European road freight market to lose speed and expand by only 1.1% in 2023

The market moderation seen in the second half of 2022 is expected to spill over into 2023. As a result, Ti forecasts that the European road freight market will lose speed in 2023, expanding by only 1.1% in real terms (holding prices and exchange rates constant) to reach €389,338m.

Overall, downward forces will gain more of an upper hand across Europe in 2023. However, slowing economic growth in the EU exacerbated by high inflation will weaken demand for road freight services in, through and out of Europe.

Europe’s domestic road freight market is projected to grow by just 0.7% in real terms, while the European international road freight market is projected to grow by 2.1% in 2023.

Considering the economic incertitude, it is difficult to make reliable forecasts for the years ahead, and the outlook for the European road freight market will depend on the outcome of various unpredictable factors:

  • High inflation will weaken demand for road freight services in, through and out of Europe;
  • Shortages of raw materials and intermediate products, weakening demand and energy shortages will cloud the outlook for the manufacturing sector in Europe;
  • Consumer behaviour will act as a growth drag on the European road freight market in 2023;
  • Driver shortages will continue to affect the amount of capacity available on the market.
  • Fuel costs, inflation and driver shortages will put upward pressure on costs and road freight rates.

Looking across Europe as a whole, there will be considerable variance in performance. Many markets from Eastern Europe are forecasted to perform better than Western European countries. Germany, Italy and the UK are forecasted to be some of the slowest-growing road freight markets in 2023.

  • The German road freight market growth is expected to slow down sharply to 0.6% in 2023. Germany will be very weak domestically – 0.0% domestic real growth for 2023, whereas its international road freight market will expand by 2.4%. 
  • Italy has a forecasted real growth rate of 0.3% in 2023, with gloomy trade forecasts weighing down growth. With price inflation near a 40-year high and rising interest rates, Italian retail sales and consumer spending could come under significant pressure in 2023, reducing demand for Italian road freight services. 
  • The UK joins Italy and Germany in the worst performers group, with a forecasted real growth rate of just 0.3% in 2023. UK’s retail sales are predicted to flatten out in 2023, contributing to the view that the UK is headed for recession. A slight decline is also expected in UK manufacturing. 
  • The French economy is likely to escape recession in 2023, but the outlook remains weak overall. The global demand slowdown could weigh more heavily on the French manufacturing industry. Retail sales are forecasted to remain sluggish due to declining real wages. Considering all these factors, Ti estimates that the French road freight market growth will slow down to 1.0% in 2023. 
  • While forecasts point to sluggish retail sales growth in Spain, manufacturing production is expected to experience solid growth in 2023. The return of tourism may be critical to supporting consumption. Considering all these factors, Ti forecasts that the Spanish road freight market growth will grow by 1.3% in 2023.

European Road Freight Transport Market – Countries with Strongest & Weakest Growth 2023











Growth to 2026

According to Ti forecasts, the region’s total road freight market will grow by 2.4% in the next five years to reach €420,150m by 2026.

Based on solid trade forecasts, the international road freight market is expected to grow faster than the domestic during the five years, although it will remain the smaller of the two markets. 

Nonetheless, the 5-year forecasts for European road freight are uncertain and subject to unpredictable factors such as the length and the outcome of the war in Ukraine, the response to increasing inflation, and the rising cost base for road freight services. 

For more in-depth information, download the European Road Freight Transport Market Forecasts for 2022, 2023 and 2026 Whitepaper, which contains 2023 forecast growth data with analysis of international and domestic projections. The paper also analyses the various economic headwinds impacting the market in the year ahead, including the energy crisis, rising inflation, manufacturing downturn and driver shortages.

Supply chain strategists can use GSCiTi’s online data platform – to identify opportunities for growth, support strategic decisions, help them stay abreast of industry trends and development, as well as understand future impacts on the industry. 

Visit GSCI subscription to sign up today or contact: Michael Clover for a free demonstration: [email protected] | +44 (0) 1666 519907 

Source: Transport Intelligence, 18th November 2022

Author: Marta Chiriatti