Pre-Covid-19 sea and road freight volumes show continued growth

In News5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJanuary 15, 2021

While there‘s no denying the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on global 2020 freight volumes,  the International Transport Forum has taken a longer term view of the subject with its “Trends in the Transport Sector” survey. 

This includes variables on freight transport, passenger transport and road safety, and it is reported that freight transport by road has increased in all countries and regions studied since 2010 – with tonne-kilometres growing most in Russia (+32%), Europe (+20%), and Australia and New Zealand (+18%) among those with 2019 data.

Inland freight transport

The latest available data shows increases in road tonne-kilometres since 2010 for all countries and regions (See graph 1). China and Russia had the fastest growth, with compound annual growth rates of 6% and 3% from 2010 to 2018 and 2019 respectively. Growth can also be seen in the available data for Australia and New Zealand, Europe and North America, each of which has a compound annual growth rate of 2%. 

In terms of volume of growth, road tonne-kilometres increased by 64% between 2010 and 2018 in China. The strongest inclines in volume of road freight from 2010 to 2019 were in Russia (+32%), Europe (+20%), and Australia and New Zealand (+18%).  

While most regions saw minimal change in rail freight flows since 2010, rail tonne-kilometres declined in the large majority of ITF countries with available data between 2018 and 2019.

Rail freight trends from 2010 to the latest data have remained quite stable in Europe, Japan and Korea, the People‘s Republic of China and North America, all of which have compound annual growth rates for the data shown of less than one percent. 

The Russian Federation visibly increased rail tonne-kilometres between 2010 and 2019, with a compound annual growth rate of 3%. Rail freight grew at an even faster rate in Australia and New Zealand (8%), although data are only available through 2016 for those countries. Argentina and Chile have seen a stronger decline in railway freight movements than the any other region or country in the graph between 2010 and the latest 2017 data (-4% compound annual growth rate). 

In terms of the percentage of increase in rail tonne-kilometres between 2010 and the latest data shown, there was mainly growth in Australia and New Zealand (+59%) and Russia (+29%), as well as a decline in Argentina and Chile (-24%).

Maritime shipping

Container shipments in sea ports grew consistently between 2010 and 2019 in OECD countries, both in terms of gross tonnage and TEUs (+50% and +42%; Figure 2). In 2019, nearly 2.6 billion tonnes and 200 million TEUs were loaded and unloaded by OECD countries with available data. 

When comparing the compound annual growth rates between 2010 and 2019 for the countries included in the aggregate, TEUs increased most in Greece (20%), Poland (11%) and Lithuania (10%). Maritime gross tonnage had the highest compound annual growth rates during the referenced period in Greece (20%), Poland (13%), Slovenia (11%) and Lithuania (10%).

Road safety

While most regions in Figure 4 succeeded in reducing the number of road fatalities since 2010, the declines are minimal in some cases and trends have not been consistent. In terms of compound annual growth rates for the countries and regions shown through 2019, there were declines in Russia (-4.9%), Japan and Korea (-4.8%), Europe (-2.3%) and Australia and New Zealand (-1.2%). 

Road fatalities increased slightly in Argentina and Chile (0.4%) and North America (0.3%), when comparing compound annual growth rates of data shown. Japan and Korea is the only aggregate that has consistently decreased road fatalities each year since 2010.