Road freight transport by journey characteristics

Data extracted in October 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: November 2017.

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, 2011-2015
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 1: Evolution of EU-28 road freight transport, 2011-2015
(based on tonne-kilometres, 2011 = 100)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 2: Total road freight transport, 2011-2015
(thousand tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 2: Evolution of EU-28 road freight transport, 2011-2015
(based on tonnes, 2011 = 100)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 3: National road freight transport, 2011-2015
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 4: International road freight transport, 2011-2015
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 3: Share of international transport in total road freight transport, 2011 and 2015
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 5: Share of international transport in total road freight transport, 2011-2015
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 4: Share of each Member State in EU-28 total international transport, 2015
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 5: Share of cross-trade and cabotage in international transport, 2015
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 6: Share of each Member State in EU-28 total cross-trade transport, 2011-2015
(% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 6: Average loads for total transport, 2015
(tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 7: Average vehicle loads for total transport, 2011-2015
(tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Figure 7: Average distance on which goods are carried, 2015
(kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 8: Average distance on which goods are carried for total transport, 2011-2015
(kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 9: Road freight transport by distance class, 2015
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dc)
Figure 8: Share of empty journeys in the total journeys by type of operation, 2015
(% in vehicle-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 increased in 2015 compared with 2014, accounting for around 1 764 billion tonne-kilometres which represents an increase of 2.2 %.

Table 1 shows that in 2015 a big part of the Member States reported an increase of their road freight transport compared with 2014. The biggest increases in road freight transport were observed in Bulgaria (+16.0 %), Croatia (+11.3 %) and Romania (+11.1 %), while the highest decreases were observed in Portugal (-8.7 %), Luxembourg (-7.8 %) and France (-7.0 %).

Between 2011 and 2015, the highest increases were registered by Bulgaria (+52.2 %), Romania (+48.1 %) and Poland (+25.6 %). Important decreases were observed in Cyprus (-40.2 %), Italy (-18.2 %) and France (-17.3 %).

When looking at EU-28 national road freight transport, globally the same trends can be observed with an increase of 1.4 % in 2015 compared with 2014 (see Table 2 for complete data). The evolutions of national and international transport are similar for tonne-kilometres and tonnes, even if for international transport the volume of tonnes carried grew less than the tonne-kilometres performed.

Over the period 2011-2015, total transport in tonnes decreased by 4.6 %, while the one in tonne-kilometres increased by 1.2 %, which indicates that the decrease in volumes is compensated by an increase in distances traveled.

Table 3 shows that in EU-28 national road freight transport increased between 2014 and 2015 by 3.0 %, with most of the countries recording increases. The highest increases were recorded in the Czech Republic (25.5 %), followed by the United Kingdom (11.9 %) and Poland (8.3 %), while the highest decreases can be found in France (-6.5 %), Denmark (-3.2 %) and Luxembourg (-2.2 %).

The importance of national transport at country-level is very different: in 2015, it accounted for more than 90 % in France, Cyprus, Sweden and the United Kingdom, , but less than 20 % in Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Slovakia. Unlike Cyprus (97.3 %), Lithuania had the lowest share of national transport (11.0 %); the size and location of the country can explain it.

Focus on international road freight transport

An important factor in the increase of road freight transport observed since 2011 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 2015 compared with 2011, 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 the Czech Republic and Lithuania. The highest increases were recorded in Cyprus (+39.3 %), Greece (+30.3 %) and Romania (+25.6 %). Increases were observed on more than half of the Member States (see Table 5 for complete data). Important decreases of more than 20 % of the share of international transport were recorded for two Member States between 2011 and 2015: Denmark (-24.6 %) and the United Kingdom (-21.2 %).

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 4. In 2015, Poland continues to have the highest share in EU international transport (25.2 %) and saw its share of international transport growing from 56.8 % in 2011 to 59.8 % in 2015, followed by Spain with a share of 11.7 % which also recorded a growth of it's share of international transport from 31.2 % in 2011 to 34.5 % in 2015.

Figure 5 shows the share of cross-trade and cabotage in international transport for 2015. EU-28 share of cross-trade is 24.9 % and cabotage represents 5.2 %. For six Member States (Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Hungary and Slovenia), the share 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 21.9 %. This can be explained by the small geographical size and location of the country.

When looking at the repartition of cross-trade between the different Member States in 2015, the eight first with the highest shares are Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, all Member States that joined the EU after 2004 (Table 6). Most of these Member States have seen an increase of their shares since 2011, while Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria recorded decreases over the same period. Poland takes the lion’s share and performed 29.5 % of total EU cross-trade in 2015, while the other Member States all have shares below 10 %.

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 2015, with national loads of 12.7 tonnes and international loads of 15.9 tonnes. Finland had the highest international load at 20.8 tonnes as well as the highest national load at 17.8 tonnes.

Vehicle loads were higher for longer distance journeys with the exception of the United Kingdom and Sweden. It can be noticed that the average load in national transport in Slovakia was 54.9 % below the EU average.

Table 7 shows the development of average vehicle loads for EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland over the period 2011 to 2015. EU-28 average vehicle load increased slightly from 13.6 tonnes in 2011 to 13.7 tonnes in 2015, a value that remained quite stable over this period.

At individual Member State level, in 2013, 2014 and 2015, more than half of the Member States recorded a decrease of average vehicle loads compared with the previous year, while in 2012 half of the Member States recorded increases. In 2015, eight Member States recorded an increase of 1 % or more and twelve Member States recorded a decrease of 1 % or more in the average vehicle load compared with 2014. The highest increases can be observed in Finland (+10.3 %), the United Kingdom (+3.3 %) and Slovakia (3.0 %), while on the other end Portugal (-7.4 %), the Netherlands (-5.7 %) and Greece (-5.5 %) recorded the highest decreases.

Among the Member States that joined the EU since 2004, five (the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Lithuania, Lithuania and Romania) recorded decreased average loads between 2011 and 2015. The growth was substantial in the case of Bulgaria (increasing from 13.9 tonnes in 2011 to 15.4 tonnes in 2015), Slovenia (from 10.6 tonnes in 2011 to 11.3 tonnes in 2015), Slovakia (from 14.8 tonnes in 2011 to 15.5 in 2015) and Estonia (from 16.3 tonnes in 2011 to 16.7 tonnes in 2015). These substantial changes possibly reflect the increasing integration of these Member States into the EU and investment in upgrading their commercial vehicle fleets.

These data show a strong trend of carrying heavier loads on road vehicles, especially in the Member States that joined the EU since 2004.

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 123 kilometres in 2015. This average distance was 86 kilometres in national transport and 581 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 hauliers were much higher than in most other countries, reaching 452 km. This is a reflection of the importance of international transport in that country. In contrast, the distances travelled by hauliers registered in Cyprus and Greece were much lower at 39 km and 47 km respectively.

Table 8 shows the evolution of average distance travelled for EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland over the period 2011 to 2015. For this period, average distance in the EU-28 recorded an increase of 6.0 %.

In 2015, EU-28 showed an increase of 0.8 % compared with 2014, following an increase of the average distance travelled in fourteen Member States. Eight Member States recorded a decrease of more than 2 %, the highest ones being recorded in Sweden (-10.8 %) and Portugal (-9.0 %), followed by Lithuania (-7.3 %). The highest increases were recorded in Slovakia (15.7 %), Belgium (13.1 %) and Croatia (10.7 %).

Transport by distance classes

At EU-28 level, most of the goods are carried over distances between 300 km and 999 km (38.2 % in 2015). This is also the case for most of the countries. However, in specific cases, some countries have different patterns.

For some small islands or countries with an important domestic market, the share of road freight transport over short distances (less than 150 km) is higher: Ireland, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Austria. On the opposite, countries with important international transport usually have a higher share of road freight transport over long distances (over 1 000 km), such as Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia.

It has to be noted that there were important variations since 2011 in each distance class, however the global trend of a country’s road freight transport is often observed in most of the distance classes.

Empty runnings

Figure 8 shows the percentage of vehicle-kilometres recorded as empty. At EU-28 level, a fifth of journeys were performed by empty vehicles (21.1 % in 2015). The share of empty journeys grows to 24.3 % for national transport, but is only 12.6 % for international transport in 2015.

At the total transport level, most Member States fall in the range between 15 % and 30 % empty journeys. However, the figure for Cyprus is 43.2 %, probably a reflection of the journeys carrying goods imported through ports and construction traffic, which is largely one way. Empty journeys for Greece and Ireland, recording 36.3 % and 34.2 % empty vehicle-kilometres respectively, again possibly reflect port and construction traffic. At the other extreme are Belgium with 4.6 % empty vehicle-kilometres, Luxembourg with 6.2 % and Denmark with 10.9 %.

The total figures largely reflected performance in national transport. In contrast, for international transport, all Member States reported substantially lower levels of empty runnings, only three countries being over 20 % (the Netherlands with 21.1 %, France and Austria with 20.5 %). This shows the economic importance of finding loads for international return journeys, while empty journeys can be more present in domestic transport.

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.

Germany: German data for reference year 2015 was not provided. Therefore, 2014 data was used for reference year 2015.

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

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.

Sweden: A break in series was produced in 2014 following a change in methodology. On the basis of a specific survey, Sweden corrected the European road freight survey results for trucks participating to the sample which were not in use over the surveyed period.

Liechtenstein: Liechtenstein reports only international road freight. Data by distance classes are not available. Starting with the reference year 2014, Liechtenstein is exempted from the reporting of road freight data.

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 01/12/2015.

In this article:

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

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, 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

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 (EC) No 70/2012 on statistical returns in respect of the carriage of goods by road (recast)
  • Regulation (EU) No 1304/2007 of 7 November 2007 amending Directive 95/64, Regulation (EC) No 1172/98, Regulations (EC) No 91/2003 and (EC) No 1365/2006 with respect to the establishment of NST 2007 as the unique classification for transported goods in certain transport modes