Ecological impact of transport in France

Transport in France: some aspects and key figures

Keywords: transport, road, heavy goods vehicles, impact, ADEME, environment


In a context in which climate change and rising energy prices have become realities, the transport sector must engage in reflection and concrete actions to ensure the competitiveness of the economic system. The ADEME, whose mission is to encourage the reduction of nuisances related to the transport of goods, takes stock of the multiple environmental and energy impacts of the transport sector and proposes solutions, technological or organizational, to support the numerous evolutions of companies in this sector.

An unavoidable economic weight but a profitability more and more difficult

Transport has become an essential component of almost any modern activity: in a century and a half, the exchange of goods has multiplied by 1000 on the surface of the globe. In our Western societies, there is hardly any industrial or agricultural activity that is purely local, without the use of a means of transport between the place of production and the place of consumption. This growth is mainly supported by maritime transport, the main vector of international trade, closely followed by road transport.

In France, trucks, by their flexibility, speed and therefore their profitability, have for many years been the central link in the transport of goods: they provide 80% of trade (regional and long distance).

In addition, France, at the crossroads of the main European roads, supports a large part of intra-European traffic. Between 1990 and 2000, national freight transport in France increased by 30%, with an increase of almost 70% for transit traffic alone.

Dominated by road transport for years, freight transport has been particularly affected by successive increases in the price of oil: the share of energy in the cost of road transport is today on average 25% ( for 40 t semi-trailers over long distances); it was around 16% ten years ago.

Faced with the rise in prices that have become unavoidable, transport companies must now find solutions to limit their energy consumption and thus safeguard their profitability.

In addition, the high consumption of petroleum products in the transport sector generates significant environmental impacts:
- The responsibility of the transport sector in atmospheric emissions is indeed far from negligible with, for example, 54% of NOx emissions (nitrogen oxides) and 37% of CO emissions (carbon monoxide).
- Finally, in terms of the fight against climate change, in the space of 40 years, transport has become the leading sector emitting greenhouse gases in France.

To face these challenges, this sector must resort to new solutions, both organizational and technological, none of the options currently envisaged being able to offer alone sufficient potential.

Freight transport, ADEME's priorities

ADEME is taking action at the level of technologies and transport organization, with the objectives of optimizing the movement of goods, reducing the demand for mobility and environmental impacts. These actions are accompanied by an awareness of the profession through technical days, editing of guides and software and participation in trade shows.

  • Reduce the share of road freight transport.
    Interurban freight is the sector that is expected to grow most strongly in the coming years, particularly because of the share of road transport. Yet significant savings and substitution fields exist. One of the Agency's first priorities is therefore to act to reduce the share of road transport in the transport of goods.
  • Promoting the development of non-road transport modes, especially combined transport.
    ADEME's action aims to promote the use of alternative modes to road transport (combined transport, waterway, maritime cabotage), whose energy efficiency is much better. The action of ADEME goes through:
    - support for research and development within the framework of the PREDIT (national program for research and innovation in land transport), in order to mobilize researchers on the characterization of flows, the factors for choosing the mode of transport, the means improve the supply, development, testing and evaluation of innovative transport equipment and organizations. The agency also supports the development of clean technologies as part of the Clean and Thrifty Vehicles Plan (PREDIT program) with the particular objective of reducing the impact of freight transport by heavy goods vehicles. The agency also supports exemplary operations aimed at promoting innovations.
    - direct support for the development of combined transport through decision aids for opportunity studies and aid for the acquisition of specific equipment. Combined transport, combining road terminal routes with a more economical main mode (rail, waterway, maritime coaster), combines good energy performance with the ability to provide quality door-to-door service.
  • And at the same time encouraging companies to re-examine their logistics organization.
    Shippers have an important responsibility for the energy consumption and CO2 emissions that their logistics are responsible for. Their awareness of this aspect is a major challenge for ADEME. It is for this purpose that the evaluation method for the carbon balance of the logistics function has been developed. This method allows companies to identify the energy-saving and CO2 emission reduction potential offered by optimizing their logistics plans and act accordingly.


Transport in France: some figures

1) Share of Transport Sector in National Consumption of Petroleum Products (2004):

  • 51 Mtep (29% of the national total) of which 56% for the transport of persons and 44% for the transport of goods


  • Share of transport sector in greenhouse gas emissions in 2004: 149 MTEq CO2 (26%)

2) Share of Transport Sector in Air Emissions:

54% NOx (oxides of nitrogen)
27% NMVOC (non-methane volatile organic compounds)
37% CO (carbon monoxide)
25% HFC (Hydrofluorocarbon)
8,5% particles
7,5% SO2 (dioxydedeoufre)

3) Value added of the transport sector:

  • 4,5% of GDP for transport
  • 1,2% of GDP for road freight transport

Freight transport a sector mainly composed of SMEs and SMIs

4) More than 1 million jobs (4% of the national workforce) of which:

  • 31,5% freight transport
  • 21,5% ancillary activities and auxiliary transport
  • 15,7% rail transport
  • 13,4% passenger road transport

Nearly 80% of road transport companies employ less than 5 employees.

5) A fleet of 270 000 commercial vehicles.

Comprehensive study on urban transport
The economic weight of transport
Pressure groups

Source: Ademe

Read also:  Agriculture and Greenhouse

Leave comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *