Road freight transport by type of goods

Data extracted in August 2018. Planned article update: September 2019.


Metal ores and other mining and quarrying products was the group of goods which was mostly transported by road in the EU in 2017 in tonnes.

Food products, beverages and tobacco was the group of goods which was mostly transported by road in the EU in 2017 in tonne-kilometres.

The transport by road of dangerous goods in the EU has increased continuously between 2013 and 2017.

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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.

This article, together with the articles 'Road freight transport by vehicle characteristics', 'Road freight transport by journey characteristics' and 'Road freight transport statistics' present a complete overview of road freight transport in Europe.

Full article

Road freight transport by type of goods

In terms of tonnes transported in 2017, the group of metal ores and other mining and quarrying products, the main volume of which is building materials, had the highest share of 24.8 %, followed by food, beverages and tobacco (12.4 %) and other non-metallic mineral products (11.8 %), also goods used in construction (see Figure 1 and Table 1).

Table 1: Road freight transport by group of goods, EU-28, 2013-2017
(thousand tonnes and million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)

Figure 1: Road freight transport by group of goods (NTS 2007), EU-28, 2017
(% share in tonnes and tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)

If distances over which transport of goods takes place are calculated, tonne-kilometres of food products, beverages and tobacco (17.2 %) recorded the highest share in 2017 , followed by agricultural products (10.8 %). 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’ (10.3 % of tonne-kilometres) is partly due to goods transported in containers, where the exact nature of the container content is not known.

Figure 2 shows the share of each NST 2007 group in EU-28 total, national and international road freight transport. It shows that group 1 'Agricultural products', group 2 'Coal and lignite', group 8 'Chemical products', group 9 ‘Other non-metallic mineral products’, group 10 'Metal products', group 18 'Grouped goods' and group 20 'Other goods' had higher shares in national than in international transport. The groups with more international than national transport were group 3 ‘Metal ore and other mining and quarrying’, group 4 'Food product', group 6 'Wood products', group 7 ’Coke and refined petroleum products’, group 11 'Machinery and equipment', group 14 'Waste related products' and group 19 'Unidentifiable goods'.

Figure 2: Road freight transport of group of goods (NST 2007) by type of transport, 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg), (road_go_na_tgtt)

Road freight transport of dangerous goods

Figure 3 shows the share of dangerous goods in the total transport of each country in 2017. For most countries, the share of dangerous goods transport was around 4 %. All major economies recorded figures in the 4 % to 6 % range; only Poland, the second largest transport industry in Europe, had a lower share (2.6 %). Cyprus had a substantially greater proportion by 23.4 %, followed by Belgium (11.1 %) and Finland (6.8 %). The countries with the lowest share of dangerous goods were Ireland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Netherlands, with a share ranging between 1 % and 2 %.

Figure 3: Road freight transport of dangerous goods, 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg), (road_go_ta_tott)

The transport of dangerous goods in the EU-28 continued to increase year by year in the last 5 years, from 73 billion tonne-kilometres in 2013 to more than 82 billion tonne-kilometres in 2017.

Between 2013 and 2017, most Member States registered increase in transport of dangerous goods. The highest increase was recorded in Slovakia (117.5 %), Sweden (86.4 %), Slovenia and Greece (61.2 % each). The largest decreases in the transport of dangerous goods were registered in Ireland (-69.3 %), Luxembourg (-28.1 %), Denmark (-18.3 %) and the United Kingdom (-13.9 %).

Table 2: Road freight transport of dangerous goods, 2013-2017
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)

Figure 4 shows the share of dangerous goods transported within a country and internationally in 2017. In almost half of the reporting countries, more than two thirds of the transport of dangerous goods was performed within the national territory. Luxembourg has a special pattern: as most of its transport is international transport, almost 90 % 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 of all types of goods. Exceptions are Bulgaria, Portugal, Czechia, Poland, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary and Latvia: the 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.

Figure 4: Road freight transport of dangerous goods by type of operation, 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)

Figure 5 shows the types of dangerous goods in EU-28 road freight transport in 2017. The largest specific product group was flammable liquids, taking over more than half of the total (54.3 %). Two other groups, gases (compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure) and corrosives, accounted for 13.1 % and 11.3 % respectively. There were very small changes compared to previous years, the distribution between product groups remained quite similar over time.

Figure 5: Road freight transport of dangerous goods by type of goods, EU-28, 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)

As dangerous goods represent a small share of all the goods transported by road, there are considerable uncertainties in the surveys’ results on this type of goods.

Road freight transport by type of cargo

Palletised goods represented 42.9 % of the EU-28 road freight transport. The second most frequent type of cargo in road freight transport was solid bulk, representing almost one fifth of total road freight transport.

Table 3: Road freight transport by type of cargo, 2017
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tcrg)

The countries with the highest share of palletised goods transported were Romania (70.2 %), Bulgaria (68.4 %) and Slovakia (62.5 %), while Cyprus (6.1 %), Finland (26.0 %) and Belgium (27.7 %) were the countries with the lowest share.

When regrouping palletised goods and solid bulk, the five countries with a share below 50 % in 2017 were: Latvia (40.6 %), Lithuania (43.4 %), Estonia (44.4 %), Cyprus (44.3 %), and Finland (49.5 %).

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

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.

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 15/08/2018.

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.

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