User guide – Road freight

User guide – Road freight

Notes and definitions

Origin and destination

These refer to the origins and destinations of the trips that were recorded in the surveys. These are not necessarily the ultimate origins and destinations of the goods (a trip on a surveyed vehicle may represent only one stage in the journey of a consignment: goods may have been trans-shipped on a number of occasions). Individual origins and destinations are standardised by the Department for Transport to NUTS3 regions (an EU wide geography based on existing local administrative boundaries), with all published outputs based on these regions.

Entering Scotland and leaving Scotland

Trips with a destination in Scotland and an origin outwith Scotland are classed as 'entering Scotland', whilst trips with an origin in Scotland and a destination outwith Scotland are classed as 'leaving Scotland' - where a trip is defined as a vehicle moving from an origin to a destination to either load and/or unload goods.

Remaining in Scotland

Goods for which both the origin and the destination of the trip are within Scotland.

Length of haul

Tonne kilometres moved divided by tonnes lifted. This information relates to individual vehicle trips, and not to the total distance that the goods may have travelled.

Goods lifted

The total weight of goods carried, measured in tonnes.

Goods moved

The weight of the goods carried multiplied by the distance hauled, measured in tonne kilometres.


When, for mixed consignments, no single commodity makes up 75% or more of the consignment weight.

Road Freight Intensity Index

This indicates how the volume of road freight (measured in tonne-kilometres) has been changing relative to the Scottish economy as a whole. The road freight intensity index is an index of the ratio of (i) the index of road freight tonne-kilometres moved by UK HGVs on journeys originating in Scotland to (ii) the index of Scottish Gross Domestic Product (measured in terms of the Gross Value Added for all industries).

Road freight data revisions

Data collection for domestic road freight statistics moved from a paper to online survey midway through 2021. An investigation of the data has concluded that the paper data pre July to September 2021 (quarter 3) and online data, July to September 2021 (quarter 3) onwards, should not be compared. A number of factors related to the online data collection were considered, alongside other external factors which may have influenced recent data changes.

The methodology change occurred during a period of significant volatility in the road freight sector following the UK's exit from the European Union, the COVID-19 pandemic and recruitment and retention challenges for HGV drivers. This conflation of trends means is it not possible to identify or account for the data changes caused solely by the methodology change.

A detailed explanation of the methodology change and the impact on the data can be found within the methodology note.


Statistics of freight lifted and moved by road were provided by the Department for Transport, (DfT) from three sample surveys.

Continuing Survey of Roads Goods Transport Great Britain (CSRGT GB)

The origins and destinations are reported in the survey as the names of towns, or postcodes (where known). DfT standardises these origins/destinations to NUTS3 regions (an EU wide geography based on existing local administrative boundaries) using a computerised gazetteer, and validates these origins and destinations against other metrics such as the lengths of the routes between these places. These NUTS3 regions are then aggregated to the appropriate Region or Island Area for each Scottish origin and destination. DfT did not record origins and destinations in terms of the new Council areas before 2004. Following the completion of local government reorganisation across Britain, DfT has coded to NUTS3 regions that are used to produce statistics for the European Union. There are 23 of these areas in Scotland.

The results of the survey are grossed-up to produce estimates which represent the total road freight activity during the year, by all GB registered HGVs. This is done quarterly, in two stages. First, the sample vehicles' results are grossed up to the whole HGV population using the ratio of the average number of HGVs in each stratum (from DVLA licensing records) to the achieved sample for each stratum. The average number of HGVs in each stratum is calculated as the average of the numbers at the start and the end of the quarter). Then the results are multiplied by 13, to raise the activity in the sampled week to an estimate for the whole of the quarter.

As with any sample based statistics there will be a degree of sample error. The annual sample for Scottish vehicles is too small for detailed yearly analysis of the estimates, and so the table which shows the estimated flows of freight to and from the former Regions of Scotland was produced by combining the results from several years' surveys.

International Road Haulage Survey (IRHS)

Statistics on international road freight activity are derived from DfT's International Road Haulage Survey (IRHS) which covers a sample of GB-registered heavy goods vehicles (HGVs with a gross vehicle weight (weight of vehicle plus carrying capacity) of 3.5 tonnes or more). Work by foreign-registered vehicles, and the transport of goods in unaccompanied trailers, is not within the scope of the survey. Other EU countries are responsible for monitoring the international movements of their own vehicles.

The survey covers trips using roll-on/roll-off ferries and the Channel Tunnel to serve origins and destinations located outside of the UK, where the driver accompanies the vehicle throughout the journey. Trailers, when unaccompanied on a ferry crossing, are treated as domestic traffic when hauled to or from a UK port. If the trailer is subsequently picked up by a foreign vehicle, that leg of the journey will be recorded in the statistics of the country in which the vehicle is registered. These statistics therefore exclude traffic which is carried in unaccompanied trailers, or in foreign-registered vehicles.

GB hauliers with an International Operators Licence are asked to provide details of all international trips by its HGVs across a predetermined set of sample periods. Details of each trip are required, in those cases where a vehicle starts two (or more) international trips within the specified period.

The results of the survey – combined with internationals legs from the CSRGT NI survey - are grossed-up to produce estimates which represent the total road international freight activity by UK-registered HGVs during the year as a whole. The results are grossed to the total number of UK HGVs leaving the country collected by the Department for Transport's Roll-on Roll-off (Ro-Ro) survey, stratified by groups of ports.

Continuing Survey of Roads Goods Transport Northern Ireland (CSRGT NI)

Information about domestic and international road freight activity by HGVs registered in Northern Ireland is obtained from the Continuing Survey of Roads Goods Transport Northern Ireland (CSRGT NI).

Due to the unique situation in relation to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there is a higher prevalence for HGVs in Northern Ireland to perform international work (predominantly in the Republic of Ireland). As such the CSRGT is administered through a separate survey for NI registered vehicles, which records international activity as well as domestic activity.

Results from the CSRGT NI are grossed in the same way as the CSRGT GB described above. Domestic and international journey totals are added to the CSRGT GB and the IRHS respectively to produce estimates of domestic and international activity by UK-registered vehicles.

Other Sources

Gross Domestic Product: The index used is an updated version of the index of Gross Value Added for all industries, published in Table 1.1 of Scottish Economic Statistics 2008.

Sources for data on rail, air and water freight can be found in the relevant chapters in this publication. Rail (Chapter 7), air (Chapter 8), water (Chapter 9), and international comparisons. (Chapter 12)

Further information

Within Scottish Transport Statistics, further information on freight can be found in:

  • Chapter 7 – Rail,
  • Chapter 8 – Aviation
  • Chapter 9 – Water
  • Chapter 12 – International comparisons.

The Department for Transport produces a number of related publications:

Civil Aviation Authority:

Office of Rail and Road:

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