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Cross-Border Freight Value Increases for Ninth Straight Month

October 4, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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U.S.-NAFTA freight value percent change from previous year, July 2017. Graphic: U.S. DOT
U.S.-NAFTA freight value percent change from previous year, July 2017. Graphic: U.S. DOT

Trucking along with the other four major freight modes moved more cargo by value with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico in July when compared to a year ago, according to new Transportation Department figures.

The 6.5% overall rise from July 2016 is the ninth consecutive month in which the year-over-year value in current dollars of U.S.-NAFTA freight increased from the same month of the previous year, but it also marked the slowest improvement since April.

The value of commodities moved by truck increased 4%, less than the 24% gain by vessel, the 23.1% improvement by pipeline, and slightly higher than the 4.4% gain by rail. However, it was better than air, which rose just 2.3%

The large percentage increase in the value of goods moving by vessel and pipeline was due in part to an increase in the volume of mineral fuel imports, according to the report.

Trucks carried 63.2% of U.S.-NAFTA freight and continued to be the most utilized mode for moving goods to and from both U.S.-NAFTA partners. They accounted for $28.9 billion of the $47.6 billion of imports, or 60.7%, and $27.5 billion of the $41.6 billion of exports, or 66.2%.

Rail remained the second largest mode by value, moving 15.1% of all U.S.-NAFTA freight, followed by vessel, 7.1%; pipeline, 5.6%; 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 Advances 5.6%

From July 2016 to July 2017, the value of U.S.-Canada freight flows increased by 5.6% to $44.8 billion as the value of freight on four major modes increased from a year earlier. The value of freight carried on vessel increased by 29.7%, pipeline by 26.7%, rail by 4.7%, and truck by 2.5%. Air decreased by 1.3%.

In July 2017, the top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Canada was mineral fuels, of which $4.7 billion, or 65.5%, moved by pipeline.

Trucks carried 57.9% of the value of the freight to and from Canada. Rail carried 15.6% followed by pipeline, 10.6%; air, 4.6%; and vessel, 4.5%. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 84.1% of the value of total U.S.-Canada freight flows.

U.S.-Mexico Freight Increases Even More

The value of U.S.-Mexico freight flows increased by 7.4% to $44.4 billion as the value of freight on four major modes increased from a year earlier. The value of commodities moved by vessel increased by 21.5%, air by 8.4%, truck by 5.4%, and rail by 4.2%. Pipeline decreased by 16.1%

Trucks carried 68.6% of the value of freight to and from Mexico. Rail carried 14.6% followed by vessel, 9.7%; air, 3.1%; and pipeline, 0.6%. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 83.9% of the value of total U.S.-Mexico freight flows.

The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Mexico in July 2017 was vehicles and parts, of which $4.1 billion or 49.6% moved by truck and $3.6 billion or 42.7% moved by rail.

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