Drivers

Economic Watch: NAFTA Surface Trade Hits Record High

January 07, 2014

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U.S. trade with its North American Free Trade Agreement partners, Canada and Mexico, amounted to $103.1 billion in October, up 4.5% from the same time a year earlier and exceeded $100 billion for the first month on record, according to new U.S. Department of Transportation figures.

Total surface transportation trade, comprised of truck, rail and pipeline, hit an all-time high in October, of $85.4 billion. Trucks at $61.4 billion and rail at $15.9 billion, also reached record monthly levels.

Pipelines showed the most year-to-year growth at 23.7%. The increase in the value of freight carried by pipelines reflects the rise in prices for oil and other petroleum products, the primary commodity transported by pipelines.

Percent change in value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows by mode: October 2013 compared to October 2012.
Percent change in value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows by mode: October 2013 compared to October 2012.

Trucks, which carry three-fifths of U.S.-NAFTA trade and is the most heavily utilized mode for moving goods to and from both U.S.-NAFTA partners, rose 3.1% in October from a year earlier, while rail rose 7.1%. Vessel declined 3.6% and air declined 1% during the same time.

Trucks carried 59.5% of the $103.1 billion of U.S.-NAFTA trade in October 2013, accounting for $32.3 billion of exports and $29 billion of imports. It was followed by rail at 15.4%, vessels at 8.8%, pipeline at 7.8% and air at 3.8%. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 82.8% of total NAFTA freight flows.

Trade with Canada

Freight moved by truck between the U.S. and Canada grew the least of any mode, increasing 0.7% however, U.S.-Canada trade by vessel, of which 63.3% was imported, had the largest percentage increase of any mode from October 2012 to October 2013, growing 40.2%.

For trade with Canada in October, trucks carried 53.5% of the $56.7 billion of freight, followed by rail at 16.5%, pipelines at 13.7%, vessel at 6% and air at 4.5%. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 83.8% of the total U.S.-Canada freight flows.  

Trade with Mexico

U.S.-Mexico trade by rail had the largest percentage increase of any mode from October 2012 to October 2013, growing 10.9%. For trade with Mexico in October, trucks carried 66.9% of the $46.4 billion of the freight, followed by rail at 14.1%, vessel at 12.2%, air at 3% and pipelines at 0.7%. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 81.6% of the total U.S.-Mexico freight flows.  

Commodities

In October 2013, the top commodity group transported between the U.S. and Canada was mineral fuels, of which $7.8 billion moved by pipeline. The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Mexico in October 2013 was electrical machinery, of which $8.2 billion moved by truck.

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