Scottish Transport Statistics No 30: 2011 Edition


1. Introduction

1.1 This chapter provides information about road freight lifted by UK-registered heavy goods vehicles (HGVs: over 3.5 tonnes gross weight), such as the weight of goods lifted in Scotland by origin and destination, the lengths of haul, the destinations within the UK and Europe, and the types of commodity lifted.

1.2 A change in methodology by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2003 Continuous Survey of Road Goods Transport has resulted in a discontinuity in the series. Therefore road freight transported within the UK from 2004 onwards is not comparable with earlier years.

2. Main Points

Good Lifted & Distance

2.1 In 2010, an estimated 116.8 million tonnes of goods were lifted within Scotland by UK HGVs and transported to destinations within Scotland. About 14.8 million tonnes of goods from Scotland were delivered to destinations elsewhere in the UK, and around 17.9 million tonnes were brought into Scotland from elsewhere in the UK. In comparison, the volume of international road freight by UK HGVs travelling to and from Scotland is very small: less than 1 million tonnes in 2010. (Table 3.1)

2.2 Most road freight journeys are 50 kilometres or less in length: 31% of tonnes lifted by road in Scotland in 2010 were carried a distance of no more than 25 kilometres, and 22% travelled over 25 km but no more than 50 km. The average journey distance, which is calculated by dividing the total tonne-kilometres by the total tonnes lifted, was 93 km. (Table 3.2)

Originating in Scotland

2.3 Goods moved on journeys originating in Scotland with a destination in Scotland accounted for around 7.2 billion tonne-kilometres in 2010. The overall total, including journeys with destinations elsewhere in the UK and abroad, was around 12.7 billion tonne-kms, an increase on the same figure for 2009. The index of the road freight intensity of the Scottish economy (see section 3.8) has been falling in most of the past ten years. (Table 3.3)

Entering Scotland

2.4 In 2010, 17.9 million tonnes of goods entered Scotland on UK HGVs from the rest of the UK. 97% of these came from England. Around three quarters of the goods entering came from the North West (43%), North East (16%) and Yorkshire and Humber (16%) regions of England. Fewer goods leave Scotland for other UK countries (14.8 million tonnes) than enter from them but the proportions going to and coming from different areas are similar (Table 3.4).

2.5 In 2010, 'minerals and building materials' was the largest single category of goods lifted in Scotland, which remained in Scotland, accounting for 35.0 million tonnes out of the total of 116.8 million tonnes. (Table 3.5)


2.6 In 2010, UK-registered HGVs carried an estimated 391 thousand tonnes of goods from Scotland to countries outwith the UK, and 182 thousand tonnes from foreign countries into Scotland. Of goods leaving Scotland for abroad, carried by UK road hauliers, 55% went to France and 11% to the Netherlands. For goods entering Scotland from abroad, carried by UK road hauliers, 28% came from the Netherlands and 27% from France. (Table 3.6)

2.7 In 2010, around 4% of goods leaving the UK lifted by UK HGVs originated in Scotland. However, Scotland provided 10% of foodstuffs and animal fodder, and 6% of machinery and transport equipment leaving the UK (Table 3.7)

2.8 Generally in the period from 2004 to 2010, goods transported by UK-registered HGVs within Scotland were on journeys that started and finished within the same region. The former Strathclyde region was the most active in terms of tonnage entering and leaving. There were 139 million tonnes on journeys within Scotland and 54 million of these were on journeys beginning in the Strathclyde area (Table 3.8).

3. Notes and Definitions

3.1 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 vehicle which was in the sample may represent only one stage in the journey of a consignment: goods may have been trans-shipped on a number of occasions).

3.2 Entering Scotland and leaving Scotland: goods are classified on the basis of the origin and the destination of the trip: for example, a trip is counted as entering Scotland if the origin is outwith Scotland and the destination is within Scotland. It follows that trips which are made via Scotland, such as trips between Northern Ireland and England, are counted neither as entering Scotland nor as leaving Scotland, because neither the origin nor the destination is within Scotland.

3.3 Remaining in Scotland: goods for which both the origin and the destination of the trip are within Scotland (they may, of course, leave Scotland on a later trip).

3.4 Length of haul: this information relates to individual vehicle trips, and not to the total distance that the goods may have travelled.

3.5 Goods lifted: these represent the total weight of goods loaded (in tonnes), and take no account of the distance for which the goods are carried. In cases where goods which had been carried on one HGV are later loaded onto another HGV, they will be counted as being lifted twice.

3.6 Tonne-kilometres: these are calculated for each loaded journey by multiplying the weight of the load by the distance for which it is carried.

3.7 Groupage: This term is used in the analysis by commodity of the road freight entering or leaving the UK. When an HGV has delivered its goods to a destination in another country and does not have a pre-arranged load to transport on the return journey, rather than make the return journey empty, the space is often advertised. As a mixture of goods is usually transported on these occasions, which could not easily be split between the different categories of commodity, it is described as 'groupage'.

3.8 Road Freight Intensity Index (table 3.3): this indicates how the volume of road freight (measured in tonne-kilometres) has been changing relative to the Scottish economy as a whole. For example, the value of the road freight intensity index will rise if the volume of road freight increases more rapidly than the rate at which the Scottish economy grows, or if the volume of road freight rises while the Scottish economy contracts, or if the volume of road freight falls less rapidly than the Scottish economy contracts. 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).

4. Sources

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

4.2 GB HGV Road freight traffic within the UK

4.2.1 Information about domestic road freight traffic is obtained from DfT's Continuing Survey of Roads Goods Transport. This collects details of the journeys that were made by a sample of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs: vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross weight). HGVs account for over 90% of road freight activity, the rest being carried by small commercial vehicles of up to 3.5 tonnes gross weight.

4.2.2 Each week, a number of HGVs are randomly selected from the computer records of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (and the corresponding Northern Ireland body). The sample is stratified by vehicle type, and (within vehicle type) spread evenly over a number of geographical areas, in order that the survey will produce reasonably accurate estimates for each category of vehicle, and for each of the geographical areas. A questionnaire is sent to each selected vehicle's registered keeper, asking for information about the vehicle, and about every trip that it made in a sample week. The sample weeks are spread evenly across the year.

4.2.3 The origins and destinations are reported in the survey as (e.g.) the names of towns. DfT uses a computerised gazetteer to check the lengths of the routes between these places, and to determine 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 in 2003 or earlier years. Following the completion of local government reorganisation across Britain, DfT has coded to Local Administrative Unit 1 (LAU1) areas from 2004. LAU1 are a classification of areas that is used to produce statistics for the European Union and there are 41 of these areas in Scotland. LAU1 areas were previously known as NUTS4 areas)

4.2.4 The results of the survey are grossed-up to produce estimates which represent the total road freight carried during the year as a whole, by all 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 the stratum (from the DVLA and NI records) to the number for which survey results are available (the average number of HGVs in the stratum is the average of the number in the stratum at the start of the quarter and the number at 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.

4.2.5 On average, the survey collects information for about 2,500 Scottish-based vehicles per year, or about 50 Scottish vehicles per week. A very general rule-of-thumb for this survey is that estimates which are based upon around 1,000 HGV-weeks have a 95% confidence interval of about +/- 10%. Therefore, the annual sample is too small for detailed analysis of the estimates for Scotland for a single year, 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.

4.3 GB HGV International road freight traffic

4.3.1 The international road freight traffic statistics are derived from DfT's International Road Haulage Survey which covers a sample of GB-registered heavy goods vehicles (HGVs: over 3.5 tonnes gross weight). 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.

4.3.2 The survey covers trips using roll-on/roll-off ferries and the Channel Tunnel to serve origins and destinations located in continental Europe and in the Republic of Ireland, where the driver accompanies the vehicle throughout the journey. Trailers, when unaccompanied on the ferry crossing (or Channel Tunnel trip), are treated as domestic traffic when hauled to or from a UK port (or Channel Tunnel terminal). 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.

4.3.3 Each GB haulier with an International Operators Licence is asked to provide details of a sample of international trips by its HGVs: all those which leave the UK on a specified day or days (chosen in advance). Details of each trip are required, in those cases where a vehicle starts two (or more) international trips within the specified period. The sample covers about 4% of all trips.

4.3.4 The results of the survey are grossed-up to produce estimates which represent the total road freight carried abroad by GB-registered HGVs during the year as a whole. The survey is grossed to the total number of British HGVs leaving the country collected by the Department for Transport Roll-on Roll-off (Ro-Ro) survey, stratified by groups of ports.

4.3.5 This grossing methodology was implemented in August 2010 following a methodological review by the Office for National Statistics. Full details on the review and the methodology are available at:

4.4 NI HGV road freight traffic

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

4.4.2 Results from the CSRGT NI are grossed in the same way as the CSRGT for Great Britain 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.

4.5 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.

5. Further Information

5.1 Further information on GB road freight statistics can be found in the DfT publication Road Freight Statistics: 2009. Transport Statistics Great Britain also contains some figures. DfT used to produce other publications on road freight, including the quarterly bulletin Road Goods Vehicles Travelling to Mainland Europe (now a Web only release) and the Survey of Foreign Road Goods Vehicles.

5.2 Road freight statistics contact - Darren Stillwell, Department for Transport (Tel: 020 7944 4261).

5.3 Index of Gross Domestic Product for Scotland - 0131 244 2234 or