Transportation & Logistics Analysis

Changes in Spanish road transport

April 06 2022

SPECIAL FEATURE 2/5 - Spanish Road freight transport (RFT) is a key sector of its economy and a major player in Europe, thanks to the dynamism of major leading groups. However, in recent years, this sector has been going through a crisis situation. A series of reforms introduced in 2021 and 2022 should allow it to find a new lease of life.

Road transport occupies an essential place in the Spanish economy since around 80% of freight is transported this way, a percentage which has not changed fundamentally for more than 25 years. In 2019, this ratio was 79.9%, exactly the same as in 1995, according to the latest edition (January 2022) of the Observatory for the Road Transport of Goods[1], published by the Spanish Ministry of Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda (MITMA). This preeminence of road haulage is mainly explained by the low contribution of the railway (2.8% in 2019) and the complete absence of inland waterway transport.

Available statistics show the importance of the sector. As of 1 January 2022, Spain had a fleet of 267,617 “heavy” vehicles (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) exceeding 3.5 tonnes). This represents an overall increase of 28% over the last seven years, between 1 January 2015 and 1 January 2022. 

An activity driven by the international market

The activity of Spanish road. freight transport started to decrease from 2007 and this phenomenon continued up until 2013. Then a recovery phase began in 2015 and the activity progressed continuously until 2019 (1.33 billion tonnes). After the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 was characterised by a good recovery (+10.8% and +11.6% respectively) and the pre-pandemic level was exceeded. Nevertheless, Spanish road freight transport has not recovered the ground lost since the peak of 2007.

The trajectory is more favourable for international traffic. But the good results obtained in this segment must not mask the difficulties of the profession as a whole. Negotiations between Spain's road freight transport representative professional organisations, affiliated in the freight department of the National Road Transport Committee (CNTC), and the MITMA have recently led to a number of important advances.


  • A fragmented sector
  • Global decline for 15 years
  • The emergence of Spanish flagged companies
  • Progress on reforms


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Daniel Solano is an economics journalist. Based in Spain, he covers international trade and transport issues.
See all its articles