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Road freight transport decoupling: A comparative analysis between the United Kingdom and Spain


  • Alises, Ana
  • Vassallo, Jose Manuel
  • Guzmán, Andrés Felipe


Economic growth has traditionally been linked to road freight transport demand, leading to a steady rise in social and environmental impacts. Concern about this problem has caused the EU to promote a decoupling strategy aimed at boosting sustainable development in European countries by improving the efficiency of transport systems without curbing economic growth. Over the last few years empirical evidence in some countries such as the United Kingdom has shown an increase in GDP while the volume of road freight traffic has remained stable or even decreased. This paper compares recent decoupling trends by analyzing the evolution of road tonne-kms/GDP relationship in the United Kingdom and Spain from 1999 to 2007. This comparison seeks to identify the main differences and key drivers of decoupling in both countries. We first provide an overview of the divergences between both economic structures and levels of road transport intensity. Then we conduct a decomposition analysis in order to identify the variables that explain the evolution of truck traffic per unit of GDP in each country. The results show that the increasing share of services in GDP has substantially contributed to decreasing road transport demand in both cases. Changes in road transport intensity due to improvements in logistic and supply chain management have been more successful in the UK than in Spain.

Suggested Citation

  • Alises, Ana & Vassallo, Jose Manuel & Guzmán, Andrés Felipe, 2014. "Road freight transport decoupling: A comparative analysis between the United Kingdom and Spain," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 186-193.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:32:y:2014:i:c:p:186-193
    DOI: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2014.01.013

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bennathan, Esra*Fraser, Julie*Thompson, Louis S., 1992. "What determines demand for freight transport?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 998, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mulholland, Eamonn & Teter, Jacob & Cazzola, Pierpaolo & McDonald, Zane & Ó Gallachóir, Brian P., 2018. "The long haul towards decarbonising road freight – A global assessment to 2050," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 216(C), pages 678-693.
    2. Yan, Shiyu & De Bruin, Kelly & Dennehy, Emer & Curtis, John, 2020. "A freight transport demand, energy and emission model with technological choices," Papers WP669, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    3. Tob-Ogu, Abiye & Kumar, Niraj & Cullen, John, 2018. "ICT adoption in road freight transport in Nigeria – A case study of the petroleum downstream sector," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 240-252.
    4. Gomez, Juan & Vassallo, José Manuel, 2015. "Evolution over time of heavy vehicle volume in toll roads: A dynamic panel data to identify key explanatory variables in Spain," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 282-297.
    5. Xue-ting Jiang & Min Su & Rongrong Li, 2018. "Investigating the Factors Influencing the Decoupling of Transport-Related Carbon Emissions from Turnover Volume in China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(9), pages 1-1, August.
    6. Yong Wang & Yu Zhou & Lin Zhu & Fei Zhang & Yingchun Zhang, 2018. "Influencing Factors and Decoupling Elasticity of China’s Transportation Carbon Emissions," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(5), pages 1-1, May.
    7. Song, Yan & Zhang, Ming & Shan, Cheng, 2019. "Research on the decoupling trend and mitigation potential of CO2 emissions from China's transport sector," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 183(C), pages 837-843.
    8. Løvold Rødseth, Kenneth, 2017. "Productivity growth in urban freight transport: An index number approach," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 86-95.
    9. Guangxin Liu & Fengrui Jia & Qiang Yue & Danzhu Ma & Handan Pan & Ming Wu, 2016. "Decoupling of nonferrous metal consumption from economic growth in China," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 221-235, February.
    10. Moschovou, Tatiana P., 2017. "Freight transport impacts from the economic crisis in Greece," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 51-58.
    11. Abiye Tob-Ogu & Niraj Kumar & John Cullen & Erica E. F. Ballantyne, 2018. "Sustainability Intervention Mechanisms for Managing Road Freight Transport Externalities: A Systematic Literature Review," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(6), pages 1-1, June.
    12. Carlos Scheel & Eduardo Aguiñaga & Bernardo Bello, 2020. "Decoupling Economic Development from the Consumption of Finite Resources Using Circular Economy. A Model for Developing Countries," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(4), pages 1-1, February.


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