The freedom of movement of people and goods is one of the major issues of the European Union and more generally of international free trade agreements. The need for an efficient and safe transport system – especially for the road sector – is an essential prerequisite for a fair European integration. Road transport users should all benefit from harmonized conditions, whether they are private users, customers or road hauliers.

In September 2001 the Commission adopted its White Paper on European Transport Policy, which describes what has been achieved so far both at Union and Member State level, and indicates the measures to be the future.

To stick to the merchandise transport sector alone, it is characterized by its bipolar structure. On the one hand, there is a predominance of small and very small enterprises, and among them many individual enterprises (artisans, self-employed, etc.). The average size of road transport companies in Europe is 5 employees per company. It varies from one country to another, generally smaller in the southern countries of the Union. On the other hand, large groups exercise the function of freight forwarder (organizer of the transport chain, even if all or part of the execution is outsourced to external suppliers), broadening their range of services to all logistics operations and, through mergers and acquisitions, some achieve a « global » size. These two poles are not independent, commissionaires make small businesses work by subcontracting. Major European groups are among the largest in the world.

The operating conditions of large and small enterprises are thus very different, their interests are not necessarily convergent and the regulation of their relations is one of the key questions of the organization of the sector and the related public policies. This gap partially overlaps with a division of labor across Europe, especially for international, cross-border road transport. This market shows the importance of the pavilions of the new member countries of the Union, in particular the Polish pavilion, which alone holds 25%.

The European road transport market is indeed open to competition for international transport, while the differences between the countries of the Union are very important in social and tax matters. Compensation differences range from 1 to 6, for a position that represents between 25% and 40% of the total cost. As well, carriers in Western countries complain of « dumping » jeopardizing their profitability and their very existence. At the same time, some of them create subsidiaries in « competitive » countries to take advantage of them themselves … The European market for road freight transport is thus liberalized without being harmonized, and this question is about agenda for the year 2016.

On the other hand, there is the problem of posted workers, ie working temporarily in a Union country of which they are not residents, particularly numerous in the road transport sector because of the obvious mobility of Workforce. The principles of the Union in this area are the freedom of movement and work of European citizens and their equal treatment where they work. Effective enforcement of these rules, often ignored or circumvented, is also on the agenda of the FICT.

In the future :

The transport projections, broken down according to the NST (Transport Statistics Nomenclature) chapters of 1970, show an average increase of 2.6% per year (in tonne-kilometers) for Chapter 9 (manufactured goods), an increase of 1.2% for building materials and a drop for energy products. Expressed in terms of modal split, these projections show an increase of 2.1% per year for road, 2.2% for iron (including rail-road transport), 2.3% for transport river). These national projections are convergent with the projections of the European Union, and thus show a weak modal shift.

Finally, freight traffic is expected to increase by 29% between 2012 and 2030

Some numbers

Germany: The road remains the main mode of freight transport with 73% of tonne-kilometers, against 18% for iron and 9% for the waterway.

Belgium: The road haulage sector has undergone a major transformation in Belgium. It had 13,600 firms in 1965, down from 8,500 in 2012. In 1965, 72% of the fleet belonged to one-vehicle companies, down to 27% in 2002.

Spain: The road mode ensures in Spain 80% of freight transport measured in tonne-kilometers, iron only 2.5% and continues to fall, the seaway more than 10%

France: Freight transport in France is characterized by the dominance of the road mode, whose share of traffic has increased by 12% since 1990. This growth has benefited in particular the foreign flag which ensures the majority of the flows of import and export,

Greece: Land freight transport in Greece is almost entirely done by road, which holds 98% of the traffic.

Poland: Road freight transport is a necessary driver of Poland’s economic growth from the beginning of the transition to a market economy and even more so after accession to the EU. In terms of modal split, the railways increased from 60% to 15% of tonne-kilometers between 1990 and 2014, while the road rose from 29% to 78%, mainly because of an additional traffic induction, while the waterway plays only a marginal role.

Sweden: Road transport in Sweden uses some 80 000 lorries and 500 000 light commercial vehicles (less than 3.5 t, with multiple uses distributed between individuals and companies, transport of people, tools, goods , etc.). The modal split in Sweden deviates significantly from the European average because this country with a long coastline is heavily reliant on national maritime cabotage. 40% for maritime transport, 36% for road and 24% for rail

Data taken from: Observatory of Transport Policies and Strategies Bulletin in Europe







On-road tests show gas trucks up to 5 times worse for air pollution

Trucks powered by liquified natural gas (LNG) pollute the air up to five times more than diesel trucks, according to on-road tests commissioned by the Netherlands government. The results fly in the face of truckmakers’ claims that gas trucks cut nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by more than 30%.[1] [2] Transport & Environment (T&E), which today publishes the test results, says EU governments should stop encouraging the uptake of polluting LNG trucks by ending the extremely low tax rates that fossil gas for transport enjoys in most countries.

Eoin BannonSeptember 18, 2019 – 18:11

The three LNG trucks tested emit 2 to 5 times more poisonous NOx than the diesel truck with the lowest test result when driven in a combination of urban areas, regional routes and motorways. When driven in towns and cities, the gas trucks release 2 to 3.5 times more NOx than the tested diesel truck with the lowest emissions. Trucks powered by biomethane (biogas) would have the same air pollutant emissions as trucks running on fossil gas because the fuel characteristics are the same.

Stef Cornelis, clean trucks manager at T&E, said: “Gas trucks are not clean and can actually be worse than diesel. It’s time for policymakers to have a fresh look at the evidence and put an end to gas truck subsidies, LNG infrastructure investments and tax breaks for what is just another polluting fossil fuel.”

The on-road tests also show that all three gas trucks tested produce levels of particle emissions comparable to diesel trucks.[3] Particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and be absorbed into the blood, causing heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.[4] These findings are in sharp contrast to truckmakers’ advertisements claiming that with LNG trucks particle emissions are almost completely eliminated.[5] [6]

Gas trucks are also a dead-end to decarbonise trucking: the Scania and Iveco trucks with spark ignition engines recorded tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions just 3 to 5% lower than the diesel truck with the lowest test result. Volvo’s LNG truck with high pressure direct injection (HPDI) reduces emissions by 14%. However, T&E calculations show that when the extraction and transportation of the gas, including methane leakage, is factored in, spark ignition LNG trucks are worse for the climate than diesels, while HPDI gas trucks are only delivering a small benefit.[7]

Despite this, fossil gas used in transport is supported by EU governments with tax breaks, road toll exemptions and subsidies (see table below). Without these subsidies there would be no market for gas in transport. 

Stef Cornelis concluded: “The gas industry is desperate to convince policymakers that gas trucks have a climate benefit because they want to grow their market. The simple fact is that it’s a fossil fuel just like oil and coal, so it needs to be phased out.”

Notes to editors:



[3] Particle number emissions of the three LNG vehicles were measured on the road with PEMS equipment while the average results of four diesel vehicles were determined from lab based tests (chassis dynamometer).