Road freight transport statistics - cabotage

Data extracted in August 2018.

Planned article update: November 2020.


Cabotage penetration rate for the EU-28 was 4.3 % in 2017.

Germany is the country where almost half of EU cabotage was observed in 2017.

Polish hauliers performed almost 40% of EU cabotage in 2017.

Road freight cabotage transport, EU-28, 2013-2017

This article presents the road freight cabotage transport in 2017 in the European Union (EU), from the perspective of hauliers performing cabotage abroad and of the countries where cabotage takes place. Cabotage is freight transport carried out in a country by hauliers registered in another country. Since national transport markets are not yet fully liberalised, the level of cabotage, together with cross-trade, may be seen as a sign of market integration.

Full article

Cabotage penetration rate for hire and reward transport

Cabotage penetration rate for the EU-28 was 4.3 % in 2017

From the perspective of a reporting country, cabotage is considered as international transport. As far as the movement of goods is concerned, it could be considered as national transport as goods are transported from one location to another inside this country.

At EU-level, cabotage transport represented only a small percentage of total road freight transport: in 2017, 2.3 % of the tonne-kilometres (tkm) performed by EU-28 hauliers and only 1.1 % of the tonnes carried consisted of cabotage transport.

As road cabotage transport represents only a small part of total road transport and as data are collected on the basis of sample surveys, the accuracy of data on cabotage is lower than the accuracy of other variables and the percentage standard error of cabotage transport varies significantly from country to country for both tonnes and tonne-kilometres.

The cabotage penetration rate for hire and reward transport is the main indicator used to access cabotage. It is defined as the share of cabotage transport in total national transport of a country (national transport for hire and reward and cabotage transport).

Figure 1: Cabotage penetration rate for hire and reward transport by country in which cabotage takes place, 2013 and 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott), (road_go_ca_c)

The cabotage penetration rate for hire and reward transport in EU-28 increased from 2.9 % in 2013 to 4.3 % in 2017 (see Figure 1). The cabotage penetration rate increased by 0.4 % over the period 2013-2015, with a much higher increase over the period 2015-2017, reaching 1.0 %.

In 2017, the highest penetration rate at country level were recorded by Belgium (13.8 %) and Luxembourg (10.0 %), followed by France (8.6 %), Austria (8.2 %) and Germany (8.0 %), while the lowest rates were observed in Poland and Bulgaria (both 0.1 %) and Latvia (0.3 %).

Over the period 2013-2017, the highest increases of the penetration rate were recorded by Luxembourg (+5.3 percentage points (pp)), followed by Belgium (+5.0 pp) and Germany (+3.6 pp), while the highest decreases were recorded by Lithuania (-2.3 pp), Estonia (-1.3 pp) and Ireland (-1.0 pp).

Concerning other transport markets, Spain (0.4 %) had much smaller penetration rates, while Poland (0.0 %) remained at the same level as in 2013 with little variations since then.

In terms of transport performance measured in tonne-kilometres transported, cabotage in the EU-28 increased continuously since 2013, reaching 44.3 billion tonne-kilometres in 2017. Germany remained the country with the highest level of cabotage performance, rising from almost 10 billion tonne-kilometres in 2013 to almost 20.5 billion in 2017. France, with the second highest level of cabotage performance, grew slowly to reach 11.2 billion tonne-kilometres in 2017. The level of cabotage performance in other countries was much smaller with only Italy, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom recording figures over 1 billion tonne-kilometres in 2017 (see Table 1).

Table 1: Cabotage transport by country in which cabotage takes place, 2013-2017
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ca_c)

In terms of cabotage performance by hauliers from reporting countries in 2017, Poland continued to lead with nearly 40 % of the total cabotage performed in the EU, followed by Romania (8.7 %), Spain (6.2 %) and Lithuania (5.7 %) (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Cabotage performed by hauliers from reporting countries, 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

In terms of cabotage transport by country in which cabotage took place, Germany was on the first place with almost half of the total EU cabotage tkm performed on its territory. France was second, with a quarter of the total tkm, followed by Italy with a bit more than 5 % (see Figure 5).

Figure 3: Cabotage transport by country in which cabotage takes place, 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ca_c)

Cabotage partnering

Cabotage is not always performed by a neighbouring country

Table 2 shows in which countries the top five cabotage performers carry-out cabotage transport. Until a few years ago most cabotage transport was carried in neighbouring countries. This has changed in recent years, in particular for hauliers from Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria.

Table 2: Top 5 cabotage performing countries and their main countries in which cabotage takes place, 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ca_hac)

For the Polish hauliers, Germany accounted for almost three quarters of the cabotage performed in 2017, followed by France and the United Kingdom, while for the Romanian hauliers, Germany was again the recipient of almost a third of Romania's cabotage, followed by France and Italy. For the Spanish hauliers, France accounted for 89.7 % of cabotage performed in 2017 (mainly due to the fact that Spain is a major economy with a common land border with France), followed by Germany and Italy.

Lithuania performed the most cabotage in countries with which it had no land borders. Almost half of it took place in France, while more than a third took place in Germany, followed by Sweden. For the Bulgarian hauliers the cabotage was more evenly spread, with Germany accounting for a bit more than a quarter, followed by France and Spain with 15.1 and 13.1 % respectively, all of them with no land boundaries with Bulgaria.

Table 3 shows which countries performed cabotage in the 5 countries where the highest cabotage transport took place. Poland was the main caboteur in Germany (64.3 %), while Spain was the main one in France (22.2 %).

Table 3: Top 5 countries in which cabotage took place and their main countries which performed the cabotage, 2017
(% share in tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ca_hac)

The 3 main countries performing cabotage activities in Italy had no common boundaries. The share of cabotage performed were: Romanian hauliers (18.4 %), Polish hauliers (17.7 %) and German hauliers(13.5 %). For hauliers from Belgium, the main country in which cabotage took place was Luxembourg (29.8 %), while for the Spanish hauliers it was Portugal (43.9 %).

Change in cabotage level by country

Growth in cabotage performed by most Member States since 2013 was observed

In five Member States, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovenia, continuous year to year growth in cabotage performance was observed from 2013 to 2017 (see Table 4).

Table 4: Cabotage performance by hauliers' country of registration, 2013-2017
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

In five countries however, Czechia, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Finland, cabotage activity in 2017 reached its lowest level since 2013. Cabotage levels also showed falls in 2017 compared with 2013 in Germany, France, Austria and the United Kingdom, even if some increases were recorded in the most recent years.

Figure 4 and Figure 5 present countries with the highest cabotage performance increase and decrease between 2013 and 2017.

In the first case (see Figure 4), Lithuania recorded the highest cabotage performance increase in percentage, followed by Romania, Latvia, Poland and Slovenia. In terms of tkm, Lithiania recorded over this period an increase of 2 256 million tkm, Romania 2 913, Latvia 717, Poland 10 518 and Slovenia 508 million tkm.

In the second case (see Figure 5), Czechia recorded the highest cabotage performance decrease in percentage, followed by Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland. In terms of tkm, Finland recorded over this period a decrease of 730 million tkm, Denmark 105, the Netherlands 623, Austria 133 and Finland 38 million tkm.

Figure 4: Countries with the highest cabotage performance increase, 2013-2017
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

Figure 5: Countries with the highest cabotage performance decrease, 2013-2017
(million tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

Tonnes of freight transported in cabotage operations

Polish hauliers carried the highest share of tonnes carried

Tendencies in volume (tonnes) of goods transported in cabotage operations was similar to the tendencies in tonne-kilometers. Polish hauliers made the largest contribution to cabotage in terms of volume of goods transported in 2017, followed by Dutch hauliers. While there was a small decrease in volumes transported by Dutch hauliers since 2013 (-12.4 %), Polish hauliers doubled their cabotage performance (+126.6 %). The highest relative rises between 2013 and 2017, were registered by the Lithuanian (434.1 %) and Romanian hauliers (253.0 %), which reached the eight and third ranks respectively, followed by the Latvian (235.3 %) and Bulgarian hauliers (141.9 %) (see Figure 6).

Figure 6: Tonnes of freight transported in cabotage operations by haulier's registration country, 2013 and 2017
(thousand tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

Figure 7 shows the development of road freight cabotage transport in terms of tonne-kilometres, tonnes and vehicle-kilometres (vkm), based on 2013=100. Since 2013, cabotage transport grew continuously and with similar trends for the three units, with however a smaller increase for tonnes.

Figure 7: Development of road freight cabotage transport, EU-28, 2013-2017
Source: Eurostat (road_go_ta_tott)

Cabotage transport measured in tonne-kilometres and vehicle-kilometres reached in 2017 values of 65 % and 66 % above the 2013 figures respectively, while the transport measured in tonnes increased by 43 %. This may be a reflection of changes in the supply chain, favouring cabotage movements over longer distances.

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Croatia: While Croatia had no obligation prior to accession in 2013, it started reporting 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.

EU-28 totals calculated in this publication refer to road freight transport reported by the 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


Definition and history: Cabotage is declared by Member States for hauliers registered in their country that performed transport on the national territory of another country. From the point of view of the reporting country, it is considered as international transport, from the point of view of the movements of goods, it could be considered as national transport. With the aim of increasing transport efficiency and reducing the number of empty journeys, cabotage transport was gradually introduced in 1990 through authorization quotas (quantitative restrictions) and further liberalized in 1998 in the EU-15 (hauliers are allowed up to three cabotage operations within 7 days following an incoming international carriage). The cabotage regime was extended to the EFTA states (except Switzerland) following the creation of the EEA (European Economic Area). Cabotage between EU-15 and the Member States that joined the EU in 2004 was liberalized in May 2009 and in January 2012 for Bulgaria and Romania. Cabotage for Croatian hauliers is allowed in some EU Member States since July 2015 and should be extended to all Member States in July 2017.

Cabotage penetration rate: Share of cabotage transport in total national transport, where total national transport is the sum of national transport (for hire and reward) and cabotage transport (in that country).

Data reliability: As road cabotage transport represents only a small percentage of total road transport and as data are collected on the basis of sample surveys, the importance of cabotage could sometimes either be over- or underestimated. Percentage standard error (PSE, 95% confidence interval) of cabotage transport is typically 5-40% for tonnes and 5-30% for tonne-kilometres. Furthermore, variability in cabotage transport performance often occurs due to ‘haulage contracts’ that have a limited validity. A haulier might thus perform cabotage transport operations in one year and lose this market to a transport operator registered in a different country the next year.

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


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 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 related information is used at European level, which might cause differences in corresponding values from those countries that are using goods-related information for these statistics.

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