Transportation & Logistics Analysis

Spain: 2022 review of land freight transport

June 02 2023

In 2022, road and rail freight transport in Spain suffered from the deteriorating economic environment. The situations are, however, very different in each of these two sectors.

In 2022, the macroeconomic context affected Spanish land freight transport activity on three levels:

  • Economic activity. GDP recorded strong growth at the beginning of 2022 and this momentum was maintained during the first half of 2023 with GDP increasing at an annual rate of more than 7% (Figure 1). The impact of the various crises (war in Ukraine, energy, inflation, deterioration of world trade, etc.) was felt from the 3rd quarter, with GDP growth reduced to 4.8% and, even more clearly, to the 4th quarter (+2.9%). Over the whole of 2022, the increase was 5.5%. This slowdown in growth is expected to continue. In its latest economic forecasts (March 2023), the Bank of Spain expects a GDP growth rate of 1.6% in 2023 and 2.3% in 2024. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation is more optimistic, with estimates of +2.1 and +2.4% respectively.


Figure 1 – Evolution of Spanish GDP in 2022 - Data source: INE.

  • Foreign trade. Admittedly, exports increased by 22.9% in value in 2022 to €389.2 billion. However, imports grew at an even faster pace (+33.4% to €457.3 billion). The trade balance deficit has therefore increased from €26.2 billion in 2021 to €68.1 billion in 2022. The analysis of volume figures shows an even more unfavourable trend: +3.9% in 2022 for exports against +7.4% for imports. During the 4th quarter, export growth excluding inflation was even weaker (+1.4%).

  • Inflation. Consumer prices increased by 5.7% in 2022. The actions taken by the government to fight inflation, including the reduction of VAT on electricity and gas tariffs, are expected to have a positive impact. Inflation was brought down to 4.1% in April 2023 (compared to April 2022).

Further decline in road freight transport activity in 2022

The latest edition of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (Mitma) survey shows a decline in overall activity of 1.3% in 2022, down to 266.7 billion tonne-kilometres (tkm). This decline follows the strong recovery observed in 2021 (+11.4%) which had made it possible to return to and exceed the pre-COVID-crisis levels.

The decline observed in 2022, however, masks two opposing developments:

  • On the Spanish domestic market, the decline was more significant (-2.5% to 178 bn tkm). 
  • International activity, on the other hand, came through unscathed with an increase of 1.2% to 88.7 billion tkm (...) 

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