Sale and consumption of road transport fuels. Research into differences in sale and consumption

More diesel is sold to road traffic in the Netherlands than is actually consumed on the Dutch road network. This difference is caused primarily by trucks travelling internationally and to a smaller extent by coaches. Many large carriers have their own pumps and negotiate discounts on diesel prices, making refuelling in the Netherlands attractive. CE Delft and PBL have investigated how the difference in fuel sales and fuel consumption can be explained and how the Dutch Emissions Registry can account for this in its calculations.

The gap between diesel sales and consumption has narrowed in recent years due to discounts on the price of diesel applicable to carriers in Belgium. The analyses cover the period to 2020. Recent motor fuel price increases and subsequent temporary reductions in excise duty are beyond the scope of this study.

Annual report
The Netherlands is required to report annually to the EU and the UN on emissions of environmental pollutants and greenhouse gases. These emission figures are calculated and reported by the Dutch Emissions Registry. International agreements stipulate that emissions figures for road traffic should be calculated in line with fuel sales. In this regard, fuel sold in the Netherlands is leading rather than the number of kilometres travelled and corresponding fuel consumption. For diesel, there is a sizeable gap between fuel sales in the Netherlands and fuel consumption, which changes over time. The surplus of diesel sales is declining as part of the consumption takes place outside the Netherlands. For petrol, the figures for sales and consumption have been similar in recent years.

Gap between diesel sales and consumption mainly due to truck traffic
The gap between diesel sales and consumption is caused primarily by trucks and to a small extent by coaches. The study shows that several elements contribute to this gap. Transport companies often negotiate volume discounts on fuel, making refuelling in the Netherlands preferable. Many large carriers have their own pumps, making refuelling at their premises the most practical option. On the other hand, there is an excise duty refund scheme in Belgium that makes refuelling there considerably cheaper for carriers than refuelling in the Netherlands. This explains why the gap between diesel sales and consumption has narrowed over the past 10 years.

Based on these findings, we recommend that when calculating road traffic emissions, the Emissions Registry allocate the diesel surplus to freight traffic and coaches, taking into account the fact that especially new, cleaner vehicles frequently travel internationally.

Petrol sales and consumption very similar
The gap between petrol sold and consumed in the Netherlands is negligible. Passenger cars account for by far the largest share of petrol consumption. For other means of transportation that use petrol – mainly mopeds and motorcycles – the time and effort of refuelling across the border often outweighs the cost advantage. We therefore recommend allocating the gap between petrol sales and consumption to passenger car traffic when calculating road transport emissions.