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Cabotage is becoming increasingly important in Germany every year. In cabotage operations, Polish carriers are the undisputed leader in the transport market of our western neighbours.

Germany is the country where almost half of all cabotage operations in the European Union are carried out. Their share in national transport (the so-called cabotage penetration rate) increased from 1.9% in 2004 to 7.2% in 2017. The 20.4 billion tonne-kilometres recorded in German cabotage in 2017 represented 46% of all cabotage operations throughout the Community. The growth rate of this mode of transport is also noteworthy: compared to 2016, cabotage in Germany increased by 25.9%.

According to a report by the Federal Office for Goods Transport (BAG), 64.3% of all cabotage operations in Germany were carried out in 2017 by Poles. With a transport workload of 13.1 billion tonne-kilometres, they improved their 2016 result by 41% (i.e. by 3.8 billion tkm).

Romania, the second-largest in terms of transport work, ranked far behind Poland, with a result of 1.3 billion tonne-kilometres. The Dutch (1 billion tonne-kilometres) and Lithuanians (0.9 billion tonne-kilometres) ranked next.

In its report, BAG points to the increase in the share of New Union carriers in German cabotage (by an average of 30.8%), while the share of transport companies from the Old Union countries decreased (by an average of 2.6%). The latter group transported a total of around 2.2 billion tonne-kilometres (tkm) under cabotage in 2017. These are less than two-tenths of the operations carried out in Germany at that time by the Poles.

International mix

As part of the market survey, BAG conducted driver surveys focusing on corporate relationships, nationality and frequency of cabotage operations.

In 23% of cases, the nationality of the driver was not identical to that of the country of registration of the vehicle, as stated by the authority. This happened most often for Ukrainian and Belarusian drivers. The vehicles of the respondents were mainly registered in Poland (62%), Romania (11%), the Czech Republic and Lithuania (about 5% each).

The majority of German customers are forwarding and logistics companies (48%) and manufacturing and trading companies (30%). According to the study, ‘some of the’ use the vehicles of foreign subsidiaries for transport within Germany.

A quarter of the drivers surveyed stated that cabotage operations in Germany are always carried out for the same customer. Also, 25% said that their cabotage routes were a “regular return trip”. In general, the frequency of operations is variable. 51% of respondents carried out “five or more” cabotage operations per month, less than 37% “two to four” and 9% said that they only perform one cabotage operation a month.

The share of German trucks is decreasing

Polish carriers lead the way beyond the Oder River not only in this type of transport. As BAG points out, between 2004 and 2017 the transport work carried out by Polish companies in Germany (national and international transport from or to Germany) increased fivefold. Meanwhile, the share of German companies in international transport has fallen sharply during this period. As we read in the authority’s report, just as in the case of cabotage, the majority of cross-border transport operations with the beginning or destination of the route in Germany are carried out by Polish companies.

Total transport in 2004 Total transport in 2017 Domestic transport in 2004 Domestic transport in 2017 International transport in 2004 International transport in 2017
Transport work (in tonne-kilometres) 419.7 bln 524.9 bln 227.9 bln 282.4 bln 191.8 bln 242.5 bln
Share of German trucks 68.4% 56.9% 98.3% 92.8% 32.8% 15.1%
Share of foreign trucks 31.6% 43.1% 1.7% 7.2% 67.2% 84.9%

Photo: Trans.INFO

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