Fleet Management

NAFTA Freight Value Up for Only Second Time in Nearly 2 Years

January 19, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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U.S.-NAFTA freight value percent change from the previous year, over the last 24 months. Graphic: U.S DOT
U.S.-NAFTA freight value percent change from the previous year, over the last 24 months. Graphic: U.S DOT

Newly released figures show the value of cross-border freight moved between the U.S. and its neighbors directly to the north and south increased in November for the only the second time in nearly two years, but trucking had the smallest gain.

According to the U.S. Transportation Department, $91.1 billion in freight moved between here and North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico, a 3.3% increase from November 2015. This follow declines in September and October and a small hike in August, the first year-over-year improvement since December 2014.

The overall November gain was seen in all five major transportation modes with trucking seeing the smallest hike, just 0.6%. The value of commodities moving by pipeline increased 30.6%; vessel by 12.5%; air by 6.2%, and rail by 5.1%. These five modes carried 85.1% of the total value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows.

Trucks carried 64.5% 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 $30.7 billion of the $49.8 billion of imports, or 61.6%, and $28 billion of the $41.3 billion of exports, or 67.8%. Rail remained the second largest mode by value, moving 15.3% of all U.S.-NAFTA freight.

U.S. Canada Freight Value Jumps Due to Higher Oil Prices

From November 2015 to November 2016, the value of U.S.-Canada freight flows increased by 2.2% to $46.1 billion as the value of freight on three modes increased from a year earlier. The value of freight carried on pipeline increased by 30.1%, reflecting the increased value of mineral fuels, especially crude oil. Air increased by 6.3%, and rail by 0.6%.

Truck decreased by 0.1% and vessel by 3.3%. During this 12-month period, much of the mineral fuel freight between Texas and Canada shifted from vessel to pipeline as the value of mineral fuel shipments carried by vessel between Texas and Canada decreased while the value of pipeline shipments rose. Texas-Canada mineral fuel trade made up about 15.6% of all U.S.-Canada mineral fuel shipments in November 2016.

Trucks carried 59% of the value of the freight to and from Canada while rail carried 16%. The top commodity category transported between the two counties by all modes was vehicles and parts, of which $5 billion, or 56.6%, moved by truck.

Mexico Freight Flows Jump 4.5 Percent

Meantime, to the south, the value of U.S.-Mexico freight flows increased by 4.5% to $45 billion in November from a year earlier as the value of freight on all five major modes increased.

The value of goods moved by pipeline increased by 37.3%, vessel by 20.6%, rail by 10.6%, air by 6%, and truck by 1.2%.

Trucks carried 70.1% of the value of the freight to and from Mexico while rail carried 14.6%. The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Mexico by all modes in November 2016 was electrical machinery, of which $8.5 billion, or 92.6%, moved by truck.

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