In 2021, total road freight transport in the European Union increased by 7% in terms of tonne-kilometres (tkm) compared to 2020, new data by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, has revealed.
“This shows a recovery from the transport situation in 2020, which was affected by the lockdowns and other measures imposed by many Member States this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Eurostat notes.
The effects of Covid-related lockdowns and restrictions on cross-border movements can clearly be seen in quarterly data.
The second quarter of any given year usually demonstrates the highest number of tkm performed. However, in the second quarter of 2020, during the height of anti-Covid measures, there was a significant slump in the level of road freight traffic.
International transport, representing one quarter (25.2%) of total road freight transport in the EU in 2021, increased by 8.1% compared to 2020, following a decrease of 3.7% the previous year. Similarly, national transport, which represented almost two thirds (61.3%) of freight, rose by 6.3%. During the pandemic, national freight transport dropped by 0.8%.
Last year, Poland re-confirmed its position as the most important countries for road transport in Europe, accounting for 19.8% of the EU’s total tkm, ahead of Germany (16%) and Spain (14.1%). Almost two thirds (64.5%) of Polish freight transport was international, cross-trade or cabotage, while over a third (35.5%) was national transport.
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In Belgium, the total road freight transport increased by 5% last year, rebounding from record lows during the Covid-19 pandemic. The rate of growth in road freight transport in 2020-2021 was more than triple the levels observed in 2019-2020.
The data also shows that there has been a strong increase in long-distance road freight. In 2021, the number of journeys made between 1000-1999 kilometres increased by 9.2 percentage points.
While the roads are traditionally the primary means of moving goods throughout the EU, inland waterways are becoming increasingly popular as Europe’s roads once again clog with traffic.
In the first quarter of the year in Belgium, vessels transported 42.6 million tonnes of goods on inland waterways. Elsewhere in Europe, 140 billion tonne-kilometres were observed, up 3% from 2020. Germany and the Netherlands were the main contributors to EU inland waterway transport, accounting for 70% of the total in 2021.