Fleet Management

Cross-Border Truck Freight Rises, Overall Value Declines

April 28, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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

Trucking was only one of two transportation modes that carried more U.S. freight by value with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico in February than a year ago, increasing 4.7%.

New figures from the Department of Transportation show, however, that the total value of cross-border freight carried on all modes fell 2%. This compares to a year-over-year decline of 7.7% in January and is 4.9% lower in the first two months of the year than during the same time in 2015.

The value of commodities moving by rail increased 6%, the largest year-over-year gain of any mode, mainly due to an increase in imports of vehicles and parts, the largest commodity carried by rail. The freight modes of air, pipeline, and vessel saw declines of 1.7%, 35.6%, and 41%, respectively.

According to DOT, the drop in the price of crude oil in 2015-2016 played a key role in the large declines in the dollar value of goods shipped by vessel and pipeline, comprising a large share of the commodities carried by the two modes.

Trucks carried 67.4% of U.S.-NAFTA freight and continued to be the most heavily utilized mode for moving goods to and from the U.S. with both Canada and Mexico. It accounted for 65.1% of the $45 billion in imports and 70% of the $39 billion in exports.

Total cross-border truck freight value saw an 8.8% surge in imports while exports inched upward by 0.6% from a year earlier.

Rail remained the second largest mode by value, moving 15.6% of all U.S.-NAFTA freight.

U.S.-Canada Truck Movements Increase 1.4%

In February, compared to a year earlier, the value of U.S.-Canada freight flows fell 5.5% to $42.6 billion even as two modes of transportation, rail and truck, carried a higher value of U.S.-Canada freight than a year earlier.

The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Canada by all modes was vehicles and parts, of which $4.9 billion, or 56.2%, moved by truck.

Trucks carried 61.5% of the value of the freight to and from Canada while rail carried 16.6%.

Overall, U.S. Canada truck trade activity by value increased by 1.4%, with imports climbing 9.4% and exports falling 4.5%.

Truck Freight Flows With Mexico Grow Nearly 8%

In contrast, the value of U.S.-Mexico freight grew 2% as truck, rail, and air carried more freight by value between the two countries than in February 2015.

Freight carried by truck increased 7.7%, rail freight value rose 4.7% while air freight value increased 1.2%. Vessel and pipeline freight value both posted declines due mainly to lower crude oil prices, according to DOT.

The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Mexico by all modes in February was vehicles and parts, of which $3.5 billion, or 44.7% moved by rail.

Total truck trade activity by value with Mexico saw imports increasing 8.4% and exports adding 6.7%.

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