Back to Top

Central Statistics Office

Search currently unavailable

 Skip navigation

Extra information
Methodology Previous Releases
International comparison:
See also:
YouTube Video
For more information on this release:
E-mail: Brendan Curtin +353 21 4535120 Noreen Dorgan +353 21 4535260
For general information on CSO statistics: (+353) 21 453 5000 Visit, the portal to Ireland's official statistics On-line ISSN 2009-7174
CSO statistical release, , 11am

Road Freight Transport Survey


 20162017% change
Tonne-km (million)11,56411,7591.7%
Tonnes carried (thousand)141,669147,2293.9%
Vehicle kilometres (million)1,5581,5922.2%
Average number of vehicles98,656108,47910.0%
Laden journeys (thousand)12,09012,8276.1%

Road freight tonnage increased by 3.9% in 2017

Figure 1: Tonnes carried 2007-2017
go to full release
  • In 2017, a total of 147.2 million tonnes of goods was transported by road. This represents an increase of 3.9% on the 2016 total, and is the highest level recorded since 2009 when 148.3 million tonnes were carried. The 2017 road freight activity is still significantly lower than the peak 2007 figure of 299.3 million tonnes. See tables A and B.
  • Activity measured as weight by distance, or tonne-kilometres, reached 11,759 tonne-kilometres in 2017. Again, this was close to the 2009 level of 12,071 million tonne-kilometres but considerably below the 2007 highest point in the series.
  • In 2017, there were 108,479 goods vehicles (greater than 2 tonnes unladen weight) on the roads in Ireland, which was 10.0% higher than in 2016. Vehicles weighing 2-5 tonnes unladen weight increased by 11.2% and vehicles weighing over 10 tonnes unladen weight increased by 8.4%. See table E.
  • Larger vehicles, over 10 tonnes unladen weight, accounted for one-fifth of the overall fleet in 2017, but undertook the most significant proportion of road freight activity. They accounted for 53.5% of all laden journeys, 85.9% of tonnes carried and 88.5% of tonne-kilometres.
  • The total distance covered by road freight transport was 1,592 million kilometres in 2017. See tables A and B.
  • The type of work showing the greatest annual increase in tonnes carried was Delivery of goods to road works or building sites. This category includes many building materials such as sand, gravel, cement and concrete.

Note: With effect from August 2018, Road Freight Statistics will be published quarterly.

Table A: Key road freight statistics, 2007-2017
YearTonne-km   Tonnes carriedVehicle kilometres      Average number of vehicles  Laden journeys
Table B: Road freight activity, a comparison between 2016 and 2017
CategoryTonne-km  Tonnes carried
20162017Change 20162017Change
 millionmillion% thousandthousand%
Total11,56411,7591.7 141,669147,2293.9
Business of owner       
Transport 8,4148,318-1.1 86,97084,557-2.8
Other3,1503,4419.2 54,70062,67214.6
Main use of vehicle       
Hire or reward8,8838,707-2.0 92,61589,527-3.3
Own account2,6813,05113.8 49,05457,70217.6
National 9,2169,2570.4 133,796139,5114.3
International2,3482,5026.6 7,8737,718-2.0
Main type of work        
Import/export work2,3782,4985.0 11,26312,43110.4
Carriage of livestock122118-3.3 1,3021,43910.5
Carriage of other farm produce from farms3874054.7 6,6486,235-6.2
Carriage of fertilisers, feeding stuffs, etc. to farms4504735.1 6,4156,9217.9
Delivery of goods to road works or building sites1,4741,65312.1 45,52049,1488.0
Delivery of goods to retail outlets1,7961,8684.0 16,04817,0596.3
Delivery of goods to wholesalers1,3911,55111.5 11,89713,11410.2
Delivery of materials and fuels to factories1,5881,254-21.0 17,84414,572-18.3
Delivery of goods to households25328412.3 4,0154,61014.8
Other work1,7241,656-3.9 20,71721,6994.7

Main use of vehicle

Vehicles used for hire or reward performed 74.0% of total road freight activity, amounting to 8.7 billion tonne-km in 2017. These vehicles carried 89.5 million tonnes and travelled a total of 880 million vehicle kilometres during 2017. Vehicles used for own account purposes accounted for 3.1 billion tonne-km (26.0%) of total activity, and travelled a total of 712 million vehicle kilometres, carrying 57.7 million tonnes of goods. See tables C and 1.

Table C: Road freight activity by main use of vehicle, 2017
Main use of vehicleTonne-kmTonnes carriedVehicle kilometres
Hire or reward8,70774.089,52760.888055.3
Own account3,05126.057,70239.271244.7

Business of owner

Vehicles owned by transport companies carried 84.6 million tonnes of goods in 2017 compared with 62.7 million tonnes by all other goods vehicles. Vehicles in the transport sector accounted for 5,047 (39.3%) of all laden journeys compared with 7,779 for all other goods vehicles. See tables D and 3.

Table D: Road freight activity by business of owner, 2017
Business of ownerTonne-km  Tonnes carriedVehicle kilometresLaden journeys

Size of vehicles in fleet

In 2017, just under seventy percent (69.8%) of the total fleet of 108,479 vehicles had an unladen weight of between 2 to 5 tonnes. However, these vehicles were responsible for just 4.0% of the total weight of goods transported and 2.4% of total activity in terms of tonne-km. Vehicles with an unladen weight of at least 10 tonnes accounted for less than twenty percent (19.8%) of the vehicle fleet but 88.5% of total activity in terms of tonne-km. These vehicles carried 126.4 million tonnes of goods, representing 85.9% of the total tonnes carried, and made over half (53.5%) of all laden journeys. See tables E and 3.

Table E: Road freight activity by unladen weight of vehicle, 2017
Unladen weight (tonnes)Tonne-kmTonnes carriedNo. of vehiclesLaden journeys
2 - 52872.45,9354.075,73469.83,96430.9
>5 - 7.52572.23,3082.25,2474.86695.2
>7.5 - 108146.911,5437.85,9995.51,32610.3
>10 - 12.53,08126.240,15827.38,4577.82,45019.1
Over 12.57,32062.386,28658.613,04212.04,41834.4

Age of fleet

Vehicles manufactured in the four years to 2017 (2014-2017) accounted for more than a quarter of the goods vehicle fleet (28.0%) in 2017. These vehicles carried 28.5% of all goods and accounted for 37.4% of overall road freight activity (tonne-km). Four in ten of all vehicles (42.0%) were aged 10 years or more and they carried 40.6% of all goods, but accounted for only 27.7% of road freight activity as measured by tonne-km. See tables F, 10 and 11.

Table F: Road freight activity by age of vehicle, 2017
Year of manufactureTonne-kmTonnes carriedVehicle kilometresNo. of vehicles
2007 or before3,25727.759,80140.647129.645,61042.0

Length of haul

In 2017, the bulk of road freight activity as measured by tonne-km (84.3%) was carried out over distances greater than 50 kilometres. A total of 65.8 million tonnes of goods (44.7%) was transported over these longer distances, covering 871 million vehicle kilometres. For distances of 50 km and less, the total amount of goods carried was greater (81.5 million tonnes) but they represented just 15.7% of the overall activity, as measured by tonne-km. See tables G and 5.

Table G: Road freight activity by length of haul, 2017
Length of haulTonne-kmTonnes carriedVehicle kilometres
Up to 10 km1181.017,72712.056935.7
11 - 25 km5314.530,66420.8483.0
26 - 50 km1,20310.233,06522.51046.5
51 - 150 km3,46029.441,01527.932620.5
151 - 500 km4,98342.423,15115.745428.5
Over 500 km1,46412.51,6091.1915.7

Commodity transported

Of the total weight of goods carried, the commodity group quarry products, metal ores and peat accounted for the largest share (26.4% or 38.8 million tonnes) in 2017. This was followed by foodstuffs at 17.2% (25.3 million tonnes). However, the contribution of quarry products, metal ores and peat to overall road freight activity, in terms of tonne-km, was just 11.6%, reflecting heavier loads carried over shorter distances. In contrast, foodstuffs accounted for a quarter (25.0%) of total tonne-km. See tables H, 8 and 9.

Table H: Road freight activity by commodity group carried, 2017
CommodityTonne-kmTonnes carriedVehicle kilometres
Products of agriculture, forestry and fishing1,25913,73882
Coal and natural gas1031,0036
Quarry products, metal ores and peat1,35938,81766
Textiles and leather9668520
Wood, pulp and paper5344,91651
Coke and refined petroleum products82410,37953
Chemicals and plastics5325,14852
Other non-metallic mineral products92721,83069
Metal products (except machinery and equipment)2321,83920
Machinery and equipment2092,17038
Furniture and other manufactured goods1671,39234
Secondary raw materials and waste3655,13533
Other goods2,20614,912796

Main type of work carried out

Goods vehicles involved in the delivery of goods to road works or building sites carried 49.1 million tonnes in 2017, which was the highest among all types of work carried out by goods vehicles. This was followed by those involved in delivery of goods to retail outlets (17.1 million tonnes) and delivery of materials and fuels to factories (14.6 million tonnes). See figure 2 and table 6.

Type of workTonnes carried (million)
Import/export work12.431
Carriage of livestock1.439
Carriage of other farm produce from farms6.235
Carriage of fertilisers, feeding stuffs, etc. to farms6.921
Delivery of goods to road works or building sites 49.148
Delivery of goods to retail outlets17.059
Delivery of goods to wholesalers13.114
Delivery of materials and fuels to factories14.572
Delivery of goods to households4.610
Other work21.699

In terms of overall road freight activity in 2017 vehicles involved in import/export work (2.5 billion tonne-km) were the largest contributors, representing 21.2% of total tonne-km. This was followed by those involved in delivery of goods to retail outlets (15.9%). See figure 3 and table 6.

Type of work% tonne-km
Import/export work21.2
Carriage of livestock1.0
Carriage of other farm produce from farms3.4
Carriage of fertilisers, feeding stuffs, etc. to farms4.0
Delivery of goods to road works or building sites 14.1
Delivery of goods to retail outlets15.9
Delivery of goods to wholesalers13.2
Delivery of materials and fuels to factories10.7
Delivery of goods to households2.4
Other work14.1

National and international road freight activity

The vast majority of transport by Irish registered goods vehicles was within the Republic of Ireland. Measured by tonnes carried, 94.8% of activity by Irish vehicles was within the State. In terms of tonne-km, 78.7% of activity was within the State. See tables I, 2, 7 & 8.

Table I: National and international road freight activity in 2017
Type of transportTonne-kmTonnes carried

Dublin was the region of origin for 27.0% of all goods carried within the national territory. The South-West and Mid-East followed with 15.7% and 11.7% respectively. See tables J and 14.

Table J: Domestic transport activity1 classified by region of origin, 2017
RegionTonne-kmTonnes carried
1Domestic transport activity excludes Northern Ireland and Other countries in Table 14

In 2017, the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland) was the major source/destination region for the transport of goods to and from the Republic of Ireland. In total, 5.1 million tonnes of goods were transported, with a total of 2.0 million tonnes received and 3.0 million tonnes dispatched from the Republic of Ireland to the UK. See tables K and 15.

Table K: Tonnes of goods received and dispatched to and from the Republic of Ireland by country, 2017
CountryTonnage received Tonnage dispatched Total tonnage
thousand% thousand% thousand%
United Kingdom2,04187.7 3,02790.3 5,06889.2
(of which Northern Ireland)1,46262.8 2,56776.5 4,02970.9
France723.1 1093.2 1813.2
Netherlands743.2 421.3 1162.0
Germany652.8 421.3 1071.9
Italy210.9 481.4 691.2
Spain130.6 280.8 410.7
Belgium180.8 160.5 340.6
Other Countries210.9 401.2 611.1
Total2,327100.0 3,354100.0 5,681100.0

Detailed Tables

Table 1 Transport activity classified by business of owner and main use of vehicle, 2017
Business of owner of vehicleTonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
Transport08,3188,318 084,55784,557
Manufacturing industry1,07901,079 28,299028,299
 Mining & quarrying (incl. sand & gravel merchants)3090309 11,854011,854
 Creameries & agricultural cooperative societies26026 4820482
 Manufacture of food & feeding stuffs2380238 2,81602,816
 Manufacture of drink & tobacco202 38038
 Manufacture of glass, cement & clay products3420342 11,380011,380
 Other manufacturing1620162 1,72901,729
Building & construction1490149 4,19304,193
Distribution1,2631961,458 15,0183,00318,021
Agriculture & livestock dealing15729186 2,2812892,569
Locat authorities59059 1,75401,754
Other344164509 6,1561,6787,834
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 2 Transport activity classified by vehicle capacity, national/international journeys and main use of vehicle, 2017
Type of journey and vehicle capacityTonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
National journeys       
vehicle capacity (kg)       
Up to 5,00095451391,7505742,324
5,001 - 10,00010848156 2,9835413,524
10,001 - 15,000134127261 2,6811,2873,968
15,001 - 20,000439391831 9,7226,62616,348
20,001 - 25,00071325396 1,1613,9495,110
25,001 - 35,0001,0803,0144,094 25,49941,86967,369
Over 35,0009462,4333,379 12,73728,13140,868
International journeys       
vehicle capacity (kg)       
Up to 5,000618 30838
5,001 - 10,000437 341954
10,001 - 15,0005712 352458
15,001 - 20,00088694 69182251
20,001 - 25,00010215225 21380401
25,001 - 35,000879671,054 5793,1123,691
Over 35,000581,0451,103 4032,8233,226
All journeys       
Vehicle capacity (kg)       
Up to 5,00010146147 1,7805822,362
5,001 - 10,00011251163 3,0175613,578
10,001 - 15,000139134273 2,7161,3114,026
15,001 - 20,000447477924 9,7916,80916,599
20,001 - 25,00081540621 1,1814,3295,511
25,001 - 35,0001,1673,9815,148 26,07844,98271,060
Over 35,0001,0033,4784,482 13,14030,95444,093
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 3 Transport activity classified by business of owner, unladen weight and main use of vehicle, 2017
Business of owner and unladen weight of vehicleTonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
Unladen weight (kg)       
2,000 - 5,00007070 0936936
5,001 - 7,5000136136 01,0571,057
7,501 - 10,0000461461 04,3804,380
10,001 - 12,50002,2602,260 024,28424,284
Over 12,50005,3915,391 053,90053,900
Total08,3188,318 084,55784,557
Other businesses       
Unladen weight (kg)       
2,000 - 5,00019522217 4,7732264,999
5,001 - 7,5001119120 2,0961552,251
7,501 - 10,00033716353 6,7953687,163
10,001 - 12,50073488822 14,5301,34415,873
Over 12,5001,6742541,929 29,5092,87732,386
Total3,0513893,441 57,7024,97062,672
All businesses       
Unladen weight (kg)       
2,000 - 5,000195922874,7731,1625,935
5,001 - 7,5001111462572,0961,2123,308
7,501 - 10,0003374778146,7954,74811,543
10,001 - 12,5007342,3473,08114,53025,62840,158
Over 12,5001,6745,6457,32029,50956,77786,286
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 4 Transport activity classified by region of origin1 and main use of vehicle, 2017
Region of originTonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
1 See Appendix A in Background Notes section
Table 5 Transport activity classified by business of owner, length of haul and main use of vehicle, 2017
Business of owner of vehicle and length of haulTonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
Length of haul (km)       
Up to 100545408,2008,200
Over 50001,3981,39801,5071,507
Total08,3188,318 084,55784,557
Other businesses       
Length of haul (km)       
Up to 1060363 9,0614669,527
11-2524919268 14,4161,06815,485
26-5048730518 13,95687214,828
51-1501,0891371,226 14,1931,63315,826
151-5001,1081911,299 5,9879186,905
Over 50059867 8813101
Total3,0513893,441 57,7024,97062,672
All businesses       
Length of haul (km)       
Up to 106058118 9,0618,66617,727
11-25249283531 14,41616,24830,664
26-504877151,203 13,95619,10833,065
51-1501,0892,3713,460 14,19326,82141,015
151-5001,1083,8754,983 5,98717,16323,151
Over 500591,4051,464 881,5211,609
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 6 Transport activity classified by main type of work and main use of vehicle, 2017
Main type of work done by vehicle Tonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
Import/export work1362,4622,49819812,23312,431
Carriage of livestock48701187646751,439
Carriage of other farm produce from farms1023034051,2764,9586,235
Carriage of fertilisers, feeding stuffs etc. to farms1313424732,3064,6156,921
Delivery of goods to road works or building sites7728811,65326,22422,92449,148
Delivery of goods to retail outlets6521,2151,8686,84710,21317,059
Delivery of goods to wholesalers3081,2431,5513,03410,08013,114
Delivery of materials and fuels to factories2081,0451,2542,83911,73314,572
Delivery of goods to households217672843,9166944,610
Other work5771,0791,65610,29711,40321,699
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
1Includes work done to and from ports as well as roll-on/roll-off and cross-border work
Table 7 Transport activity classified by national/international journeys and main use of vehicle, 2017
Type of journeyTonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
National journeys2,8746,3839,25756,53282,979139,511
International journeys1772,3242,502 1,1706,5487,718
 Goods loaded in Ireland1048869907202,6343,354
 Goods unloaded in Ireland516567063531,9732,327
 Cross trade20724744621,3721,435
Total journeys3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 8 Transport activity classified by group of goods and national/international journeys, 2017
Group of goods (NST 2007)Tonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
National journeysInternational journeysTotal National journeysInternational journeysTotal
Products of agriculture, forestry & fishing1,0072521,259 12,87886013,738
Coal & natural gas7131103 7962071,003
Quarry products, metal ores & peat1,308511,359 38,44537338,817
Foodstuffs2,1268192945 23,0212,24525,266
Textiles & leather88896 65430685
Wood, pulp & paper45084534 4,4174994,916
Coke & refined petroleum products78638824 10,08429410,379
Chemicals & plastics416116532 4,7414075,148
Other non-metallic mineral products82899927 21,38944121,830
Metal products (exc. machinery & equipment)15577232 1,5902491,839
Machinery & equipment16048209 2,0191512,170
Furniture & other manufactured goods12245167 1,2571351,392
Secondary raw materials & waste3578365 5,082535,135
Other goods1,3838232,206 13,1391,77314,912
Total9,2572,50211,759 139,5117,718147,229
Table 9 Transport activity classified by group of goods and main use of vehicle, 2017
Group of goods (NST 2007)Tonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
Products of agriculture, forestry & fishing2669931,2593,12010,61813,738
Coal & natural gas32711033696351,003
Quarry products, metal ores & peat5378221,35918,81320,00438,817
Textiles & leather98796128557685
Wood, pulp & paper924425341,0133,9024,916
Coke & refined petroleum products4194058245,5394,84010,379
Chemicals & plastics444885325444,6045,148
Other non-metallic mineral products38854092712,3529,47721,830
Metal products (exc. machinery & equipment)361962324771,3621,839
Machinery & equipment761322091,0071,1632,170
Furniture & other manufactured goods381301674429501,392
Secondary raw materials & waste2121533653,4341,7025,135
Other goods2761,9302,2063,36311,54914,912
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 10 Average number of vehicles classified by unladen weight and year of manufacture of vehicle, 2017
Year of manufacture of vehicleUnladen weight (kg)Total
2,000 - 5,0005,001 - 7,5007,501 - 10,00010,001 - 12,500Over 12,500
2007 or before28,7533,5083,5234,9184,90845,610
Table 11 Transport activity classified by year of manufacture and main use of vehicle, 2017
Year of manufacture of vehicleTonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
2007 or before1,0782,1793,25726,85032,95159,801
20152498831,133 3,6196,78610,405
20162779841,261 4,3987,29511,693
2017172808980 3,1636,7889,951
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 12 Transport activity classified by body type and main use of vehicle, 2017
Type of vehicle and body type Tonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
Platform or sided2011,4841,6851,99211,89813,891
Tanker or other bulk carrier2721,1231,3963,63213,63417,267
Insulated or refrigerated box2631,8272,0901,7619,32311,085
Box or van body2116048151,6493,6525,301
Livestock carrier23102125293579871
Rigid/Rigid with trailer      
Platform or sided1591112703,1951,8535,048
Tanker or other bulk carrier313563686,2041,7197,923
Insulated or refrigerated box108681761,5537842,337
Box or van body1971923892,6901,9034,593
Livestock carrier252854486341827
All vehicles      
Platform or sided3601,5951,9565,18713,75118,939
Tanker or other bulk carrier5851,1791,7649,83615,35425,190
Insulated or refrigerated box3711,8942,2663,31410,10713,421
Box or van body4087961,2044,3385,5559,894
Livestock carrier491301797789201,698
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 13 Transport activity classified by national/international journeys, axle configuration and main use of vehicle, 2017
Type of journey and axle configurationTonne-km (million) Tonnes carried (thousand)
Own accountHire or rewardTotal Own accountHire or rewardTotal
National journeys       
2 axle4213007217,8213,59911,420
3 axle3931385316,9862,3509,335
Other rigid6155041,12021,94217,76439,706
Rigid + trailer2958871,0846001,684
3 axle95564190593783
4 axle872092969512,1393,090
5 axle5481,6382,1865,57716,15521,732
Other articulated7723,4814,25311,98239,77851,761
International journeys       
2 axle17133110976185
3 axle1171811125136
Other rigid971611074183
Rigid + trailer1232445357
3 axle01231013
4 axle13344799145243
5 axle351,2361,2711852,4642,649
Other articulated901,0031,0925493,7014,251
All journeys       
2 axle4383137517,9293,67611,605
3 axle4041455497,0962,3759,471
Other rigid6255121,13622,05117,83839,889
Rigid + trailer30811111,0886531,741
3 axle105766193604797
4 axle1002433431,0502,2843,334
5 axle5832,8743,4565,76218,61924,381
Other articulated8624,4845,34512,53243,48056,012
Total3,0518,70711,759 57,70289,527147,229
Table 14 Transport activity classified by region of origin and region of destination, 2017
Region of origin1Region of destination1Total
BorderMidlandWestDublinMid-EastMid-WestSouth-EastSouth-WestNorthern IrelandOther countries
Tonne-km (million)
Northern Ireland541355615328182913233
Other countries57242025430197437287361,279
 Tonnes Carried (thousand)
Northern Ireland71480333591071211245425211,908
Other countries77363149858309045441,5482,456
1See Appendix A
Table 15 Transport activity classified by country of origin and country of destination, 2017
Country of originCountry of destinationTotal
BelgiumFranceGermanyIrelandItalyNetherlandsSpainUnited KingdomOther EUOther countries1
 Tonne-km (million)
United Kingdom1241154045107234172748
Other EU02153400141056
Other countries1000800080016
 Tonnes carried (thousand)
United Kingdom2554222,04121931,217933,395
Other EU02191600154046
Other countries1000500090115
1Includes any country which is not a member state of the EU

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

This report covers the survey period beginning the first week of January 2017 and ending the last week of December 2017. Irish registered vehicles that come within the scope of the survey must meet the following criteria:

  1. belong to the motor taxation class ‘Goods Vehicles’
  2. 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.
  3. have an unladen weight of two tonnes and over
  4. have a vehicular body type appropriate for carrying freight (see appendix B for a list of vehicular types that have been excluded).

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 an 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.

See Table L

Response rates

Out of a total of 23,351 vehicles surveyed, a satisfactory return was received in respect of 11,417 vehicles, representing an overall response rate of 49%.  However, this rate varied across the differing survey strata.  Response rates broken down by the unladen weight and the year of manufacture of vehicle are presented in Table M.

See Table M

Changes to commodity classification

In 2007, the standard goods classification for transport statistics, NST/R, was revised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).  A new version, NST 2007, was introduced to be consistent with the revised NACE (Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community).  This new goods classification came into force in 2008.

Accordingly, the goods commodities collected in the “National Survey of Transport of Goods by Road” have been revised in line with this new goods classification, effective from 2009 onwards. Unfortunately, this revision means that the results by commodity in this publication for 2017 are not directly comparable with 2008 or previous years.

Reliability of results

Estimation of survey results from data relating to only one week’s activity for a sample of vehicles introduces a statistical variability which would not be present if a full year’s data had been collected for every vehicle. This means that the survey results cannot be taken as accurate to the full degree shown in this report.

This variability is expressed by means of the coefficient of variation. This coefficient gives the relative size of the “sampling error” (variability) present in an estimate compared with the estimate itself. In general, estimates can be said to have a relative precision of twice their coefficient of variation. The estimated coefficients of variation for the overall tonnes carried, tonne-kilometres and vehicle kilometres estimates are shown in Table N below.

In general, the more detailed the classification provided the greater the coefficient of variation of the estimates.  In the derivation of the results the assumption is made that non-respondents have similar characteristics and activity levels to those of respondents in the same stratification cell.  This assumption, which is a standard one in surveys such as this, may result in some degree of bias being introduced into the results. Moreover, although every effort is made to ensure that the returns received are correct in all respects it is inevitable that some minor non-sampling errors remain undetected.

Rounding: Due to the fact that individual figures have been rounded independently there may be slight discrepancies between the sum of the constituent items and the totals shown.

See Table N

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.

Appendix A

NUTS2 and NUTS3 regions

The regional classifications in this release are based on the NUTS (Nomenclature of Territorial Units) classification used by Eurostat.  The NUTS3 regions correspond 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. The NUTS2 regions, which were proposed by Government and agreed by Eurostat in 1999, are groupings of the NUTS3 regions. The composition of the regions is set out below.

Border: Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo.
Midland: Laois, Longford, Offaly, and Westmeath.
West: Galway City and County, Mayo and Roscommon.
Dublin: Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin.
Mid-East: Kildare, Meath and Wicklow.
Mid-West: Limerick City and County, Clare and North Tipperary.
South-East: Waterford City and County, Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary and Wexford.
South-West: Cork City and County and County of Kerry. 

See Appendix B below.

upArrowHide Background Notes
Table L: Sampling proportions by age and unladen weight of vehicle, 2017
Year of manufactureUnladen weightTotal
2 - 5 tonnes5 - 10 tonnes10 tonnes & over
Sampling proportion %
Before 20093267422
2009 - 20124358524
After 20125398520
Table M: Response rates by age and unladen weight of vehicle, 2017
Year of manufactureUnladen weight Total
2 - 5 tonnes 5 - 10 tonnes 10 tonnes and over 
Forms issued% response Forms issued% response Forms issued% response Forms issued% response
Before 20091,13266 2,09656 8,72545 11,95349
2009 - 201245060 48651 3,22247 4,15849
After 20121,48060 70253 5,05845 7,24049
Total3,06262 3,28455 17,00545 23,35149
Table N: Accuracy indicators for road freight activity, 2017
Unladen weight (tonnes)Tonne-km Tonnes carried Vehicle kilometres
Survey estimateCoefficient of variation Survey estimateCoefficient of variation Survey estimateCoefficient of variation
million% thousand% million%
2 - 528711.9 5,93516.3 3964.3
>5 - 7.525710.1 3,3087.5 783.9
>7.5 - 108145.9 11,5436.3 1502.9
>10 - 12.53,0812.1 40,1582.2 3231.2
Over 12.57,3201.4 86,2861.6 6450.9
Total11,7591.2 147,2291.4 1,5921.2
Appendix B: Goods vehicle category types, 2017
CodeBody typeGoods vehicle population1 2017
AllSurvey scope
2Station wagon/jeep1,1700
7Open lorry & container116116
8Open lorry only1,4311,431
13Travelling machine/workshop280
14Mobile shop850
22Low loader4242
24Concrete mixer/concrete pump393393
25Horse box/animal transporter1,3861,386
30Refuse collector726726
31Gritter/chip spreader30
48Pick up1,3881,388
50Van with side windows7272
51Other light goods6666
52Box van3,3293,329
53Luton van603603
54Insulated/refrigerated van1,4081,408
55Glass carrier1212
56Other van1818
58Drop-side lorry1,2831,283
59Hopper truck00
60Recovery vehicle1970
61Solid bulk carrier2424
63Car transporter120120
64Other goods heavy3,0763,076
69Road maintenance vehicle130
70Road tar sprayer20
71Road marking machine40
75Articulated tractor unit14,55414,554
82Crew cab15,31915,319
83Rescue vehicle10
85Well driller/drilling machine10
86Curtain sider1,7151,715
88Skip loader381381
89Telescopic handler50
90Drain cleaner80
91Security van/truck8181
95Chassis cab5,7705,770
1 This annual population estimate is an average of four quarterly population estimates. Vehicles under two tonnes unladen weight or with motor tax expired for more than 3 months are not included in these estimates.

Scan the QR code below to view this release online or go to