Fleet Management

Cross-Border Freight Value Up for Third Straight Month

March 23, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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The year started out with trucking and the other four major transportation modes carrying more freight by value with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico in January than compared to a year earlier, according to new Transportation Department figures.

U.S.-NAFTA freight totaled $88 billion in current dollars as the 6.7% rise from January 2016 was the largest year-over-year increase since the September 2014. It was also the third straight month in which the year-over-year value of U.S.-NAFTA freight increased from the same month of the previous year.

The value of commodities moving by truck posted the smallest gain, just 0.4%, while pipeline increased 42.7%, vessel by 41.8%, air by 13.7%, and rail by 5.5%, The large increases for pipeline and vessel was largely due to a 66% increase in the year-over-year price of crude oil between January 2016 and January 2017, according to the department.

Percent change in value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows by mode: January 2016-2017. Graphic: U.S. DOT
Percent change in value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows by mode: January 2016-2017. Graphic: U.S. DOT

Trucks carried 62.5% 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 $28.2 billion of the $47.8 billion of imports, or 59.1%, and $26.8 billion of the $40.2 billion of exports, or 66.6%.

Rail remained the second largest mode by value, moving 15% of all U.S.-NAFTA freight, followed by vessel, 7%; pipeline, 6.4%; and air, 3.9%. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 84% of the total value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows

U.S.-Canada Freight Value Jumps More Than 7 Percent

From January 2016 to January 2017, the value of U.S.-Canada freight flows increased by 7.1% to $45 billion as the value of freight on five major modes increased from a year earlier.

The value of freight carried by truck increased just 0.5% while pipeline increased by 44%, air by 17%, vessel by 13%, and rail by 8.5%.

Trucks carried 56.8% of the value of the freight to and from Canada while rail carried 16.1%.

The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Canada by all modes was vehicles and parts, of which $4.6 billion, or 57.3%, moved by truck and $3.2 billion, or 40.1%, moved by rail.

U.S.-Mexico Freight Increases Nearly As Much

The value of U.S.-Mexico freight flows in January compared to a year earlier increased by 6.3% to $43 billion as the value of freight on five major modes increased from a year earlier.

The value of commodities moved by increased just 0.3% while vessel increased by 58.9%, pipeline by 26.4%, air by 8.6%, and rail by 2.1%.

Trucks carried 68.6% of the value of the freight to and from Mexico while rail carried 13.9% of the value of freight to and from Mexico .

The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Mexico by all modes in January 2017 was electrical machinery, of which $7.4 billion, or 91.4%, moved by truck.

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