Empty lorry movements position statement


20 Dec 2023

In 'Net zero highways: our 2050 plan', we committed to report in 2023 about how we can help reduce empty lorry movements.

Department for Transport domestic road freight statistics have identified that approximately 30% of all HGV journeys are without a load. There is significant variance across sectors and load types.

We've explored how we can measure the number of empty lorry movements, reviewed insight from professional drivers and worked with hauliers to understand our potential role in reducing these movements.

Operators have a strong financial incentive to keep empty movements to a minimum. However, much of the data about the issue is considered commercially sensitive. Moving goods ‘across operators’ is often unfeasible due to:

  • inefficiencies in changing the routes of empty vehicles
  • restrictions on operating licensees
  • commercial sensitivities

In addition, the types of vehicles used can be restrictive, particularly with modified equipment that can only carry specific types of goods.

Our work with the sector has identified that, while empty lorry movements are considered unavoidable, they can strive to minimise them.

Potential solutions identified included:

  • better co-ordination and management by hauliers
  • improved planning
  • changes to licencing restrictions

We have not identified anything in National Highways’ control that can directly reduce empty lorry movements. However we'll continue to closely engage with the haulage industry to work together to achieve a net zero highway network and more broadly – for example through supporting the improvement of lorry parking facilities.