Road freight transport by type of goods

Data extracted in October 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: November 2018.

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 also 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, 2012-2016 (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, 2016 (% in tonnes and in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
(See Table 1 for list of NST groups)
Figure 2: Share of each NST 2007 group in EU-28 total, national and international road freight transport, 2016 (% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg), (road_go_na_tgtt)
(See Table 1 for list of NST groups)
Figure 3:Share of transport of dangerous goods in total transport by reporting country, 2016 (% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg), (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 2: Transport of dangerous goods by reporting country, 2012-2016 (million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)
Figure 4: Transport of dangerous goods by type of operation, 2016 (% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)
Figure 5: EU-28 transport of dangerous goods by type of dangerous goods, 2016 (% in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)
Table 3: Road freight transport by type of cargo, 2016 (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 was 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, emerging as single transport categories, covering:

a) secondary raw materials including municipal waste,

b) mail and parcels,

c) equipment used in transport,

d) household and office removals.

These four new groups in total account for 12.7 % of total tonnage and 9.8 % of tonne-kilometres in 2016. Their shares have continued to increase year by year in the last 5 years.

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 terms of tonnage lifted, the category metal ores and other mining and quarrying products, mainly building materials, was by far the largest one with a share of 24.4 %. It was followed by food, beverages and tobacco (12.5 %) and by other non-metallic mineral products (11.8 %), again largely construction related.

However, once distances on which products are moved are taken into account by measuring tonne-kilometres, food, beverages and tobacco come to the fore with 17.4 %, followed by agricultural products (10.7 %). This reflects the fact that heavy construction materials are either sourced locally or are transported over longer distances by transport modes other than road.

The large share of Group 18 ‘Grouped goods: a mixture of types of goods which are transported together’ (9.9 % of tonne-kilometres) is partly due to goods transported in containers, where the exact nature of the goods is not known to 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 group 7 ’Coke and refined petroleum products’, group 9 ‘Other non metallic mineral products’, group 3 ‘Metal ore and other mining and quarrying’, group 4 'Food product', group 14 'Waste related products', group 2 'Coal and lignite', group 17 'Household and office removals' and group 15 'Mail, parcels' have higher shares in national than in international transport. The opposite can be observed for group 1 'Agricultural products', group 5 'Textile and textile products; leather and leather 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', group 19 'Unidentifiable 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 2016. For most countries, the share of dangerous goods transport hovered around 4 %. All major economies recorded figures in the 4 % to 8 % range; only Poland, the second largest transport industry in Europe, had a lower share (2.9 %). Cyprus had a substantially greater proportion with 23.5 %. At the other extreme were Slovakia, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Lithuania ranging between 1 % and 2 %.

The transport of dangerous goods in the EU-28 decreased in 2013 from almost 81 billion tonne-kilometres to 74 billion tonne-kilometres. Since 2013, it continuously increased year by year, reaching 84 billion tonne-kilometres in 2016 (+3.9 % compared to 2015 and +4.6 % compared to 2012).

Between 2012 and 2016, most Member States have observed an increase in the transport of dangerous goods. The highest rises were recorded in Belgium (75.2 %), Finland (62.2 %) followed by Romania (60.1 %) and the Czech Republic (59.7 %). On the other side, very high decreases in the transport of dangerous goods were registered in Greece (-53.5 %), Bulgaria (-49.5 %), followed by the Netherlands (-47.6 %) and Ireland (-30.9 %) (Table 2).

Figure 4 shows the share of the transport of dangerous goods between national and international transport in 2016. For almost half of the countries, more than two thirds of the transport of dangerous goods is performed on national territory. Luxembourg has a special pattern: as most of its transport is international transport, almost 89 % of the transport of dangerous goods is performed in international transport.

For most countries, the share of dangerous goods carried in international transport is linked to the share of international transport (total of all goods). Exceptions are Bulgaria, Portugal, Poland, Croatia and the Czech Republic: international transport represents more than half of the transport in these countries, but most of their transport of dangerous goods is performed on national territory. The international markets of these countries concern mainly transport of non-dangerous goods.

Figure 5 shows the types of dangerous goods in EU-28 road transport in 2016. The largest specific product group was flammable liquids, taking over more than half of the total (55.2 %). Two other groups, gases (compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure) and corrosives, accounted for 13.3 % and 10.4 % respectively. This represents very little change compared with previous years showing a very similar distribution between product groups.

The methodology being used in the collection of the data implies considerable uncertainties about the figures, both in absolute values and in terms of allocation by country and type of dangerous goods. This implies that figures should be analysed with caution.

Road freight transport by type of cargo

Palletised goods recorded 42.9 % of the EU-28 road freight transport. The second type of cargo most used in road freight transport is solid bulk with almost one fifth of total road freight transport (see Table 3).

The countries with the highest share of palletised goods were Romania (69.3 %), Bulgaria (65.6 %) and Portugal (64.2 %). On the other hand, Cyprus (3.6 %), Belgium (27.5 %) and Finland (27.8 %) recorded the lowest share of this type of cargo. Although for Cyprus only 3.6 % of tonne-kilometres were performed by palletised goods, liquid bulk and solid bulk had the highest shares (27.7 % and 34.8 % respectively). Lithuania also showed a slightly different pattern: while 43.6 % of its total road freight transport was done by palletised goods, 32 % was performed by pre-slung goods. In general, pre-slung goods represent a relatively small share, ranging from 0.3 % to 16 %.

When regrouping palletised goods and solid bulk, only four countries have a share less than 50 %: Cyprus (38.4 %), Latvia (40.9 %), Lithuania (46.6 %) and Finland (48.4 %). 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

Croatia: While Croatia had no obligation prior to 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. 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 does not report road freight statistics.

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

Breakdown by goods groups

Starting with the reference year 2008, Regulation (EC) No 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

Regulation (EU) No 70/2012 stipulates the collection of information on different categories of dangerous goods on an obligatory basis. Annex V of the Regulation (EU) No 70/2012 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. The provision of data according to the type of cargo is optional in the legal basis.

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 31/10/2017.

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, 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 (EU) No 70/2012 of 18 January 2012 on statistical returns in respect of the carriage of goods by road (recast)
  • Regulation (EC) 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