Road freight transport statistics

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

This article presents the main trends in road freight transport up to 2016 in the European Union (EU). The analysis is carried out for national, international, cross-trade as well as cabotage transport. Road freight transport by type of goods and distance classes are also presented in this article, as well as goods moved on countries’ territories and country-to-country flows.

Figure 1: EU-28 quarterly road freight transport, 2012-2016
(billion tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_tq_tott), see Country codes
Table 1: National, international loaded and unloaded, cross-trade and cabotage transport, 2015-2016
(million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 2: EU-28 road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), 2012-2016
(thousand tonnes and million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Figure 2: EU-28 total transport by distance classes, 2012-2016
(2012=100, based on tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)
Table 3: Road freight transport by distance class, 2016
(million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)
Table 4: EU-28 road freight transport by distance class and group of goods (NST 2007), 2012-2016
(thousand tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)
Figure 3: Goods moved on the countries' territory (national, international transport loaded, unloaded and cross-trade), 2016
(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, 2016
(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, 2016
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott) (road_go_ia_ugtt) (road_go_ia_lgtt) (road_go_cta_gtt)

Main statistical findings

European road freight transport growths for the fourth consecutive year in 2016

In terms of tonne-kilometres (tkm), European road freight transport increased by 4.5 % in 2016 compared with 2015. In 2016, European road freight transport is the highest from the last 5 years, recovering also the important decrease from 2012 (see Figure 1 and Table 1).

The major component, national transport, increased slightly, while the smaller in share cross-trade and cabotage transport recorded a continuous increase in the last five years.

Poland reconfirmed its position as one of the largest transport country in Europe. Cyprus (24.9 %), Romania (23.5 %) and Ireland (17.3 %) were the Member States recording the highest rise in tkm performed, while at the other end of the scale, the Czech Republic registered a substantial decline (12.0 %), followed by Italy (3.6 %) and Latvia (3.2 %).

Metal ores and other mining and quarrying products was the major group in tonnage terms, while food products dominates transport in tkm (see Table 2).

Most distance classes increased between 2012 and 2016, the main exception being the very short distances (tkm in movements less than 50 km are 1.1 % below 2012 level), while the distance class over 2000 km was down by 0.5 %. Spain, Lithuania and Slovenia achieved growth in all distance classes in 2016 compared to 2012 (see figure 2).

Cabotage and cross trade continued to grow in 2016

EU-28 national and international transport loaded and unloaded increased in 2016 (3.9 % and 2.4 % respectively) . Cross-trade and cabotage recorded high increases of 11.8 % and 20.8 % respectively (see Table 1).

Five Member States, Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Luxembourg, registered increases in all categories of transport with rises in total of, respectively, 23.5 %, 16.9 %, 11.5 %, 7.7 % and 5.4 %. Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania recorded very strong growth for cabotage, while in cross-trade transport Italy, Romania and Sweden had strong increases. At total level, the highest fall in transport tkm was 12.0 % for the Czech Republic, while the highest rise was 24.9 % in Cyprus.

One of the countries with the largest road transport industries, Poland (15.7 % of EU total) recorded a significant increase of its total transport in 2016 compared to 2015 (11.5 %), resulting from a high increase in international transport loaded and unloaded ,cross-trade and cabotage.

Among the other countries with a large road transport industry, the United Kingdom and Spain saw a rise of 11.2 % and 3.6 % respectively, driven by an important increase in national transport, while Italy reported a decrease of 3.6 % due to a decrease in national and international transport.

Mining and quarrying products represent almost a quarter of the total tonnage at EU-28 level

In terms of tonnage, European freight transport increased in 2016 for the third year (2.6 % compared to 2015), reaching the highest value since 2012. In 2013 there was a small fall (1.0 %) which was already recovered completely in the following year. Within the major product groups, the rises the most marked concerned mail, parcels (17.1 %) and transport equipment (15.4 %). Coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas (30.5 %) saw the highest decrease, after the high increase from the previous year.

The major product groups were mining and quarrying products (24.4 % of the total), food, beverages and tobacco (12.5 %), other non-metallic mineral products (11.8 %) and agricultural products (8.8 %) (see Table 2).

In terms of tkm, the major product groups were food, beverages and tobacco (17.4 % of the total), agricultural products (10.7 %), metal ores (7.7 %) and other non-metallic mineral products (7.3 %). There were important increases in furniture between 2015 and 2016 (16.0 %), mail and parcels (15.3 %) and transport equipment (11.8 %), while no decreases were registered.

Middle distance classes recorded highest rises compared with 2012

In 2016, 6.7 % of goods travelled under 50 km and 4.2 % travelled more than 2 000 km. However, the bulk of transport activity falls between 50 and 1 999 km and transport in these distance classes accounts for 89.1 % of the total. A more important consideration for policy purposes is that 56.4 % of freight volumes are carried on distances over 300 km. For journeys at these longer distances, there is more opportunity to substitute road transport with more environmentally friendly modes.

Figure 2 shows the trends in transport for broad distance classes since 2012. Transport in all distance classes has increased in 2013, while small decreases were registered in 2014 (distance class from 300 to 999 km). In 2015, all distance classes increased, with the exception of the very long distances (over 2 000 km). In 2016, transport in almost all distance classes continued to increase, the highest being the long distances from 300 to 999 km (12.8 % compared to 2012 level). The only decrease was registered by the very long distance class (over 2 000 km) which continued to fall below the 2012 level (0.5 %).

Table 3 shows the change in transport by distance classes between 2012 and 2016 for the EU-28 and individual countries. Spain, Lithuania and Slovenia recorded growth in all distance classes between 2012 and 2016. Bulgaria, Poland and Romania made major gains for distances of more than 300 km. France and Italy were the only countries registering falls in all distance classes. Among the major economies, Poland recorded falls for very short distances, as much of the rise occurred in the longer ones, while the opposite applies to Germany and the Netherlands, recording a decrease for longer distances.

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 2016. The largest change between 2015 and 2016 in specific goods in longer distance movements is a 34.8 % rise of coke and refined petroleum products. For the shorter distance movements, the categories of goods recording the highest decreases were coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas (37.1 %) and coke and refined petroleum products (1.8 %). In contrast, there was a 16.1 % rise in transport equipment, and an increase of 15.8 % for mail and parcels on short distances. Products where there was a major difference in the changes between the shorter and longer journeys included coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas where there was a 37.1 % fall for the shorter journeys against 21.8 % rise for longer distances, which was by far the highest difference.

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

Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Poland dominated the European road transport in 2016, measured in tonnes loaded and unloaded. They accounted for 60.8 % of the total, with Germany on its own representing 21.2 % (Figure 3). Considering international transport only, i.e. goods entering and leaving the country, the pattern changed significantly. While Germany remained the largest, followed by France, the Netherlands and Belgium, with their large North Sea ports, came third and fourth, ahead of Poland, Italy and Spain. Austria and the Czech Republic had larger international transport than the United Kingdom.

At the more detailed country to country level (Table 5), five extra EU states emerged as main trading partners, namely Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. With four exceptions, all the trading was with close neighbours. Switzerland’s traffic was with Germany (23.2 % of the total extra EU transport), France, Italy, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, while Norway had links with Sweden, Denmark and Poland. Russia mainly traded with Poland, Turkey with Bulgaria and Ukraine with Poland. These are only extra EU flows, i.e. transport between an EU country and an extra-EU country.

Table 6 explores the same area in more detail, highlighting the main intra EU 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 appeared in half of the top 20 country to country flows. For Germany, the share of the total taken by German hauliers in any bilateral flow was normally substantially less than a half, dropping to 4.4 % for the bilateral Germany/Poland traffic. German hauliers achieved their highest shares in Germany/Denmark traffic (55.4 %) and Germany/Luxembourg traffic (53.6 %).

The penetration of third country hauliers in the main flows varied substantially. Third country penetration varied from 52.7 % for Austria/Italy traffic, 52.4 % for Germany/Italy and 48.9 % for Belgium/Germany to 0.9 % for Spain/Portugal, 0.8 % for the Czech Republic/Poland and 0.7 % for Germany/Poland.

The nationality of the main third party hauliers involved in the transport movements shows 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 most of the top 20 country to country markets. In most cases, there is a geographical link between the third country and the countries where the transport is performed.

Data sources and availability

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 transport. 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 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. Each reporting country reports all activities of a road motor vehicle inside and outside its national territory. There is thus no risk of double counting at European level.

Breakdown by goods groups

Starting with the reference year 2008, Regulation (EC) No 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: less than 50 km; 50-149 km; 150-299 km; 300-499 km; 500-999 km; 1 000-1 999 km; 2 000-5 999 km; over 6 000 km. More detailed data and metadata are available in the Eurostat dissemination database.

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.

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.

Figure 3

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 31/11/2017.

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, 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 figures (MS Excel)

Other information

  • Regulation (EU) No 70/2012 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