Fleet Management

Trucking Posts Smallest Drop in Cross Border Freight Movements

March 25, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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Percent change in value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows by mode: January 2015-2016. Graphic: U.S. DOT
Percent change in value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows by mode: January 2015-2016. Graphic: U.S. DOT

Trucking posted the smallest decrease of the five major transportation modes when it came to the amount of freight moved between the U.S. and its North American Free Trade agreement partners of Canada and Mexico in January, according to new Transportation Department figures.

The value of commodities moving by truck slipped 1.5% as vessel freight fell 37.3%, pipeline plummeted 32.7%, air dropped 12.8% and rail fell 3.5%.

This happened as the total value of cross-border freight carried fell 7.7% in January from a year earlier, totaling $82.4 billion in current dollars. This followed a report from a few days earlier showing there was a 7.2% drop in such movements in 2015 from the year before.

A drop in the price of crude oil in 2015 played a key role in the large declines in the dollar value of goods shipped by vessel and pipeline, according to the report..

Despite these declines, trucks carried 66.5% of U.S.-NAFTA freight and continued to be the most heavily utilized mode for moving goods to and from both U.S.-NAFTA partners. Trucks accounted for $28.4 billion of the $44.6 billion of imports, or 63.7%, and $26.4 billion of the $37.9 billion of exports, or 69.7%. Rail remained the second largest mode by value, moving 15.2% of all U.S.-NAFTA freight,

The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 86.4% of the total value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows.

Canada Freight Falls By Double Digits

From January 2015 to January 2016, the value of U.S.-Canada freight flows fell 12.7% to $42 billion as all modes of transportation carried a lower value of U.S.-Canada freight than a year earlier.

The DOT said lower crude oil prices contributed to the decline, with a large share carried by vessel and pipeline, which were down year-over-year 42.5% and 34.2%, respectively.

Trucks carried 60.5% of the value of the freight to and from Canada, but the total was down 4% from January 2015, primarily because of a 9.3% decline in the value of U.S. exports to Canada by truck.

The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Canada by all modes was vehicles and parts, of which $4.6 billion, or 59.7%, moved by truck and $2.9 billion, or 37.8%, moved by rail.

Mexico Freight Down Less

From January 2015 to January 2016, the value of U.S.-Mexico freight fell 1.8% to $40.5 billion as three out of the five transportation modes (air, truck and rail) carried more U.S.-Mexico freight value than in January 2015.

Freight carried by rail increased by 8.2%. Truck freight value rose 0.7% while air freight value increased 0.6%. Vessel and pipeline freight dropped, due mainly to lower crude oil prices.

Trucks carried 72.6% of the value of freight to and from Mexico. The total was up because the 4% percent growth in U.S. imports by truck outweighed the decline in exports, according to the DOT.

The top commodity category for all modes transported between the U.S. and Mexico in January 2016 was electrical machinery, of which $7.2 billion, or 91.5%, moved by truck.

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