Road freight vehicles are a key enabler of global economic activity and play an essential role in delivering all types of goods or commodities from their points of production to the factories and industries that use or transform them, or to their final points of sale.
Economic growth is closely associated with growth in road freight activity (measured in tonne-kilometres [tkm]). Many types of road vehicles deliver goods, including trucks of all sizes. But about 65% of freight activity is accomplished by heavy-freight trucks – a mix of rigid body and articulated trucks with a gross vehicle weight of greater than 15 tonnes.
Although heavy-freight trucks are the most efficient for hauling cargo, their large annual mileage means that they consume half of the oil in the road freight sector. Road freight vehicles are a central source of global oil demand today: at around 17 million barrels per day (mb/d), oil demand from road freight vehicles accounts for around one-fifth of global oil demand – equivalent to the current oil production of the United States and Canada combined.
Oil demand from road freight vehicles is roughly equal to that of the entire industry sector and is outstripped only by passenger cars, which account for around one-quarter of total oil demand. Oil demand growth from road freight transport has outpaced that of all other sectors from 2000 onward. While oil use of passenger cars has begun to plateau and decline in many industrialised countries, oil use from road freight vehicles continues to rise. Road freight transport relies primarily on diesel, which accounts for more than 80% of its oil use.
Road freight vehicles alone accounted for about 80% of the global net increase in diesel demand since 2000, and make up about half of global diesel demand today. As a result, road freight today accounts for more than 35% of transport-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and around 7% of total energy-related CO2 emissions.