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Freight transport demand (CSI 036/TERM 013) - Assessment published Dec 2014

Indicator Assessment Created 24 Nov 2014 Published 12 Dec 2014 Last modified 12 Dec 2014, 02:06 PM
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Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary topic)

freight transport
DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 036
  • TERM 013
Temporal coverage:
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Key policy question: Is freight transport demand being decoupled from economic growth?

Key messages

Freight transport volumes in the EU‑28 decreased by 2 % between 2011 and 2012, mainly due to a 3 % reduction in road freight transport (with Italy leading the road drop by 13.8 % compared to its 2011 figure). Rail transport also decreased by 4 % between 2011 and 2012, whereas IWW transport increased by 6 %. Maritime and air transport did not vary significantly. Overall, total freight transport volumes in the EU‑28 are now 10 % below the peak volumes experienced in 2007. The modal share remains constant; road transport dominates land freight transport at 75 %, followed by rail (18 %) and IWW (7 %).

Switzerland experienced a decrease of 4 % in road and rail transport, whereas Norway and Turkey’s overall land freight transport increased (by 4 % and 6 % respectively), and Iceland’s demand remained roughly constant between 2011 and 2012.

Freight transport volume and modal split within the EU

Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Freight transport volumes and GDP

EEA -33 lichtenstein
Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Key assessment

Total land freight transport within the EU-28 (road, rail and IWW) increased steadily throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s. Before the start of the recession in 2008, total transport volumes had grown by 22.4 % compared to 2000. Then, between 2007 and 2009, volumes plummeted (by 1.6 % in 2008 compared to 2007, and by 11.5 % in 2009 compared to 2008). In 2009, freight volumes were barely higher than in 2003. In 2010, volumes started growing again, but in 2011 and 2012, they dropped back by 0.2 % and 2.6 % respectively. Compared to 2000, the cumulative growth of freight volumes is still under the 10 %. In the non-EU EEA, cumulative growth between 2000 and 2012 exceeded 15 %, reaching 35 % in Iceland.
Road haulage accounted for 75 % of total inland freight movements within the EU-28 in 2012, slightly lower than in 2011. Total road freight volumes in 2012 were below their levels in 2004, but still 11 % higher than in 2000. In the EU-15, road freight transportation fell by 5.4 % in 2012 compared to 2011, varying from a 13 % drop in Italy to a 3.5 % increase in Denmark. In the EU-13, volumes grew by 4.1 %, varying from a 6.6 % drop in the Czech Republic to a 12.6 % and 14.9 % increase in Romania and Bulgaria, respectively. In the non-EU EEA member countries, road shares range from 54 % in Switzerland to 100 % in Iceland.
The tonne-kilometres transported by rail have stabilised overall. In the EU-28, rail freight volumes were slightly higher in 2012 compared to 2000 (after having reached a peak increase of 11 % in 2007, compared to 2000). In 2012, the fall in rail tonne-kilometres was larger than for road transport (− 3.6 % compared to − 3.0 %). The drop in rail in the EU-13 was larger than in the EU-15, with a 5.7 % decrease in tonne-kilometres between 2011 and 2012. In the non-EU EEA members, rail freight volumes have fallen too, by up to 4 % in Switzerland.
In 2012, 150 billion tkm of goods were transported by IWW in the EU-28, an increase of 6 % compared to 2011. Throughout the years, a slow but steady increase can be observed in the volumes transported by IWW. Compared to 2000, total tonne-kilometres in the EU-28 were up by 12 %. Here also, the EU-28 average masks important national differences. In the EU-15, tonne-kilometres have remained stable compared to 2000, while they have almost tripled in the EU-13.

At EEA-33 level, freight transport demand (by road, rail and IWW) grew at more or less the same rate as GDP in 2006 and 2007, followed by a very sharp decoupling in the first two years of the financial crisis (2008 and 2009). In 2010, this decoupling was reversed, but it picked up again in 2011 and 2012.
If we look at the evolution of freight intensity of GDP with the year 2000 as a benchmark, we see that this intensity was lower from 2001 to 2003, but increased again from 2004 to 2008. Since 2009, the freight intensity of GDP has again been lower than in 2000.
Decoupling has thus only occurred in periods of economic recession or stagnation. This is not surprising, as manufacturing tends to respond more than the service sector does to changes in economic activity (Foster-McGregor et al., 2012).
For the EU-15, the ‘road freight intensity’ of GDP has decreased steadily since 2004, and tonne-kilometres have gone down since 2007 (with a small rebound in 2010). For the EU-13, road tonne-kilometres have more than doubled since 2000. The ‘road freight intensity’ of GDP has increased by 60 % over the same period, with just one small decrease in 2009 and a stabilisation in 2011. In interpreting these data, one should bear in mind that international transport is reported according to the country of registration of the vehicle, and not according to where transport takes place.

Specific policy question: Is the share of goods transported by road being reduced relative to other transport modes?

Freight modal split between road and rail

Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Specific assessment

In the EU-13, the share of rail in the road/rail total decreased, from 43 % in 2000 to 24 % in 2012. Since 2009, this share seems to have stabilised. It still remains higher than in the EU-15 (18 %). Compared to 2000, the share of rail in the EU-15 has increased slightly (up from 16 %).

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

User not found: pastocin


EEA Management Plan

2014 1.1.2 (note: EEA internal system)


Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year in October-December (Q4)
Filed under:


European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100