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Load factors for freight transport

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
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Assessment made on  01 Oct 2004

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Driving force


Indicator codes
  • TERM 030
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  Load vehicles more efficiently

Key messages

  • Load factors declined for road freight transport and inland shipping, and increased for air freight transport. The fact that load factors are generally under 50 % (by weight), and that some freight transport companies achieve much higher load factors than others in the same sector suggests that load factors can be improved.


Key assessment

Load factors are generally far below the theoretical maximum. While it is relatively easy to achieve full load on an outward trip, it is a complex puzzle to find return loads.Therefore, empty return trips are frequent. Transport of certain goods requires specialized vehicles that makes it impossible to find return loads - a gasoline tanker can neither bring milk nor pallets as a return load.

Load factors for road and inland freight transport have declined in the three member states surveyed, indicating that vehicles are being less efficiently used. For road transport, the slow decline in load factors hides more marked developments in opposite directions: on the one hand a clear decline of empty haulage since the 70's (see table 1) as result of better fleet management, and on the other hand a decline in load factors for laden trips. Companies are often more concerned with efficient time-management than efficient transport, resulting in an increasing number (more vehicle-kilometres) and a decreasing size of shipments (TNO, 1999), thereby contributing to lower efficiencies. "Just-in-time" deliveries may stimulate this development.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
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