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Road Freight Transport Survey

Quarter 1 2019

Road freight activity, Quarter 1 2017-2019
 Q1 2017Q1 2018Q1 2019% change Q1 2018-2019
Tonne-km (million)2,7542,7642,8904.6%
Tonnes carried (thousand)34,94635,58936,5792.8%
Vehicle kilometres (million)3733854188.6%
Average number of vehicles (number)105,322113,555123,4758.7%
Laden journeys (thousand)3,0443,2523,4887.3%

Road freight tonnage increased by 2.8% in Quarter 1 2019

Figure 1 Goods transported by road, Quarter 1 2017-2019
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  • In the first quarter of 2019, a total of 36.6 million tonnes of goods was transported by road. This represents an increase of 2.8% when compared with the same period in 2018. See table 1.
  • Activity measured as weight by distance (tonne-kilometres) increased by 4.6% to 2,890 million tonne-kilometres in the first quarter of 2019 when compared with the same quarter in 2018.
  • There were an estimated 123,475 goods vehicles (greater than 2 tonnes unladen weight) on the roads in Ireland in Quarter 1 of 2019, which was 8.7% higher than in the same period in 2018.
  • The total distance covered by road freight transport in the second quarter was 418 million kilometres.
  • The commodity group 'Quarry products, metal ores and peat' represented one quarter (25.9%) of all tonnes carried. See table 2.
Type of workTonnes carried (million)
Import/export work2.71
Carriage of livestock0.327
Carriage of other farm produce from farms1.351
Carriage of fertilisers, feeding stuffs, etc. to farms1.657
Delivery of goods to road works or building sites 14.281
Delivery of goods to retail outlets3.997
Delivery of goods to wholesalers3.835
Delivery of materials and fuels to factories3.29
Delivery of goods to households1.342
Other work3.788
Table 1: Road freight activity by business of owner, Quarter 1 2017-2019
Q1 2017 Q1 2018 Q1 2019
 TransportOtherTotal TransportOtherTotal TransportOtherTotal
Tonne-km (million)1,9687862,754 1,7789862,764 2,0318592,890
Tonnes carried (thousand)20,86314,08334,946 18,73216,85735,589 21,29915,28036,579
Vehicle kilometres (million)190183373 184201385 216202418
Laden journeys (thousand)1,2731,7713,044 1,2192,0323,252 1,4202,0683,488
Table 2: Road freight activity by commodity group carried, Quarter 1 2019
CommodityTonne-kmTonnes carriedVehicle kilometres
Products of agriculture, forestry and fishing3103,24422
Coal and natural gas403513
Quarry products, metal ores and peat3399,48516
Textiles and leather182016
Wood, pulp and paper1161,07812
Coke and refined petroleum products1802,31212
Chemicals and plastics1521,32314
Other non-metallic mineral products2746,28123
Metal products (except machinery and equipment)776398
Machinery and equipment414568
Furniture and other manufactured goods6851217
Secondary raw materials and waste831,0997
Other goods5233,928213
Table 3: Road freight activity by main type of work, Quarter 1 2019
 Tonne-kmTonnes carriedVehicle kilometres
Import/export work6342,71048
Carriage of livestock233276
Carriage of other farm produce from farms891,3518
Carriage of fertilisers, feeding stuffs, etc. to farms1251,65713
Delivery of goods to road works or building sites 47314,28164
Delivery of goods to retail outlets4173,997119
Delivery of goods to wholesalers4513,83559
Delivery of materials and fuels to factories2863,29034
Delivery of goods to households791,34226
Other work3143,78840
Table 4: Domestic transport activity1 classified by region of origin, Quarter 1 2019
RegionTonne-kmTonnes carried
Northern and Western37716.3%4,93014.2%
Eastern and Midland1,08346.7%17,23049.5%
1Domestic transport activity excludes Northern Ireland and other countries
Table 5: Road freight activity by country of origin, Quarter 1 2019
Country of destination 
Country of originIrelandUnited KingdomOther EU countriesNon-EU countriesTotal
Tonne-km (millions)
Unitied Kingdom11151250187
Other EU countries6149481158
Non-EU countries31004
Tonnes carried (thousands)
Unitied Kingdom491229190739
Other EU countries5556830195
Non-EU countries31004

Background Notes

Survey Methodology


This report contains the results of the "National Survey of Transport of Goods by Road" which is conducted on a weekly basis throughout the year.

Legal framework

This is a statutory survey conducted under the Statistics (Road Freight) Order, 2016 (SI No 146 of 2016) to meet Ireland’s EU requirements under Council Regulation (EC) 70/2012 on statistical returns in respect of the carriage of goods by road.

Scope of the survey

Quarterly results cover a survey period of 13 weeks for each quarter. Irish registered vehicles that come within the scope of the survey must meet the following criteria:

a.    belong to the motor taxation class ‘Goods Vehicles’
b.    have a valid motor tax disk during the relevant survey week. However, in practice, as the survey sample was selected several weeks before the survey week, vehicles where the motor tax had expired no more than three months previously were also included in the scope.
c.    have an unladen weight of two tonnes and over
d.    have a vehicular body type appropriate for carrying freight.

No other vehicles are covered. In particular this means that vehicles in other motor taxation classes such as agricultural tractors, general haulage tractors, dumpers and exempt vehicles (i.e. vehicles exempt from liability to pay road tax which includes state owned, diplomatic, fire services or disabled drivers) are not included in the survey.

All activity of goods vehicles within the scope of the survey engaged in the carriage of goods on the public road, either on own account or for hire or reward, are covered.  Excluded, therefore, is activity such as site work off the public road or work of a mainly service nature (e.g. carriage of personnel to or from places of work). 

Sampling frame

The sampling frame for the Survey comes from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport’s database on vehicles taxed as goods vehicles.

The sampling frame/register is updated every eight weeks during the year with information from the Department regarding vehicles:

1.    being registered for the first time
2.    having their motor taxation class changed
3.    being formally scrapped
4.    having their registered owner changed. 

The information required of each vehicle on the register for survey purposes is as follows:

a)    year of manufacture of the vehicle
b)    date of first registration of the vehicle
c)    an indication as to whether the vehicle has been taxed for the carriage of goods on own account or for hire or reward
d)    the unladen weight of the vehicle
e)    name and address of the person on whose name the vehicle was most recently taxed (referred to as the owner of the vehicle in the following paragraphs).


The results are published on a quarterly and annual basis.

Sample design

Information is collected in respect of one week’s transport activity for a random sample of goods vehicles.   Every week a sample of vehicles is selected from the register. A survey questionnaire is then issued to the registered owners of these vehicles by post, seeking information on the vehicle and an account of the vehicle’s activity during that week. For the purposes of sample selection, vehicles are divided into 20 strata.  These strata were created on the basis of four criteria:

  • the unladen weight of the vehicle
  • year of first registration of the vehicle
  • whether the vehicle had been taxed for the carriage of goods on own account or for hire or reward
  • year of manufacture.

Definitions used

Type of journey

Two basic categories of journey are distinguished – split delivery/collection journeys and end-to-end journeys.

  • End-to-end journeys are those which have no intermediate collection or delivery points between their origin and destination.
  • Split delivery/collection journeys involve the depositing and/or collection of part of the load carried at one or more stopping points along the way. A common example of such a journey would be the delivery of beer to public houses and the collection of empties.

Tonnes carried

  • This is the weight of goods (including empties) carried inclusive of packaging etc. but excluding the weight of demountable containers (if any) in which the goods are carried.
  • For split delivery/collection journeys tonnes carried are taken as the weight of goods at the start of the journey plus the weight of any other goods collected during the journey.

Tonne-kilometres (tonne-km)

  • For end-to-end journeys this is the result of multiplying the weight of goods carried by the distance they were carried.
  • For split delivery/collection journeys more complex formulae were used.  These involved multiplying the distance travelled with a load by an estimate of the average weight of load carried.

National transport

National transport is the carriage of goods by road by Irish registered goods vehicles between two places (a place of loading/embarkment and a place of unloading/disembarkment) both of which are located in the Republic of Ireland.

NUTS2 and NUTS3 Regions

The regional classification in this release is based on the NUTS (Nomenclature of Territorial Units) classification used by Eurostat. Until Q4 2017, the NUTS3 regions corresponded to the eight Regional Authorities established under the Local Government Act, 1991 (Regional Authorities) (Establishment) Order, 1993, which came into operation on 1 January 1994 while the NUTS2 regions, which were proposed by Government and agreed by Eurostat in 1999, were groupings of those historic NUTS3 regions.

However, the NUTS3 boundaries were amended on 21st of November 2016 under Regulation (EC) No. 2066/2016 and have come into force from Q1 2018. These new groupings are reflected in the Road Freight Transport Survey results from Q1 2018 onwards. The changes resulting from the amendment are that County Louth has moved from the Border to the Mid-East and what was formerly South Tipperary has moved from the South-East to the Mid-West, resulting in the new NUTS2 and NUTS3 regions:

Northern & Western NUTS2 Region Southern NUTS2 Region Eastern & Midland NUTS2 Region
Border Cavan Mid-West Clare Dublin Dublin City
  Donegal   Limerick City & County   Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown
  Leitrim   Tipperary   Fingal
  Monaghan       South Dublin
    South-East Carlow Mid-East Kildare
West Galway City   Kilkenny   Meath
  Galway County   Waterford City & County   Wicklow
  Mayo   Wexford   Louth
        Midland Laois
    South-West Cork City   Longford
      Cork County   Offaly
      Kerry   Westmeath
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