External costs of transport

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
Prod-ID: IND-175-en
Also known as: TERM 025
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This content has been archived on 08 May 2015, reason: No more updates will be done

Assessment made on  01 Jan 2002

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Impact


Indicator codes
  • TERM 025

Policy issue:  Estimate and reduce the external costs of transport


Key assessment

Transport imposes significant costs on societies, as the impact of factors such as accidents, air pollution, climate change and noise nuisance result in increased expenditure on health care and economic losses (e.g. in terms of labour force, material damage, loss of nature resources). In the EU plus Norway and Switzerland (EU+2) external costs from transport were estimated at 8 % of GDP in 1995 (Infras/IWW, 2000). Car use causes the largest share of externalities (58 %), followed by heavy-duty vehicles (21 %). Road transport as a whole accounts for 92 % of external costs while the share of rail and water transport is very small.

The marginal external costs - which form the best basis for the establishment of internalisation instruments - vary considerably between and within transport modes. They also depend heavily on the type of vehicle, the fuel used, and on the specific traffic situation. Hence, flexible pricing instruments are needed to internalise such costs in an effective way.

Passenger cars, trucks and aviation have the highest external costs per transported unit. The shift of transport from rail and public transport towards road and aviation, long established in the EU and now also emerging in the ACs (see page 29), therefore also means that external costs per passenger- or tonne-km are increasing. Data on external costs in the ACs are currently lacking. As freight transport intensity in the ACs is four to five times higher than in the EU, it is expected that external costs, relative to GDP, are also fairly high in ACs, and increasing. The OECD - in cooperation with the Central European Initiative (CEI) - has commissioned a study to estimate the external costs for the CEI member countries, using a similar estimation methodology as for the EU+2. This will in future allow a more in-depth comparison between externalities in the EU and the ACs.


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