Road freight transport statistics

Data extracted in August 2018.

Planned article update: September 2019.


European road freight transport continued to grow, with an increase of 4.5 % between 2016 and 2017.

Germany continued to dominate European road transport in 2017, in terms of tonnes transported.

This article presents the main trends in road freight transport in the European Union (EU) up to and including 2017. 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.

Full article

Growth in EU road freight transport for the fifth consecutive year

Cabotage and cross-trade continues to grow

In terms of tonne-kilometres (tkm), European road freight transport increased by 4.5 % from 2016 to 2017. In 2017, the European road freight transport was the highest recorded over the last 5 years: it increased by 11.8 % from 2013 to 2017 (see Table 1 and Figure 1).

National transport in the EU, representing 63.5 % of total transport, recorded a 9.9 % increase from 2013 to 2017, while cross-trade and cabotage transport, representing 12.1 % of total transport, recorded a high and continuous increase of 38.5 % over this period.

EU-28 national and international road freight transport, covering goods loaded and unloaded, increased from 2016 to 2017 by 3.5 % and 4.6 % respectively. Cross-trade and cabotage both recorded substantial growth, of 8.5 % and 17.1 % respectively (see Table 1).

In 2017, Poland (17.5 % of EU total tkm) reconfirmed its position as one of the most significant countries for road transport in Europe. Lithuania (26.2 %), Cyprus (17.5 %), Greece (15.5 %) and Poland (15.3 %) were the Member States recording the highest rise in tkm performed from 2016 to 2017, while at the other end of the scale, Belgium registered a substantial decline (-13.4 %), followed by Czechia (-12.0 %) and Estonia (-7.8 %).

Seven EU Member States (Spain, France, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovenia) registered increases in all transport types, with rises ranging between 4.4 % and 26.2 % in total transport. Croatia, Sweden and Lithuania recorded very strong growth for cabotage. In cross-trade transport, Italy, the United Kingdom and Ireland experienced considerable increases.

Among other countries with a large road transport industry, France, Spain and Italy saw rises ranging from 6.3 % to 7.6 %, driven by important increases in national transport, while Germany and the United Kingdom reported decreases of 0.8 % and 0.7 % respectively, due to decreases in national or international transport.

Table 1: Road freight transport by type of transport, 2016-2017
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

Figure 1: Quarterly road freight transport by type of transport, EU-28, 2013-2017
(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 2017 for the fourth consecutive year (2.8 % compared with 2016), reaching the highest value since 2013.

In 2017, 'metal ores and other mining and quarrying products' was the largest product group terms of tonnage, accounting for 3 635 million tonnes and a share of 24.8 % in terms of tonnage. Other important product groups were 'food, beverages and tobacco' (12.4 %), 'other non-metallic mineral products' (11.8 %) and 'agricultural products' (9.0 %).

In terms of tonnage, the highest rises between 2016 and 2017 were recorded for 'coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas' (15.4 %), 'textiles, textile products, leather and leather products' (10.9 %) and 'grouped goods' (7.1 %). 'Machinery and equipment' (4.4 %) saw the highest decrease over the same period, after several consecutive increases in the previous years.

In 2017, ‘food products, beverages and tobacco' dominated the transport when measured in tonne-kilometres, accounting for 329 billion tkm (see Table 2). The share of 'food products, beverages and tobacco' in the total road freight transport in tkm was 17.2 %, followed by 'agricultural products' (10.8 %), 'grouped goods' (10.3 %) and 'other non metallic mineral products' (7.7 %).

In terms of tkm, the highest rises between 2016 and 2017 were for 'coal and lignite; crude petroleum and natural gas' (12.5 %), 'grouped goods' (10.1 %) and 'other non-metallic mineral products' (8.6 %), while a decrease was registered for 'wood and products of wood and cork' (2.1 %) and 'machinery and equipment' (1.6 %).

Table 2: Road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), EU-28, 2013-2017
(thousand tonnes and million tkm)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)

Distance 150 to1 999 km recorded the highest rises

In 2017, 6.6 % of goods travelled over distances less than 50 km and 4.3 % travelled over distances more than 2 000 km (see Table 3). However, the bulk of road transport activity was carried out over distances between 50 km and 1 999 km, accounting for 89.1 % of the total. A more important consideration for policy purposes is that 57.4 % of freight volumes were carried out over distances of more than 300 km.

Figure 2 shows the trends in road freight transport for broad distance classes since 2013. In 2014, all distance classes increased, with one exception - for the distance class from 300 to 999 km, while in 2015 and 2016 there were decreases in the very long distances (2 000 km or more). In 2017, transport in all distance classes continued their growth, with the highest growth recorded over the long distances from 999 to 1 999 km. Although the longest distance class (2 000 km or more) increased in 2017, it was still below the level recorded in 2013.

Figure 2: Road freight transport by distance class, EU-28, 2013-2017
(based on tonne-kilometres, 2013=100)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)

Table 3 shows the changes in tonne-kilometres transported by distance classes between 2013 and 2017 for the EU-28 and individual Member States. Transport in Greece, Spain, Lithuania and Romania recorded growth in tkm for all distance classes between 2013 and 2017. Transport in Greece, Lithuania and Romania increased more for distances over 300 km, while Belgium registered decreases in transport for almost all distance classes (except for the class from 150 to 299 km). Among the Member States with major transport industries, Poland recorded a decrease in transport for the longest distances of 2 000 km or more, while increases occurred in the short ones. In Germany and the Netherlands, road freight transport decreased over long distances (over 500 km and 300 km respectively) and increases over shorter distances.

Table 3: Road freight transport by distance class, 2017
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)

Table 4 shows road freight transport by type of goods in 2017, measured in tonnes, split between movements of 300 km or more and movements less than 300 km. The largest change from 2016 to 2017 in longer distance transport for a specific product group was a 25.7 % rise for 'mining and quarrying products'. For the shorter distance transport, the categories of goods recording the highest increases were 'coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas' (16.0 %) and 'textiles, textile products, leather and leather products' (12.6 %). In contrast, there was a 5.3 % decrease in transport of 'machinery and equipment' over the shorter distances. The markedly different trends for the shorter and longer journeys for the product group 'mining and quarrying products' stood out. The 25.7 % rise for the longer distances stood in contrast to the 4.1 % rise for the shorter journeys, by far the highest difference between shorter and longer journeys among the main product groups.

Table 4: Road freight transport by distance class and group of goods (NST 2007), EU-28, 2013-2017
(thousand tonnes)
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, the United Kingdom, Spain and Poland continued to dominate European road transport in 2017, measured in tonnes. These countries accounted for 60.1 % of the total goods transported in the Member States of the European Union, with the goods transported in Germany representing 21.7 % of the total (see Figure 3). 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 3: Transport of goods on countries' territory by type of transport, 2017
(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 (seeTable 5), the four non-EU states Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey were important trading partners. Switzerland’s traffic was with Germany (23.4 % of the total extra-EU transport), France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands, while Norway had links with Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Russia transported goods mainly with Poland and Turkey with Bulgaria.

Table 5: Main country-to-country flows in extra EU-28 road freight transport, 2017
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott), (road_go_ia_ugtt), (road_go_ia_lgtt), (road_go_cta_gtt)

Table 6 shows 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 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 3.1 % in the bilateral traffic between Germany and Poland. German hauliers recorded the highest share in transport between Germany and Denmark (57.5 %) and between Germany and Luxembourg (53.9 %)

The share of third country hauliers in country-to-country transport varied substantially. Third country hauliers carried 58.2 % of the total volume transported between Germany and Italy, 55.7 % for Austria/Italy and 55.0 % for Belgium/Germany. At the other end of the scale, only 1.1 % of the road freight transported between Spain and Portugal was carried by hauliers from third countries, with even lower shares of hauliers from other countries in the bilateral flows between Czechia and Poland (0.9 %) and between Germany and Poland (0.6 %).

Polish hauliers were the main third country hauliers in country-to-country transport of goods presented in Table 6.

Table 6: Main country-to-country flows in intra EU-28 road freight transport, 2017
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott), (road_go_ia_ugtt), (road_go_ia_lgtt), (road_go_cta_gtt)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

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 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. 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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