Recovery Continues in Global Freight Transport -
Uncertainties Remain

ContainersThe latest update of global freight data collected by the International Transport Forum shows few signs that reduce the uncertainty about economic recovery after the 20O8 crisis. Preliminary data suggest that this is especially true when considered in combination with the risks for the global economy posed by geopolitical events: road, rail, and sea freight transport levels remain below pre-crisis volumes in December 2010, by 5-15%. Air cargo has fully recovered from the crisis, but the latest data show slower growth and even declines in some markets. Road and rail freight show improvements and the road freight trend in the EU is upwards, with quarterly tonne-km growth of 1% for Q1 through Q3 of 2010.

The overall picture for global freight is positive and freight transport volumes continue to improve, according to preliminary data. In the EU area, total external trade (in tonnes) by sea and air grew compared to our previous briefing while in the United States growth was less marked. However, the latest monthly data (December 2010) show also that for total exports and imports by sea, the recovery is still weak in the sense that the volumes are below their pre-crisis levels (EU27 -4%; USA -5%) measured in tonnes of goods carried, according to preliminary estimates.

External trade by sea shows variations by region. United States' trade by sea has stagnated since December 2010 in tonnes goods moved and fell in the last quarter of 2010 especially for Latin America compared with the previous quarter. Data for EU27 are more dynamic although trends for some segments (notably imports from China by sea) show a slowing down and even a decline, measured in tonnes of goods transported (Figures 3, 5 7, 9). Recovery also remains uncertain. While air cargo has fully recovered from the crisis, external trade in tonnes of goods moved by air in the United States has now fallen for five consecutive months when measured using seasonally adjusted data. Both the EU27 and the United States' external trade by air shows slower growth or declines in nearly all markets in the last quarter 2010 compared with growth in the previous quarter.

More regional inland transport by rail and road show improvements. Growth in road freight in the Eu area has picked up in the third quarter of 2010, when measured using seasonally adjusted data on tonne kilometres performed. The positive trend in rail freight continues as well. In the United States, the rail freight volume is now only 5% below pre-crisis levels. In the EU area, where rail fell more during the crisis, the volume is still 14% below the peak attained in the second quarter of 2008.

For the full Statistcs Brief, including graphics - see the pdf    Statistics Brief. March 2011 
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