A fifth of road freight kilometres by empty vehicles

In 2020, around one-fifth of the total road freight transport performance (in vehicle-kilometres) in the EU was carried out by empty vehicles. The share of performance by empty vehicles is somewhat higher for national transport (24 %) than for the total (20 %), and is significantly higher compared with international transport (13 %).




For total road freight transport, Cyprus recorded the highest share out of the Member States for which data are available (44 % of vehicle-kilometres by empty vehicles). This likely reflects that a majority of the journeys either carry goods imported through ports or concern construction traffic, both of which are largely one-directional traffic.

Cyprus was followed by Austria and Ireland (both 34 %). At the other end of the scale, Belgium reported the lowest share out of the Member States for which data are available (6 %), followed by Denmark (8 %).

As observed, empty journeys are more prevalent in domestic transport where the distances journeyed are typically much shorter. In contrast, for international transport, all Member States reported substantially lower levels of performance by empty vehicles, with only a few Member States recording shares in 2020 over 20 %: Luxembourg (24 %), Austria (23 %), and the Netherlands (21 %). This shows the economic importance of being able to acquire loads for return journeys in international transport.

For more information: 

  • Malta: data not included; as Malta is exempted from reporting road freight statistics because there are fewer than 400 Maltese-registered goods road transport vehicles licensed to engage in international transport.
  • Italy and Romania: no VKM for empty journeys are available.
  • Eurostat Statistics Explained article on road freight transport by journey characteristics
  • Eurostat database section dedicated to transport, including road freight transport
  • Eurostat website section dedicated to transport