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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Load factors for freight transport / Load factors for freight transport (TERM 030) - Assessment published Oct 2010

Load factors for freight transport (TERM 030) - Assessment published Oct 2010

Indicator Assessment Created 18 Jun 2010 Published 04 Oct 2010 Last modified 07 Jul 2011, 02:47 PM
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Contents
 

Indicator definition

Load Factor: The load factor is the ratio of the average load to total vehicle freight capacity (vans,
lorries, train wagons, ships), expressed in terms of vehicle kilometres. Empty running is excluded from the calculation.
Empty running is calculated as the percentage of total vehicle-kilometres which are run empty.

Units

Load factors and empty running are both expressed as percentages.


Key policy question: Are freight vehicles making full use of available capacity?

Key messages

For countries where data is available (Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK), load factors have generally declined for road freight transport (Figure 1). Load factors are generally under 50 % (by weight). However some freight transport companies achieve much higher load factors than others in the same sector. This suggests that load factors can be improved. Road freight empty running (Figure 2) shows increases and decreases across different countries, although it is important to note that the response rate for the two variables is different (fewer and/or different countries have reported empty running). If load factors were increased, freight traffic volumes could be considerably reduced.
Rail freight load factors (Figure 3) have remained fairly constant across the last few years, with only small increases and decreases observed for individual countries. There is limited data available for shipping freight, and this shows increasing load factors for the Czech Republic and Lithuania, and slight decreases for Hungary and Poland (Figure 4).

Road freight load factors (during the laden trips)

Note: Load factor utilization for road freight

Data source:

Danmarks Statistik, Statistikbanken , NVG5: Danske lastbiler kapacitetsudnyttelse ved national transport efter enhed, turlængde, vogntype/kørselsart og læs - 'Road freight transport survey 2007' http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/transport/2007/roadfreight07.pdf

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Empty running - Road freight

Note: Road freight empy running based on nine countries data.

Data source:

Danmarks Statistik, Statistikbanken , NVG5: Danske lastbiler kapacitetsudnyttelse ved national transport efter enhed, turlængde, vogntype/kørselsart og læs
'Road freight transport survey 2007' http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/transport/2007/roadfreight07.pdf

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Rail freight load factor

Note: Rail freight load factor

Data source:

Data source: Danmarks Statistik, Statistikbanken , NVG5: Danske lastbiler kapacitetsudnyttelse ved national transport efter enhed, turlængde, vogntype/kørselsart og læs
'Road freight transport survey 2007' http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/transport/2007/roadfreight07.pdf

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Shipping freight load factors

Note: Shipping freight load factors

Data source:

Data source: Danmarks Statistik, Statistikbanken , NVG5: Danske lastbiler kapacitetsudnyttelse ved national transport efter enhed, turlængde, vogntype/kørselsart og læs
'Road freight transport survey 2007' http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/transport/2007/roadfreight07.pdf

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Key assessment

Road freight

Eleven countries provided data on road freight load factor utilization during laden trips. The average load factor utilization rates from the majority of the countries surveyed decreased from 1997 to 2008 (see Figure 1). Portugal's average load factor utilization has decreased by more than 20% between 1999 and 2006. Other countries show smaller decreases. Denmark shows a sharp drop from 2007 to 2008. 
Nine countries provided data on empty running. The majority of these (Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom) show no large changes between 1997 and 2008. Portugal has had a consistent decrease across the time series, whereas Denmark shows marked decreases in recent years (approximately 15% decrease between 2007 and 2008).  Load factors for Spain have been fairly constant across recent years with the exception of a substantial increase between 2007 and 2008. Data for Latvia is considerably more variable across the time series, but also shows a substantial increase between 2007 and 2008 (equating to a 34% increase).

Large differences in load factors within market segments, and between countries (Figure 1) suggest that there is indeed room for improvements, but hauliers within the same market segments may still face different situations that may limit the potential improvement of load factors. Detailed surveys of utilization can help identify where improvements can most easily be achieved. For example, in cases where deck space is the constraining factor, the use of double-deckers could significantly improve loading factors as well as cut total fuel consumption by up to 49% (McKinnon, 2007).


Rail freight

Rail freight data was received from eight European countries. The majority show loading factors of approximately 50%, with a very slight increase across the time series (Figure 3). However, loading factors for Czech Republic and Slovenia show a decrease from 2004 to 2008. In contrast Slovakia and Lithuania show a steady improvement. This mode of transportation as well as maritime freight (see below) has the potential for increasing load factor utilization because they can carry containers as well as loaded or empty transport vehicles.


Shipping

Only four countries (all Eastern European) provided Shipping freight data.  Figure 4 shows that two of the countries (Czech Republic and Lithuania) have increasing shipping load factors, whereas Poland and Hungary have slightly decreasing load factors across the time series (2004 to 2008).

Data sources

Policy context and targets

Context description

Vehicle utilisation is a measure of how efficiently the freight sector is transporting goods with its vehicles. If vehicle utilisation can be improved, through reduced empty running and making better use of each vehicle's carrying capacity then the same goods can be carried with fewer vehicle movements. This helps to reduce total freight vehicle traffic, measured as vehicle-km, thereby leading to reduced congestion, emissions, accidents and other environmental impacts of freight transport.
The liberalisation of the internal EU market has led to complex freight transport movements, an impact of which has been the practice of cabotage whereby hauliers from one country pick up and deliver goods within another country. Cabotage, which constitutes approximately 1 % of national road transport demand within the EU (EC, 2006b) is only legal if hauliers conduct no more than three cabotage operations in the country of destination within seven days of completing a delivery. However, the European Parliament has called for the lifting of all limits on cabotage by 2014. This should reduce the levels of empty running, improving the efficiency of transporting goods.

Targets

No international targets have been specified (although individual countries may have national targets in place).

Related policy documents

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

The Indicator covers load factors, also known as lading factors. This is expressed as a percentage utilization of the available capacity in tonne-km. The indicator is based on qualitative information collected through the annual questionnaire (EEA) and other sources (studies and publications retrieved from the Internet).
As the maximum permissible load weight for a vehicle may vary between countries, the classifications from the country of vehicle registration are used. This should minimise inconsistencies when comparing data between countries.
Freight capacity for ships is equal to the deadweight (DWT), which is the difference between the displacement of a ship on summer load-line, and the total weight of the ship

Methodology for gap filling

Verification with EEA member countries via questionnaires.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

The sources of data determining load factors as the number of tonne-km divided by the number of vehicle-km were disregarded. This was partly because this approach yields erratic results, and partly because the developments in tonnes per vehicle may equally well be explained by changes in vehicle size rather than degree of utilization of available capacity. Also, some countries report utilization as percentage of available tonne-km, others report as percentage of tonnes, not taking into account distances travelled. These two are not equivalent and show significant differences.
In road transport cases, the laden factor concerns transport of goods on national territory. Data has to be harmonised to include the contribution from empty running. In all cases the data included transport on own account and hired transport.
In addition, the base data could be inaccurate and may contain some errors due to low response rate of EU states. Errors could be reduced or eliminated with a higher response rate.

Data sets uncertainty

Strengths and weaknesses (at data level): load factors as expressed in percentage of maximum available tonne-km are not corrected for volume, as many loads are constrained by volume or deck space, rather than weight. A decline in weight-based load factors may hence be due to an increase in volume constrained loads rather than reduced utilization.
Questionnaire responses in 2008 were limited and scarce. However, TERM 2009 produced a higher number of responses than 2008. Therefore, it is likely that there will be considerable differences between the data collected in 2008 and data collected in 2009.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Generic metadata

Topics:

Transport Transport (Primary topic)

Tags:
transport indicators | freight | transport
DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 030
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1990-2008
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Cinzia Pastorello

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2009 2.10.2 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 3 years

Comments

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