The share of road transport in German freight transport is growing. Record-breaking empty mileage raises concerns

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The share of road transport in German freight transport is growing. Record-breaking empty mileage raises concerns

The volume of freight transport in Germany increased slightly last year. The biggest increase was recorded in road transport, which thus increased its share in the total transport market. However, empty mileage accounts for more than one-fifth of all journeys, according to a report published by BAG.

Total freight transport in road, rail and inland waterway transport in Germany increased by a total of only 0.4% last year compared to 2017. Less than 3.8 billion tonnes were transported. On the other hand, in terms of tonne-kilometre performance, excluding heavy goods vehicles from outside Germany, there was a decrease of 0.6% with a result of 472.9 billion tkm.

Road transport is growing in importance

The volume of road freight transport carried out by German trucks increased last year by 1.3% compared to 2017 (almost 3.2 billion tonnes) and the transport work increased by 1.5% to about 295.2 billion tkm. In comparison, railways recorded increases of 0.4% in transport volume and 1.1% in transport work. Inland waterway transport, on the other hand, suffered severe losses due to drought and low water levels in rivers, with transport volumes falling by 11.1% and 15.5% respectively in 2018. 

As a result of these trends, the share of road freight transport in Germany has increased again (the following figure includes transport by trucks from outside the country):

Turnover and costs increased, and every fifth run was empty mileage

In 2018, the total turnover in commercial road freight transport increased by 5.4% compared to 2017. In addition to the increase in demand for transport, especially domestic one, wage growth has also contributed to this. However, higher turnover was not usually associated with further improvement in the carriers’ income situation. Companies simply passed on to their customers, albeit partially or even late, the rising costs of personnel, fuel and tolls.

According to the BAG report, the additional costs per kilometre driven with load resulting from the extension of the toll (in July 2018) were passed on to the shippers by the carriers. But the costs for empty mileage had to be borne by themselves.

It should be noted that the share of empty mileage in all journeys by German trucks has been one of the highest in the last decade. Since 2008, only in 2017  has it been slightly higher (by 0.1%) than in 2018, when it reached the level of 21.7%. In comparison, in 2008, empty mileage accounted for 20.1% of all journeys.

Freight transport forecasts

According to the current medium-term forecast, despite less optimistic forecasts for the German economy as a whole, freight transport is expected to grow in the coming years. By 2022 it is expected to be on average 1.3% per year in volume and 2.3% per year in transport work. 

In turn, the volume of road transport is expected to grow by an average of 1.8% per year until 2022, and the transport work will increase by about 2.6% per year.

 Photo: ŠJů, Wikimedia Commons

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