UK-registered goods vehicles’ share of the international road freight market has fallen to a fresh low of just 13%, new figures from the DfT have shown.

In the year to the end of June, there were 2.3 million journeys recorded from the UK to mainland Europe by powered goods vehicles – up 10% on the previous 12 months. Of these, UK-registered vehicles accounted for just 304,000 trips – down 4% – while foreign registered vehicles’ share surged 12%.

Combined with 705,000 unaccompanied trailers – up 6% on the previous 12 months – the total number of road goods vehicles travelling from the UK to mainland Europe in the year to the end of  June was up 9%, exceeding the pre-recession peak of 2.9 million in 2007.

The latest figures confirm a depressing long-term trend. In 1996, UK-registered trucks accounted for 52% of journeys to mainland Europe.  Over the last 20 years, however, foreign-registered operators have grown their share more than four-fold.

Polish-registered vehicles accounted for the biggest number of journeys to mainland Europe from the UK in the 12 months to the end of June, taking 21% of the total market. The Netherlands and Romania also took significant market share (9% apiece), followed by Germany (6%), Spain and France (5% each), Hungary (4%) and the Czech Republic (4%).

FTA international affairs manager Don Armour agreed the decline in recent years was depressing but said there would always be parts of the international haulage market that would continue to use UK-based firms and that the association did not foresee the share of UK firms falling to zero in coming years.

“The numbers may creep up as the UK economy picks up,” he suggested. “And there will always be those UK companies who, for whatever reason, prefer to use the professionalism of UK companies, even if it costs more to ship using a UK haulier.

“We don’t see it [the UK sector’s share of the market] disappearing altogether,” he added. “Our members have told us for a number of years that the niche market is where they will continue to operate, because that’s where they are successful.”