Road freight transport statistics

Data extracted in November 2019.

Planned article update: November 2020.


European road freight transport continued to grow slowly, with an increase of 0.2 % between 2017 and 2018.

Germany continued to dominate European road transport in 2018, in terms of tonnes transported.

Transport of goods on countries' territory by type of transport, 2018
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott), (road_go_ia_ugtt), (road_go_ia_lgtt), (road_go_cta_gtt)

This article presents the main trends in road freight transport in the European Union (EU) up to and including 2018. National, international, cross-trade and cabotage transport are all analysed in this article. Road freight transport by type of goods and distance classes are also presented, as are goods moved on the national territory of countries and country-to-country flows.

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

Full article

EU road freight transport continues to grow

Cabotage and cross-trade decreased

In terms of tonne-kilometres (tkm), European road freight transport increased by 0.2 % from 2017 to 2018 (see Table 1).

EU cross-trade and cabotage transport, representing 11.5 % of total transport, recorded a decrease of 4.5 % over this period. Cross-trade transport decreased by 4.1 % while cabotage transport decreased by 6.4 %. After a long domination as one of the most significant countries for road transport in Europe, in 2018 Germany (16.5 % in EU total tkm) overtook Poland (16.4 %) in terms of total transport. Cyprus (8.0 %), Romania (7.4 %), Slovenia and Croatia (6.8 % each) were the Member States recording the highest rise in tkm performed from 2017 to 2018, while at the other end of the scale, Poland registered a substantial decline (5.8 %), followed by Hungary (4.4 %), Portugal (3.6 %) and Denmark (3.3 %). Croatia and Cyprus registered increases in all transport types, with rises of 6.8 % and 8.0 % respectively in total transport, while Poland registered decreases in all transport types (a decline of 5.8 % in total transport). Lithuania, Italy, Croatia and Austria recorded very strong growth for cabotage, while on the other side, Finland, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Czechia recorded the highest decreases. In cross-trade transport, Slovenia and Sweden experienced considerable increases, while Denmark and Hungary recorded substantial decreases.

Table 1: Road freight transport by type of transport, 2017-2018
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

Mining and quarrying products: almost a quarter of total tonnage

In terms of tonnage, European road freight transport continued to increase in 2018 (1.3 % compared with 2017), reaching the highest value since 2014.

In 2018, 'metal ores and other mining and quarrying products' was the largest product group terms of tonnage, accounting for 3 661 million tonnes and a share of 24.6 % in terms of tonnage. Other important product groups were 'other non-metallic mineral products' (11.9 %), ‘basic metals, fabricated metal products’ (4.0 %) and ‘wood and products of wood and cork’ (3.9 %). In terms of tonnage, the highest rises between 2017 and 2018 were recorded for 'Transport equipment ' (3.3 %) and 'basic metals, fabricated metal products ' (3.2 %). ‘Textiles and textile products’ saw the highest decrease over the same period, after several consecutive increases in the previous years. In 2018, ‘metal ores and other mining and quarrying products' dominated the transport when measured in tonne-kilometres, accounting for 151 billion tkm (see Table 2). The share of 'metal ores and other mining and quarrying products' in the total road freight transport in tkm was 7.9 %, followed by ' other non metallic mineral products' (7.8 %) and ' basic metals, fabricated metal products' (6.7 %). In terms of tkm, the highest rises between 2017 and 2018 were for 'metal ores and other mining and quarrying products' (3.0 %), and 'other non-metallic mineral products' (2.1 %), while a significant decrease was registered for 'textiles and textile products' (14.1 %) and 'coke and refined petroleum products' (6.9  %).

Table 2: Road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), EU, 2014-2018
(thousand tonnes and million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)

Distance 150 to1 999 km recorded the highest rises

In 2018, the bulk of road transport activity was carried out over distances between 50 km and 1 999 km (see Figure 1 and Table 3).

Figure 1 shows the trends in road freight transport for broad distance classes for 2014 and 2018. If for the distance class ‘less than 50 km’ the increase is quite small, for the classes ‘from 50 to 149 km’, ‘from 150 to 299 km’, ‘from 300 to 499 km’ and ‘from 500 to 999 km’ the rises are considerable, with the highest growth recorded over the distances from 300 to 499 km.

Figure 1: Road freight transport by distance class, EU, 2014-2018
(billion tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)

Table 3 shows the changes in tonne-kilometres transported by distance classes between 2014 and 2018 for the EU and individual Member States. The highest rises were recorded by the long distances of over 1 000 km. Among the Member States with major transport industries, Germany recorded decreases on long distances of over 1 000 km, while increases occurred in the distance class from 50 to 149 km. Spain registered increases on most of the distance classes, while France recorded decreases only for the very short distance class (less than 50 km) and from 1 000 to 1 999 km. The United Kingdom registered decreases on the very short and very long distance classes (less than 50 km and over 2 000 km).

Table 3: Road freight transport by distance class, 2018
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)

High performance by Polish third party hauliers

In term of transport of goods in the national territory, Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Poland continued to dominate European road transport in 2018, measured in tonnes. These countries accounted for 60.8 % of the total goods transported in the Member States of the European Union, with the goods transported in Germany representing 21.8 % of the total (see Figure 2). Considering international transport (i.e. goods entering and leaving the country, including cross-trade), the pattern did not change much over the last years. Goods movements in Germany remained the highest, ahead of France, the Netherlands and Belgium with its large North Sea ports. Thereafter followed Poland, Italy and Spain. Austria and Czechia recorded more international road transport than the United Kingdom.

Figure 2: Transport of goods on countries' territory by type of transport, 2018
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott), (road_go_ia_ugtt), (road_go_ia_lgtt), (road_go_cta_gtt)

At the more detailed level of country-to-country transport flows (see Table 4), the five non-EU states Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine were important trading partners. Switzerland’s traffic was with Germany (23.4 % of the total extra-EU transport), France, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland and Belgium, while Norway had links with Sweden and Denmark. Russia transported goods mainly with Poland, Turkey with Bulgaria and Ukraine with Poland.

Table 4: Main country-to-country flows in extra EU road freight transport, 2018
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ia_ugtt), (road_go_ia_lgtt), (road_go_cta_gtt)

Table 5 shows the share of transport performed by haulier origin for the main intra-EU country-to-country flows. Germany is one of the two origin/destination countries in almost half of the top 20 country-to-country flows, illustrating the central role of Germany in intra-EU trade flows. However, German hauliers’ share of the total volumes transported was less than half in most bilateral flows, with as little as 4.2 % in the bilateral traffic between Germany and Poland, as well as between Germany and Spain. German hauliers recorded the highest share in transport between Germany and Denmark (52.1 %). The share of third country hauliers in country-to-country transport varied substantially. Third country hauliers carried 54.2 % of the total volume transported between Germany and Italy, 52.5 % for Austria/Italy and 51.3 % for Germany/France. At the other end of the scale, only 0.8 % of the road freight transported between Germany and Poland was carried by hauliers from third countries, with even lower shares of hauliers from other countries in the bilateral flows between Ireland and the United Kingdom (0.5 %) and between Czechia and Poland (0.4 %). Polish hauliers were the main third country hauliers in country-to-country transport of goods presented in Table 5.

Table 5: Main country-to-country flows in intra EU road freight transport, 2018
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ia_ugtt), (road_go_ia_lgtt), (road_go_cta_gtt)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Bulgaria and Romania: While Bulgaria and Romania had no obligation prior to accession in 2007, they started reporting data for the reference year 2006.

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 totals calculated in this publication refer to road freight transport reported by the EU Member States excluding Malta which is currently exempted from reporting road freight statistics, and Luxembourg for which data is not available for 2018.

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 2

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 26/11/2019.

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. 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.

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