). Coke and refined petroleum (-5 %), coal, crude oil and natural gas (-4 %) and wood, paper and printed matter (-3 %) all recorded marked falls. Goods moved in the course of household and office removals rose by over 40 % and transport equipment by 7 %.

In terms of tonne-kilometres, the major product groups were food, beverages and tobacco (16 % of the total), agricultural products (10 %), other non-metallic mineral products (9 %), chemicals (8 %) and metal products (7 %). There were falls of a little under 5 % for wood, paper and printed products and furniture. Substantial rises were recorded in goods moved in the course of household and office removals (+32 %), coal, crude oil and natural gas (+4 %) and other non-metallic mineral products (+2 %).

The case of coal, crude oil and natural gas is interesting in that a decline in tonnage terms was matched by a rise in tonne-kilometres. The implication of this change is that distances in this category have become longer between the two years.

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

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

In terms of tonne-kilometres, the most important product groups are food, beverages and tobacco and agricultural products (27 % 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 26 % of the total. These are followed by chemicals (8 %) and metal products (7 %). One final important category is grouped goods carried together, mainly palletised transport, (8 %), an important group to ensure full use is made of road freight capacity.

All distance classes recorded falls compared to 2007

Figure 4 shows the split of tonne-kilometres between the distance classes travelled by the freight carried. While 8 % of goods travelled under 50 km, 4 % 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 almost 60 % 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, it may be possible to substitute road transport with more environmentally friendly modes.

Figure 5 shows the trends in transport for broad distance classes since 2007. While transport in all distance classes has fallen since 2007, the decline is sharpest in long distance movements over 1 000 km where it was some 16 % below the 2007 figure in 2011. Similarly, short distance movements under 150 km were 12 % below the 2007 figure. For the middle distance classes, the decline was much less marked at 5 % for movements of over 150 km but less than 300 km and 6 % for journeys of between 300 km and 1 000 km.

Table 3 shows the change in transport by distance classes between 2007 and 2011 for individual countries. Poland was the only country to record growth in all distance classes between the two years, while Bulgaria achieved rapid growth in all distance classes except the very shortest movements of under 50 km. Many countries recorded falls in all distance classes, particularly Ireland where there were very sharp falls across the board.

Besides Poland, all the major transport economies recorded falls across all distance classes but much of the fall occurred in the longer ones. These changes may be an indication of the competitive advantages of the transport sectors in the Member States which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, as they gain market share from the established Member States.

Eurostat introduced recently the 300 km distance class to make available detailed data for short distance transport and better monitor objectives of the EU white paper on transport.

Table 4 shows transport of goods split between movements of 300 km or more and movements less than 300 km. In tonnage terms, the largest changes between 2010 and 2011 in specific goods are a 9 % rise in shorter distance movements of transport equipment and a 4 % drop in petroleum products. For the longer distances, the changes relate to headings where the individual goods type cannot be determined. One exception to this rule is the 33 % rise in household and office removals, with a 43 % rise for shorter distance moves of this category.

Figure 6 shows the percentage distribution by group of goods for movements of 300 km or more. 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 (9 %), chemicals (9 %), basic metals (9 %) and wood products (8 %). It is these goods where there is the most scope for mode shift to more environmentally friendly modes, like rail or inland waterways for example.

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.

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. 2010 annual data have been used instead of 2011 data in case of breakdowns for which quarterly data are not disseminated.

Malta: Regulation (EU) No 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 transport.

EU-27 totals calculated in this article refer to road freight transport reported by the 27 Member States excluding Malta which is not 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.

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.

Data availability

The figures presented in this article have been extracted from Eurostat’s free dissemination database and reflect the state of data availability on the 31/08/2012.

Country codes

In this article:

  •  1 billion = 1 000 000 000
  • "-" = not applicable
  • "c" = confidential


Data presented in this article 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 article 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.

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

See also