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Report on European Road Freight Transport Markets and ECMT Multilateral Quota Perspectives

Freight transport between the 43 ECMT member states (including new and old EU member states, potential candidate countries, as well as the countries of the former Soviet Union) has grown continuously since 2014. In 2018, the total transport performance in international road freight transport was at 706 billion tonne-kilometres.

According to Prognos estimates, ECMT countries that are not members of the European Union (EU) accounted for 48 billion tonne-kilometres of this figure. At present, 43 countries participate in the ECMT quota system. The "Report on European Road Freight Markets and ECMT Multilateral Quota Perspectives" was updated by Prognos and the OMR Conseil on behalf of the International Transport Forum.


According to Prognos' estimations the market share of ECMT-approved freight shipments in total road haulage in ECMT countries decreased between 2007 and 2018. In 2007, the estimated market share was 5 percent - compared to 3.8 percent (27 billion tonne-kilometres) in 2018. ECMT permits authorise cross-border road freight transport between EU member states and the countries of the European Economic Area as well as numerous Eastern and South Eastern European countries.

The overall rate did not change between 2007 and 2018. It remains at 6,090 ECMT approvals. But the permits are now distributed differently: Between 2012 and 2015, ECMT members who were not part of the EU prior to the 2004 eastward expansion were given a larger base contingent. The main beneficiaries were Turkey, Poland, and the Ukraine.

The report also found that a significant portion of the ECMT permits were not being used. The EU-15 + 3 countries (the "old" EU members plus Norway, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland) only used 25 percent of the permits made available to them. This figure was 58 percent in the new EU member states, 86 percent among the EU candidate countries and 77 percent in the states of the former Soviet Union.

"Overall, the ECMT quota system has proven to be too rigid," explains Prognos project manager Hans-Paul Kienzler. "It is therefore important to rethink the quota system and the decision mechanisms".

Action recommendations

The study recommended the following short- and mid-term measures to reform the quota system:

  • The liberalisation of road transport and the harmonization of competitive conditions should be brought back into focus.
  • The allocation of the ECMT permit per country could be replaced by a quota per region or by a flexible quota based on trade volume.
  • To avoid blocks, decisions should no longer require unanimity, but could also be made by a qualified majority.

In the longer term, the study recommends developing scenarios for the future development of road freight transport and creating a trade and transport database to improve the data basis.


The report is based on statistics from the International Transport Forum on the quota system and driver logs. There is still little statistical data on the international transport market in the ECMT area. Therefore, the numbers mentioned are model calculations. The report also updated the SWOT analysis from 2009. To identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks of the multilateral ECMT contingent, the team held discussions with the Secretariat of the International Transport Forum, the European Commission, the International Road Transport Union, and the Freight Transport Association of the United Kingdom.

Autor: Hans-Paul Kienzler, Nils Brüggeshemke (Prognos AG), Olaf Meyer-Rühle (OMR Conseil)

Kunde: International Transport Forum (ITF)

Jahr: 2020

Typ: Study

Tags: transport