Ti’s latest market projections for 2021 show that the European road freight market is expected to grow by 8.6% year-on-year. Year-on-year growth in the first half of 2021 was very strong at 11.1%. Though H1 growth was against a large contraction in H1 2020, the total 2021 market is expected to be 2.2% larger vs 2019’s pre-pandemic peak, at a total of €352.39bn.

  • European road freight market projected to grow by 8.6% in 2021
  • The European road freight market grew by 11.1% in H1 2021
  • The international road freight market to grow most strongly in 2021 at 11.8% y-o-y
  • The recovery in the domestic road freight market was more subdued at 7.2% y-o-y
  • Growth in the total European road freight market is forecast at a CAGR of 4.4% to 2025

The European road freight market has been on a ‘roller coaster’ ride since the onset of the crisis in Q1 2020. Most recently the strong first half of 2021 was driven by ‘easy’ comparisons against a very weak first half of 2020 throughout which most European economies had instituted lockdown controls of some sort or other. As recovery began in the second half of 2020, there will be a levelling off of year-on-year growth in 2021.

Total European Road Freight Market Real Growth

Source: Ti Insight
Source: Ti Insight

Whilst the general picture through 2021 is one of rebound and recovery there are different stories across the main European economies. When looking at 2021 growth data vs pre-pandemic levels the German road freight industry performed best of the largest markets, growing by 2.6% (projected figures). Germany’s performance is driven largely by trade growth although there have been signs of domestic weakness not least due to issues affecting its important manufacturing sector. Component shortages and supply chain bottlenecks have meant that many automotive manufacturers have been forced to suspend production.

The fact that all of the other large economies experienced such steep drops in market size in 2020 has meant that most are only just recovering to 2019 levels. The disruption to Italy’s manufacturing sector due to Covid has meant that the country’s road freight sector is still 1.9% below its 2019 size. For the UK, international transport proved a drag on the market due to Brexit issues (growth in intra-European trade has only been a third of that recorded by France and Germany) although its domestic performance has been relatively strong.

Real Growth Rates: Major markets

Source: Ti Insight
Source: Ti Insight

The 2021 recovery in the international section of the European road freight market has been stronger than domestic, with the international market expected to grow by 11.8% y-o-y, whereas the domestic road freight market was more subdued with 7.2% y-o-y growth. This results from the retail and e-commerce driven nature of the recovery which has stimulated more cross-border flows of consumer goods. Many industrial sectors (such as construction) are still feeling the effects of the downturn and these flows tend to be more domestic in nature, dampening market growth.

Growth to 2025

The strength and pace of post-pandemic economic recovery since Q3 2020 suggests gathering momentum in the European road freight market over the five-year forecast period to 2025, despite some persistent headwinds in the manufacturing and construction sectors. The total market is forecast to expand at a 4.4% CAGR over the period to 2025, driven by stronger retail sales, notably via online channels, and increased manufacturing and production levels.

Michael Clover, Ti’s Head of Commercial Development, said: “Retail and e-commerce growth has strengthened markedly in the first half of 2021 fuelling the recovery for road freight, however supply constraints in the manufacturing sector have been a drag on overall growth. Over the forecast period we expect continued strong demand from the retail sector and, as we move in the latter years of the forecasts period, we expect to see supply chain challenges in manufacturing and construction unwind to enable stronger growth.”

Ti’s new market projections break down growth in the European road freight market by international/domestic and by country with growth rates provided for H1 and the full year 2021.