Goods transport

There is an increasing demand for data on the transport sector to assess its various impacts on the economy, the environment and societies. However comparability of transport data between countries is not always possible worldwide due to the lack of harmonised definitions and methods. The Glossary for Transport Statistics (4th edition) provides common definitions to all member states of the European Union, the International Transport Forum and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.


Goods transport data refer to the total movement of goods using inland transport modes (rail, road, inland waterways and pipelines) on a given network. Data are expressed in tonne-kilometres which represents the transport of one tonne over one kilometre. The distance to be taken into consideration is the distance actually run.


The International Transport Forum collects, on an annual basis from all its member countries, data on transport statistics. Data are collected from Transport Ministries, national statistics offices and other institution designated as official data sources.

Transport is classified as national if both loading and unloading take place in the same country. If one of them occurs in another country then the transport is considered as international. The statistics on international road transport, based on the nationality concept are different for statistics for other modes that are based on the territoriality concept.

Statistics based on the territoriality concept reflect the goods and the vehicles entering or leaving a country irrespective of the nationality of the transporting vehicle. Statistics based on the nationality concept only reflect the vehicles registered in the reporting country.

Although there are clear definitions for all the terms used in transport statistics, countries might have different methodologies to calculate tonne-kilometre. Methods could be based on traffic or mobility surveys, use very different sampling methods and estimating techniques which could affect the comparability of their statistics.

The aggregate “EU28” does not include Cyprus, and for OECD neither Chile nor Israel are included.

In case of missing data for a country, the ITF can calculate estimates based generally on the growth rates of the relevant region to calculate aggregated trends.


If global freight volumes transported by sea and air rebounded strongly, following the 2008 economic crisis and the collapse of world trade for rail and road freight the recovery has been slower, reflecting domestic economic performance more than trade.

After having been hit severely by the economic crisis, OECD rail freight transport volumes continued to recover and remain above their pre-crisis levels. If OECD rail freight volumes increased by 1.1% in 2014 when compared to the previous year, in the European Union, rail freight volume stagnated (0.3%) during the same period to a level slightly over 405 billion ton-kilometres. This is still 8% below their level in 2008. In Russia, rail freight volumes continued to increase in 2014 (4.7%) with more than 2.3 billion ton-kilometres, a level that is 8.7 % above pre-crisis volumes.

Road freight transport suffered in 2009 and recovery in road freight has been slow. Road transport data for 2014 show an overall stagnation when compared to 2013 levels however volumes remain above their 2008 levels (3.4% for the OECD). The increase in activity, expressed in ton-kilometres, was 0.3 % for both the OECD and the EU in 2014 when compared with the previous year. However road freight activity in the emerging economies continued to increase throughout the 2008-14 period.


Further information

Analytical publications

Statistical publications

Methodological publications


Table. Inland goods transport

Inland goods transport
Average annual growth rate in percentage, 2004-14 or latest available period