Statistics Explained

Road freight transport statistics

This is the stable Version.


Data extracted in October 2021.

Planned article update: September 2022.

Highlights

European road freight transport fell by 0.9 % from 2019 to 2020, breaking the upwards trend recorded in recent years. The main factor was a decrease in international transport, while national transport also fell.

Compared to the first quarter of 2020, the number of tonne-kilometres performed in the EU in the second quarter of 2020 fell by 7.9 %, to 416.0 billion tonne-kilometres, an effect of the Corona-related lockdowns and restrictions on cross-border movements.

Polish trucks registered the highest number of tonne-kilometres in the EU in 2020, in particular due to high international, cross-trade and cabotage transport.

The freight transported by road on a country’s territory in terms of tonnes was the highest in Germany in 2020, just as in the previous year.

Quarterly road freight transport by type of transport, EU, 2015-2020
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_tq_tott)

This article presents the main trends in road freight transport in the European Union (EU) up to and including 2020. It describes the trend up to 2019, before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, and contrasts this with the impact of the pandemic on freight transport by road in 2020. National, international, cross-trade and cabotage transport are all analysed. 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', 'Road freight transport by journey characteristics' and 'Road freight transport statistics - cabotage' present a complete overview of road freight transport in Europe.

Full article

EU road freight transport fell from 2019 to 2020, the pandemic reducing both international and national transport

In terms of tonne-kilometres (tkm), European road freight transport fell by 0.9 % from 2019 to 2020. This broke the upward trend seen in recent years, culminating in an increase by 3.2 % from 2018 to 2019 (see Table 1a and Table 1b). However, the lockdowns and the imposed measures by many Member States in 2020 to counter the Covid pandemic had a negative impact on freight transport by road, in particular during the second quarter of 2020 (Q2 2020). (see Figure 1)

International transport, representing one quarter (24.8 %) of total road freight transport in the EU, recorded a 3.8 % decrease from 2019 to 2020, following an increase by 2.1 % percent the previous year. Also national transport, which represents almost two thirds (61.4 %) of the total also fell slightly, by 0.9 %. In 2019, it had increased by 2.7 %.

In contrast, cross-trade and cabotage transport, together representing 13.8 % of the EU total in 2020, recorded continuous growth over the period, with 5.8 % and 17.5 %, respectively, in 2019 and 4.4 % and 4.2 % in 2020.

In 2020, Poland (19.7 % of EU total tkm) reconfirmed its position as one of the most important countries for road transport in Europe, ahead of Germany (16.9 %) and Spain (13.4 %). Almost two thirds (65.1 % ) of the Polish transport performance were either international transport, cross-trade or cabotage, while over one third was national transport.

Both in terms of tkm and in percentage, Czechia (+17.0 billion tkm; +43.6 %) and Bulgaria (+12.0 billion tkm; +58.5 %) recorded the highest rise in road freight transport among the EU Member States from 2019 to 2020. At the other end of the scale, Portugal (-21.8 %), Cyprus (-17.4 %) and Luxembourg (-16.3 %) all registered substantial declines in relative terms, however these countries represented only minor shares of the EU total.

Bulgaria and Czechia were the only EU Member States that registered increases in all transport types in 2020. Seven Member States (Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Hungary, Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia) registered decreases in all transport types, with falls ranging between -2.3 % and -21.8 % of total transport. Sweden and Greece recorded considerable declines in cabotage from 2019 to 2020, while Czechia, France and Austria registered strong growth. In cross-trade transport, Finland and Denmark experienced considerable decreases, while Greece, Czechia and Bulgaria saw strong growth. Greece recorded very high growth rates for cabotage and in particular for cross-trade in 2019, with 100.0 % and 1 250.0 %, respectively. This must be seen in context of the low starting point, with Greece reporting only 64 million tkm for cross-trade and 4 million tkm for cabotage transport in 2018, raising to 128 million tkm for cross-trade and 54 million tkm for cabotage in 2019. Similarly, the further increase to 381 million tkm for cross-trade in 2020 corresponded to an increase by 197.7 %.

Among the Member States with the largest road transport industries, Poland was the only that recorded an increase from 2019 to 2020, with total road freight transport up 1.7 %. This was driven by increases in national transport as well as in cross-trade and cabotage, although international trade fell. Germany, France, Spain and Italy all saw decreases, ranging from -2.3 % to -3.4 %, with both national and international transport falling in all four countries.

Table 1a: Road freight transport by type of transport, 2018-2020
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)
Table 1b: Growth rates for road freight transport by type of transport, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

The effects on road freight transport of the Corona-related lockdowns and restrictions on cross-border movements can be clearly seen in the quarterly data presented in Figure 1. Normally, the second quarter of the year sees the highest number of tkm performed. However, the second quarter of 2020 experienced the height of these restrictive measures to counter the Corona pandemic. Compared to the first quarter of 2020, the number of tkm performed in the EU fell by 7.9 %, to 416.0 billion tkm; compared to the same quarter the year before, i.e. Q2 2019, the tkm decreased by 9.7 %. However, already in the third quarter of 2020, road freight transport recovered to levels even higher than before the pandemic, with an increase compared to the same quarter in 2019 of 2.4 % and 3.3 % in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Figure 1: Quarterly road freight transport by type of transport, EU, 2015-2020
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_tq_tott)

Mining and quarrying products make up one quarter of total tonnage

In terms of tonnage, European road freight transport continued to increase in 2019 (+2.2 % compared with 2018) before falling in 2020 (-3.8 %), reflecting the pandemic situation in 2020. However, despite being lower than the tonnage transported in the period 2017-2019, the tonnage in 2020 was still higher than that in 2016 (see Table 2a).

In 2020, as in previous years, 'metal ores and other mining and quarrying products' was the largest product group transported in terms of tonnage, accounting for 3 254 million tonnes and a share of 25.0 % in total tonnage in the EU. Other important product groups were 'other non-metallic mineral products' and 'food, beverages and tobacco', each with a share of 12.2 % in the total, and 'agricultural, forestry and fishery products' (9.5 %).

In terms of tonnage, the only rises between 2019 and 2020 were recorded for 'agricultural, forestry and fishery products', 'food, beverages and tobacco' and ‘mail and parcels’, each of these product groups growing by 2.0 %. All other product groups declined, with the tonnage transported by road of 'coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas' falling sharply (-28.4 %), as did the tonnages of ‘transport equipment’ (-16.5 %) and 'textiles and textile products; leather and leather products' (-10.2 %). In the longer term, the 'coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas' was the only product group with a substantial decrease in tonnage between 2015 and 2019 (-23.2 %). The only other groups declining over this period were the group of ‘unidentifiable goods’ (-3.9 %) and, marginally, the group of ‘secondary raw materials; municipal wastes and other wastes’ (-0.4 %). In sharp contrast, the tonnage of ‘mail and parcels’ increased by 42.3 % over the same period.

In 2020, ‘food products, beverages and tobacco' continued to dominate road freight transport measured in tonne-kilometres, accounting for 311 billion tkm (see Table 2b). The share of 'food products, beverages and tobacco' in the total EU tkm was 17.3 %, followed by 'grouped goods' (11.3 %) and 'agricultural products' (11.1 %).

In terms of tkm, the highest rises between 2019 and 2020 were for ‘furniture and other manufactured goods not elsewhere covered' (+13.5 %), far ahead of 'food products, beverages and tobacco' (+3.4 %). However, 'food products, beverages and tobacco' recorded the largest increase in actual tkm, with an increase by 10.2 billion tkm to 311 billion tkm. At the other end of the scale, notable decreases were registered for ‘household and office removals, motor vehicles moved for repair and other non-market goods’ (-14.3 %), 'textiles and textile products; leather and leather products' (-13.0 %) and ‘transport equipment' (-11.4 %).

Table 2a: Road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), EU, 2015-2020
(thousand tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)
Table 2b: Road freight transport by group of goods (NST 2007), EU, 2015-2020
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tg)

Long distance road transport over 2 000 km was sharply down in 2020

In 2020, 6.5 % of the tkm performed in the EU was made over distances of less than 50 km, while 4.2 % were transported over distances of 2 000 km or more (see Table 3a and Table 3b). However, the bulk of road transport activity was carried out over distances between 50 km and 1 999 km, accounting for 89.3 % of the total. A more important consideration for policy purposes is that 59.6 % 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 2015. From 2015 to 2019, all distance classes below 2 000 km increased, with the only exception being 2018 when transport over 300-999 km fell slightly and over 1 000 -1 999 km fell sharply. In contrast, long distance road freight transport fluctuated considerably over the period 2015 to 2019. However, the lockdowns and the border movement restrictions implemented in many countries in 2020 to counter the Covid pandemic had notable effect on transport trends. Long distance transport of 2 000 km or more was sharply down (-8.0 %) in 2020, with falls also in the distance categories less than 150 km (-2.3 %) and 1 000-1 999 km (-1.2 %). For the two middle distance categories, 150-299 km and 300-999 km, the changes were minor (-0.2 % and +0.1 %, respectively).

Figure 2: Road freight transport by distance class, EU, 2015-2020
(index based on tonne-kilometres; 2015=100)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)

Table 3a shows the tonne-kilometres transported by distance classes between 2018 and 2020 for the EU and individual Member States, Norway, Switzerland and Montenegro, while Table 3b shows the year-on-year changes in percentages. Germany dominated the transport in all distance classes up to 500 km in 2020, while Poland dominated the longer distance classes (500 km or more). With the exception of the shortest category, less than 50 km, Poland was among the three Member States with the highest number of tkm also for the shorter distance classes. France was also among the three most important Member States in terms of tkm for the three shortest distance classes, while the same was the case for Spain for all distance classes of 300 km or more as well as in the shortest class. Lithuania stands out as a small country that was still one of the three most important transporters over the longest distances, 1 000-1 999 km and 2 000 km and over.

Bulgaria recorded increased tkm in all distance classes in 2020, a comprehensive rebound after recording decreases in all distance classes the year before. The increases in 2020 were larger than the decreases in 2019, in particular for the distance classes of 1 000 km and over. In contrast, Germany, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Hungary, Portugal and Slovakia recorded falls in tkm in all distance classes in 2020.

Table 3a: Road freight transport by distance class, 2018-2020
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)
Table 3b: Growth rates for road freight transport by distance class, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020
(%)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)

Table 4 shows road freight transport by type of goods over the period 2015 to 2020, measured in tonnes, split between movements of less than 300 km and movements of 300 km or more. It also provides the trend over the pre-pandemic period 2015-2019 and the change from 2019 to 2020. For transport of less than 300 km, 'coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas' was the only product group to record a larger decrease in the tonnage transported by road over the period 2015-2019 (-26.0 %). Other categories that experienced a reduction of more than 1 % in tonnage transported over shorter distances in this period were 'unidentifiable goods' (-3.6 %) and ‘secondary raw materials and wastes’ (-1.8 %). However, from 2019 to 2020 the tonnage transported over less than 300 km fell for most product groups. The sharpest fall was again recorded for 'coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas' (-31.9 %), with notable falls in tonnage also for ‘transport equipment’ (-18.4 %) and ‘furniture and other manufactured goods’ (-12 %). ‘Mail and parcels’ was the only group that recorded a rise in tonnage of more than 2 % in 2020 (+3.9 %).

Overall, transported tonnage over 300 km and more increased by 15.5 % over the period 2015-2019. This was reflected in large growth in tonnage for many product groups, with ‘mail and parcels’ standing out with an increase of +49.4 %. Increases of 25 % or more were registered also for ‘secondary raw materials and wastes’ (+30.4 %), ‘grouped goods transported together’ (+27.2 %), 'coal, lignite, crude petroleum and natural gas' (+26.4 %) and ‘transport equipment’ (+25.8 %). Only the tonnage of unidentified goods fell over this period. It is notable that the tonnage transported over distances of 300 km and more was little impacted by the Covid pandemic, with total tonnage only falling by -0.1 % from 2019 to 2020. However, within this overall picture, there were stronger effects on certain categories. The tonnage of ‘goods moved in the course of household and office removals’ fell by almost a fifth (-19.6 %), while also long distance tonnage of 'textiles and textile products; leather and leather products' (-15.5 %) and ‘transport equipment’ (-12.0 %) fell substantially. In contrast, the tonnage of ‘furniture and other manufactured goods’ increased by 16.7 %.

Table 4: Road freight transport by distance class and group of goods (NST 2007), EU, 2015-2020
(thousand tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_dctg)

In 2020, hauliers from Germany, France, Spain, Poland and Italy carried two thirds of the road freight transported in the EU

In term of transport of goods by road on the national territory, measured in tonnes, Germany, France, Spain, Poland and Italy recorded the highest tonnages among the EU Member States in both 2019 and 2020. Together, these countries accounted for close to two thirds of the total tonnages transported in the European Union, with 65.4 % in both 2019 and 2020. The goods transported within Germany or loaded/unloaded in Germany represented one quarter of total tonnage in both 2019 and 2020 (24.6 % and 25.0 %, respectively), with Spain and France together making up close to another quarter of the total (see Figure 3a and Figure 3b). Considering international transport (i.e. goods entering and leaving the country, including cross-trade), the pattern did not change much over the last years. International transport of goods loaded/unloaded in Germany remained the highest tonnage, ahead of France. The Netherlands and Belgium, with their large North Sea ports, also recorded relatively high tonnages of goods loaded/unloaded for international transport.

Figure 3a: Transport of goods on countries' territory by type of transport, 2019
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott), (road_go_ia_ugtt), (road_go_ia_lgtt), (road_go_cta_gtt)
Figure 3b: Transport of goods on countries' territory by type of transport, 2020
(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 EU/extra-EU country-to-country freight transport flows (see Table 5), Switzerland, United Kingdom and Norway were important trading partners. The main extra-EU flows have generally been between these countries and EU Member States neighbouring them. In 2019, the three main such traffic flows in terms of tonnes transported were between Switzerland and Germany (14.6 % of the total extra-EU road transport tonnage), followed by the flow between the United Kingdom and Ireland (11.9 %) and the one between Norway and Sweden (8.7 %).

In 2020, the flow between Switzerland and Germany remained the largest extra-EU road freight flow, with an increase of 0.7 million tonnes compared to 2019. Similarly, the changes in the flows between Norway and Sweden (-0.2 million tonnes), Switzerland and France (unchanged) and Switzerland and Italy (-0.3 million tonnes) remained moderate. However, the transport flow between Ireland and the United Kingdom fell sharply, from 13.6 million tonnes in 2019 to 4.3 million tonnes in 2020, a fall by 9.3 million tonnes or more than two thirds (-68.2 %). There were also notable falls in the trade flows between the United Kingdom and France (-2.0 million tonnes) and the Netherlands (-1.5 million tonnes).

Table 5: Main country-to-country flows in extra-EU road freight transport, 2019-2020
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott), (road_go_ia_ugtt), (road_go_ia_lgtt), (road_go_cta_gtt)

Table 6 shows the share of transport performed by haulier origin for the main intra-EU country-to-country flows. Germany was one of the origin or destination countries in around half of the top 20 country-to-country flows in both 2019 and 2020, 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 3.4 % in 2019 and 2.9 % in 2020 in the bilateral traffic between Germany and Poland. German hauliers recorded the highest share in transport between Germany and Denmark (59.6 % in 2019, 55.8 % in 2020) and between Germany and Luxembourg (51.4 % in 2019).

The share of hauliers from other EU Member States in the country-to-country transport flows varied substantially. In 2020, hauliers from other Member States carried 60.6 % of the total volume transported between Germany and Italy, 56.7 % between Germany and France, 56.6 % between Belgium and Germany and 56.0 % between Austria and Italy. At the other end of the scale, no hauliers from other countries were registered carrying road freight transported between Spain and Portugal, Czechia and Poland and Poland and Slovakia, and only 0.6 % between Germany and Poland, 0.8 % between Italy and Poland and 1.4 % between Czechia and Slovakia.

Among hauliers from other Member States than the two origin and destination countries, Polish hauliers were by far the most common group. Of the Top 20 intra-EU country-to-country transport flows in 2020, Polish hauliers were the main transporters from other Member States for 13 connections. Of the remaining seven connections, Poland was origin or destination country in four.

Table 6: Main country-to-country flows in intra-EU road freight transport, 2019-2020
(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 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 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 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 3a and Figure 3b

These Figures present 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 country traversed, 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 25/10/2021.

In this article:

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

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 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. Differences might therefore 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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