Poland’s road freight market powers ahead

For the last few years most European road freight hauliers have endured difficult times, with growth in revenues either negative or very low. On a macroeconomic level, the five major Western European markets of Germany, France, Italy, UK and Spain have also suffered stagnation or decline. However, it is not all doom and gloom in European road freight. A rosier scenario is apparent if one looks eastwards, particularly at Poland.

In 2013, Ti estimates that the Polish road freight market grew by 5.8% (in revenue terms), more than any other country in Europe. In terms of total road tonne-kilometres (according to Eurostat), Poland grew by 11.4% year-on-year, a strikingly high growth rate for a country ranked as the second largest in Europe by this measure. Digging deeper, the figures reveal that this is clearly driven by growth in palletised goods transport, not bulk. As measured by tonnage, palletised freight growth in absolute terms was the largest in Europe, three times more than the second-best performing country. To gain some context over the country’s growth over the longer term, Poland is now 64.1% above its 2007 road tonne-km figure. The five major Western European markets remain mired below their respective benchmarks.

While Ti estimates that Poland’s domestic market grew by 3.8% in 2013, its international market growth of 8.5% is what really stands out. According to Eurostat, intra-EU export tonnage grew by 11.7%, while International Trade Centre data asserts that in value terms (as measured in euros), intra-EU exports grew by 6.0% or €6.3bn. Electronics, furniture, plastics and pharmaceuticals exports developed particularly strongly. In terms of trade partners, exports to Germany grew by €2.5bn alone. In a second tier, exports to Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Belgium and Sweden all grew by between €400m and €600m.

Aside from volume increases, Ti estimates that freight rate growth in Poland was among the highest in Europe in 2013, contributing to the superior growth of its market. For Europe overall, price growth appears to have been at best very slight. Major road freight operators such as DB Schenker and DSV both assert this in their annual results. Ever fiercer competition and the high price sensitivity of customers meant that it was difficult to fully pass on cost increases, resulting in further narrowing of already thin margins.

Looking to the future, Ti forecasts that Poland’s road freight market will grow by 4.0% in 2014. The slightly weaker performance compared to 2013 is largely driven by less pronounced intra-EU export growth. However, our medium-term forecast is more optimistic. Poland’s 2013-2017 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4% will be spurred by improving domestic demand growth over the period. Both at present and in the future, Polish road freight is and will be a success story in a market where they are often difficult to find.

For further insight and analysis, look out for Ti’s forthcoming publication of European Road Transport 2014. Ti’s market sizing reveals the domestic, international and overall market sizes for 30 countries across Europe. Find out which markets grew by the most in 2013 and which markets are expected to perform best in 2014 and to 2017. The rankings of the largest road freight providers and their market shares are also provided, as well as a vast amount of additional analysis. For further information or to register your interest, contact Holly Francis, E: [email protected] T: +44 (0)1666 519907