Other transport-related indicators - week 27

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During the corona crisis, society and the economy have undergone several changes which are directly or indirectly related to the transport system. These may be factors that are both a result of reduced transport demand and factors that in themselves affect the volume of traffic or transport. Reduced demand for certain goods can lead to reduced transport demand and thus reduced traffic on our roads. Reduced traffic, in turn, affects both carbon dioxide emissions, environmental impact, noise and the number of accidents that occur in traffic.

Below are some changes that we can follow with indicators on a monthly basis:

  • Sales development in the transport business
  • Bankruptcies, notices and short-time working, in total and in the transport business
  • New passenger cars and new light goods vehicles
  • Number of fatalities in road traffic accidents

Sales development in the transport business

A very direct indicator that reflects demand in the economy is the turnover trend. The turnover in the transport sector (SNI 49 – 52) was in both April and May 2020 significantly lower than the year before. In May 2020 the railway sector reduced its turnover by 41 percent, compared to May 2019. Public transport decreased sales by 16 percent and the taxi business by 51 percent. Freight by road and removal transport (truck transport) had a modest decrease of 8 percent. Water transport reduced sales by 53 percent and in air transport sales fell by as much as 83 percent. Finally, Warehousing and support activities (SNI 52) fell by 22 percent.

Figure 1. Sales in current prices in March–May 2020, compared to same month in 2019. Percentage difference.
Source: Statistics Sweden (SCB)

The industry that has been the least affected by the downturn in both April and May is thus Freight by road and removal transport, i.e. trucking. Retail trade is heavily influenced by the corona pandemic. Many retail stores have major problems, while food sales have increased as a result of, among other things, hoarding and fewer restaurant visits. The food trade is transport-intensive and largely dependent on trucking. In addition, the entire e-commerce industry – where transportation is largely carried out by trucks – is in a boom right now. The two sub-sectors within e-commerce that increased the most in the first quarter of 2020 were food and pharmacy products. The number of older people shopping on-line, especially when it comes to food, has increased during the corona pandemic. 

In April on-line shopping increased by 44 percent compared with April last year, according to the customers themselves. In May the corresponding increase was 36 percent. The increase in e-commerce is evident in the form of sharply increased parcel volumes, and home deliveries have increased more than deliveries to pick-up points.

Bankruptcies, notices and short-time working

The number of bankruptcies is an indicator that captures a dimension of how business life is affected by the corona crisis. The Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis publishes official statistics on bankruptcies every month. During March – May 2020, 2 472 companies went into bankruptcy in the entire Swedish economy, of which 134 (5 percent) in Transport and storage (SNI 49–53). Almost 10 000 employees were affected by these bankruptcies, whereof 700 in Transport ad storage. Compared with the same period in 2019 the number of employees affected by bankruptcies increased by 59 percent in the entire economy, and by 16 percent in the transport businesses.

One indicator that describes the risk of a reduction in the workforce is the number of notices. Notice means that the employer warns the staff that they may be laid off. In Sweden, the employer reports a notice both to the trade union organization and to the Swedish public employment service. The Swedish public employment service publishes monthly statistics on the number of notices in different sectors.

During March – June 2020, almost 89,000 people were given a notice in Sweden, of which just over 10,000 (12 per cent) were in Transportation and storage (SNI 49 – 53). Compared with the same period last year the number of notices in the entire Swedish economy is sixfold. For the transport sector the number of notices are five times as many as last year.

In the months of March – June, of all notices in the transport sector, most were in Warehousing and support activities (34 per cent), followed by Land transport (24 per cent) and Air transport (21 per cent). In June 2020 a vast majority of the notices were in Land transport (Figure 2).


Figure 2. The number of people getting notices in Transportation and storage (SNI 49 – 53). March – June in 2020.
Source: The Swedish public employment service
Note: Postal and courier activities (SNI 53) is excluded from the figure.

The transport industry is one of the industries most affected by notices if you measure in the number of people affected. In March – June together, the notices were the most in Accomodation and food service followed by the sector including travel agencies. After them follow Manufacturing, Transportation and storage and Wholesale and trade. Together these five sectors accounted for 71 percent of all notices in March – June 2020.

Short-time work allowance can be granted when companies suffer temporary financial problems as a result of something unexpected happening. With the corona pandemic, a government enactment on short-time working came into force on April 7, 2020. Short-time working means that employers can reduce their employees’ working hours, and receive financial support from the central government to compensate for a significant part of the costs for retaining the employee. Working hours can be reduced by 20, 40, 60 or 80 percent.

Short-time work allowances are administered by the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. They also update daily information on short-time work, measured in the number of employees affected and the allowances granted. To date, a total of 560,000 employees have been granted short-time work to a varying degrees, to a total cost of SEK 27 billion (about 2,7 billion Euros or dollars). Transportation and storage (SNI 49–53) account for 6 percent of both the number of employees and of funds granted. The sub-sector in transport that is mainly affected by short-time work is Land transport, with 45 percent of the employees and 42 percent of the funds granted (Figure 3).

Figur 3. Number of employees affected by short-time work (inner circle) and granted funds (outer circle). Share per business within Transportation and storage (SNI 49-53).
Source: The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth
Note: Postal and courier activities (SNI 53) is excluded from the figure (accounts for less than 1 percent of employees and funds).

New cars and new light goods vehicles

Sales of new vehicles is an important financial indicator. Transport Analysis publishes monthly statistics on the number of newly registered vehicles. The number of newly registered passenger cars and light goods vehicles (LGVs) has decreased during all months in 2020, compared to the corresponding period in 2019. During January – March, the decrease was mainly due to adaptation to the bonus-malus system. Since January 1, 2020, the vehicle tax is calculated according to carbon dioxide emissions measured with the so-called WLTP driving cycle, which results in a much higher taxes on diesel vehicles in particular. At the end of 2019, many passenger cars and LGVs (trucks with a total weight of max. 3.5 tonnes) were registered “beforehand” to avoid the higher malus tax.

The rebound effect with fewer new registrations during the first months of 2020 was expected. However, the reduced number of new registrations during April and May we believe are mainly due to the corona pandemic. Already in March, car factories around the world began to close down or reduce production capacity, at the same time as consumers began to feel uncertain about their financial prospects.

In May 2020 newly registered passenger cars and LGVs in Sweden, was about 50 percent less than in May 2019. In June 2020 new LGVs were still at this low level (-48 percent compared with June 2019) while the number of new passenger cars was 21 percent less than in June 2019 (Figure 4)

Figure 4. Newly registered passenger cars and light goods vehicles (LGVs). January – June 2020 compared to the same months in 2019, percentage difference.
Source: Transport Analysis

The number of new heavy goods vehicles and buses are not commented here. Investment in these heavy vehicles is the result of more long-term considerations and does not react as quickly to changing external conditions. Buses, for example, are used predominantly in the procured regional public transport. New buses are needed especially when a new contract period between a bus company and a local competent authority begins.

Killed in road traffic accidents

The police are obliged to report from road traffic accidents that cause personal injuries. The Swedish Transport Agency manages a database of data on fatalities and injuries in road traffic accidents and publishes preliminary statistics every month. Transport analysis annually publishes official statistics on road traffic injuries.

In 2019, fewer people died in road traffic accidents than ever before in modern times; 223 people. In January - June 2020, 96 people perished, compared with 108 during the same months in 2019. In March this year, the number of killed was extremely low with 6 people killed. In the months April – June the number of killed in road traffic accidents has been at about the same level as last year. (Figure 5)

Figure 5. Number of people killed in road traffic accidents in January – June 2020 and the corresponding months in 2019.
Source: Swedish Transport Agency
Note: The number of fatalities refers to road traffic accidents excluding suicides and other intentional acts.

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