Statistics Explained

Road freight transport by type of goods

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Data extracted in October 2022.

Planned article update: September 2023.

Highlights

‘Metal ores and other mining and quarrying products; peat; uranium and thorium’ was the product group with the highest share in tonnes transported by road in the EU in 2021 (24.8 %).

‘Food products, beverages and tobacco’ was the product group with the highest share in tonne-kilometres transported by road in the EU in 2021 (16.7 %).

‘Flammable liquids’ had the highest share in EU transport of dangerous goods in 2021, with 51.1 %.

Figure 1: Road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), EU, 2021
(% share in tonnes and tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Full names and description of NST 2007 codes

This article presents road freight transport in the European Union (EU) focusing on the different types of goods carried. The article presents the total, national and international transport performed according to the type of goods. It also gives information on the transport of dangerous goods. Finally, road freight transport by type of cargo is also presented.

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

Full article

Road freight transport by type of goods (NST 2007 classification)

Tables 1a and 1b present road freight transport by group of goods, measured in tonnes and tonne-kilometres (tkm), respectively, over the period 2017 to 2021.

In terms of tonnes of freight carried, EU road transport rose by 5.0 % in 2021 compared with 2020. The number of tonnes carried in 2021 registered an average annual growth rate of 0.8 % in the period 2017-2021. In 2021, the product group 03 'metal ores and other mining and quarrying products; peat; uranium and thorium' was the largest product group transported in terms of tonnage, accounting for 3 389 million tonnes; its share in the total EU was 24.8 % (see Table 1a and Figure 1). It was followed by product group 09 'other non metallic mineral products' (1 730 million tonnes and a share of 12.6 %) and product group 04 'food products, beverages and tobacco' (1 614 million tonnes and a share of 11.8 %). Another major product group was 01 'products of agriculture, hunting, and forestry; fish and other fishing products', accounting for 1 272 million tonnes and a share of 9.3 %.

From 2020 to 2021, the tonnage carried by road increased for almost all product groups. The only exceptions were 07 ‘coke and refined petroleum products’ (-3.1 %) and 17 ‘goods moved in the course of household and office removals’ (-0.7 %). The highest increases were observed for 15 ‘mail, parcels’ (+17.2 %), 20 ‘other goods’ (+14.4 %) and 11 ‘machinery and equipment’ (+11.6 %).

In terms of average annual growth rate in the period 2017-2021, product group 15 ‘mail, parcels’ recorded the highest growth, at 10.2 %, followed by 18 ‘grouped goods’ (+5.2 %) and 19 ‘unidentifiable goods’ (+3.9 %). The highest negative average annual growth rates were recorded by group 02 ‘coal and lignite’ (-7.1 %), 05 ‘textiles and textile products’ (-5.0 %) and 17 ‘goods moved in the course of household and office removals’ (-3.0 %).

Table 1a: Road freight transport by group of goods, EU, 2017-2021
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)

When looking at road freight transport performance in tonne-kilometres, in 2021 the product group 04 ‘food products, beverages and tobacco' was the top group of goods, accounting for 320 billion tkm; its share in the total EU tkm was 16.7 % (see Table 1b and Figure 1). Thereafter followed the product group 18 'grouped goods' (219 billion tkm and a share of 11.4 %) and 01 'products of agriculture, hunting, and forestry; fish and other fishing products' (203 billion tkm and a share of 10.6 %).

The highest rises in terms of tkm from 2020 to 2021 were for the product group 19 ‘unidentifiable goods' (+23.0 %), followed by 15 'mail, parcels' (+21.2 %) and 11 ‘machinery and equipment’ (+12.7 %). However, 18 'grouped goods' recorded the largest increase in absolute value, with an increase by almost 16 billion tkm. At the other end of the scale, only ‘goods moved in the course of household and office removals’ recorded a decrease (-1.6 %).

The highest positive average annual growth rate in the period 2017-2021 was recorded for the product group 15 ‘mail, parcels’ (+10.6 %), followed by 19 ‘unidentifiable goods’ with 8.2 % and 18 ‘grouped goods’ with 4.9 %. The highest negative average annual growth rates were recorded by 17 ‘goods moved in the course of household and office removals’ (-3.5 %), 20 ‘other goods’ (-2.6 %) and 07 ‘coke and refined petroleum products’ (-2.1 %).

Table 1b: Road freight transport by group of goods, EU, 2017-2021
(billion tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)


Figure 1: Road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), EU, 2021
(% share in tonnes and tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Full names and description of NST 2007 codes

Figure 2 shows the share of each NST 2007 goods group in the EU total, national and international road freight transport in tkm. In 2021, the following groups had a higher share in national transport than in international transport: 01 ' agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing products', 02 'coal and lignite; crude petroleum and natural gas', 03 ‘metal ores, mining and quarrying products’, 04 'food, beverages and tobacco', 07 ’coke and refined petroleum products’, 09 ‘other non-metallic mineral products’, 14 'secondary raw materials; wastes', 15 ‘mail and parcels’, 16 ‘Equipment/material used in goods transport’ and 17 ‘goods moved in removals; baggage; vehicles moved for repair’. For the remaining groups, their share in international road freight transport was higher than for national transport.

Figure 2: Road freight transport of each group of goods (NST 2007) by type of operation, EU, 2021
(% share in tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg), (road_go_na_tgtt)
Full names and description of NST 2007 codes

Road freight transport of dangerous goods

Figure 3 presents the share of dangerous goods in the total transport (in tkm) of each EU Member State in 2020 and 2021. At EU level, the share of dangerous goods transport was around 4 % in both years. The EU Member States that recorded the highest shares of dangerous goods in their road transport were Cyprus (with 12.3 % in 2020 and 10.9 % in 2021) and Belgium (with 9.4 % in 2020 and 8.3 % in 2021), followed by Finland (7.4 % in 2020 and 6.9 % in 2021). Several EU countries recorded figures approximately in the range 4 % to 7 %, including the big countries France, Spain and Italy. Germany recorded shares of 3.9 % in 2020 and 3.8 % in 2021, while Poland recorded shares of 2.3 % in 2020 and 2.4 % in 2021. In contrast, Slovakia, Lithuania and Ireland recorded shares of dangerous goods of less than 2 % in 2020 and 2021.

Figure 3: Road freight transport of dangerous goods, 2020 and 2021
(% share in tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg), (road_go_ta_tott)

EU transport of dangerous goods accounted for 72 628 million tkm in 2021 (see Table 2) and presented a negative average annual growth rate of 0.9 % in the period 2017-2021.

Between 2017 and 2021, 16 EU Member States registered a negative average annual growth rate in the transport of dangerous goods. The highest ones were recorded for Cyprus (-19.8 %), Ireland (-14.0 %) and Greece (-10.1 %). At the other end of the scale, positive average annual growth rates were registered in Slovenia (+12.1 %), Bulgaria (+10.1 %) and Denmark (+8.9 %).

When looking at the changes between 2020 and 2021, 17 EU Member States registered increases in the transport of dangerous goods, the highest in Lithuania (+32.8 %), Romania (+32.1 %) and Estonia (+22.2 %). Substantial decreases were observed in Luxembourg (-21.0 %), Italy (-13.3 %) and Cyprus (-8.0 %).

Table 2: Road freight transport of dangerous goods, 2017-2021
(million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)

Figure 4 shows the share in tkm of dangerous goods transported within a country and internationally in 2021. In half of the EU Member States, more than 60 % of the transport of dangerous goods was performed within the national territory.

For most countries, in 2021, the share in tkm of dangerous goods carried in international transport is aligned with the share in tkm of international transport of all types of goods (see article 'Road freight transport by journey characteristics', Figure 2). Notable exceptions are Bulgaria, Hungary and Portugal: although international transport of all types of goods represented more than half of the road transport of these countries, most of their transport of dangerous goods was performed on national territory.

Figure 4: Road freight transport of dangerous goods by type of operation, 2021
(% share in tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)

Figure 5 shows the shares of the different types of dangerous goods in the tkm performed in the EU in 2021. The largest group was ‘flammable liquids’, accounting for more than half of the transport of dangerous goods (51.1 %). ‘Gases, compressed, liquified, dissolved under pressure’ accounted for 14.9 %, while ‘corrosives’ accounted for 12.0 %. These three types of dangerous goods accounted for over three-quarters (78.0 %) of the total tkm performed by all dangerous goods.

Figure 5: Road freight transport of dangerous goods by type of goods, EU, 2021
(% share in tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dg)

It should be noted that, as dangerous goods represent only a small proportion of the freight transported by road, there are considerable uncertainties in the survey results regarding this category of goods.

Road freight transport by type of cargo

In 2021, palletised goods, i.e. goods transported on pallets, represented the main type of cargo in most of the EU countries (see Table 3). The only exceptions were Belgium, Cyprus and Luxembourg, for which solid bulk represented the main type of cargo. As road freight transport by type of cargo is an optional variable, Ireland and Italy did not report it, while Denmark reported all data as 'other cargo not elsewhere specified'.

The EU countries with the highest shares of palletised goods were Romania (71.5 %), Portugal (66.3 %) and Bulgaria (63.2 %), while Cyprus (8.2 %), Finland (24.8 %) and Belgium (29.9 %) had the lowest shares.

When looking at palletised goods and solid bulk taken together, the only countries with an accumulated share below 50 % were: Lithuania (48.4 %), Latvia (47.6 %) and Finland (43.8 %).

Table 3: Road freight transport by type of cargo, 2021
(million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tcrg)

Source data for tables and graphs

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., the EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland and Montenegro, and record the freight transport undertaken by road 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 that might diverge from national practices have been used. Differences might therefore occur between the figures in this publication and national values.


Country specific notes

Croatia: While Croatia had no obligation prior to their accession in 2013, it started to report data from 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 occurred 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 in the sample which were not in use over the surveyed period.

Methodological notes

EU totals calculated in this publication refer to road freight transport reported by the EU Member States, excluding Malta which is exempt from reporting road freight statistics.

Total international transport

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 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.

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. As not all EU Member States provide this optional variable, the EU aggregate is not calculated.

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 in October 2022.

In this article:

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

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