August cross-border freight suggests continued economic rebound

October 28, 2020

Tyson Fisher


Month-to-month increases in cross-border freight began a streak in August as the economy continues to climb out of a hole created by the pandemic.

Compared to August 2019, cross-border freight was down more than 11% after a nearly identical decrease in July and a 21% decrease in June, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

However, the value of freight hauled across the borders increased by nearly 3% compared with July, when cross-border freight went up by 11% compared with the previous month. April’s monthly drop of 41% is the largest on record. However, June’s 46% increase is among the highest on record. Valued at more than $93 billion, total August North American freight is climbing out of values last seen more than a decade ago. In May, the value was about $56 billion, the lowest since the 2009 recession.

August cross-border freight marked the third consecutive monthly increase.

In 2019, cross-border freight decreased by 0.8% compared to the previous year, with 63% of that freight carried by trucks. This year’s historic decrease in April and May sets 2020 cross-border freight behind compared to this time last year.

August cross-border freight (trucks)
Truck cross-border freight value by state compared to July. Blue states denote an increase, while orange states denote a decrease. (Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

Trucks carried nearly $61 billion of the more than $93 billion of cross-border imports and exports in August, mostly unchanged from July and a decrease of 8% compared with August 2019.

Month-to-month, Canada truck freight increased by 6%, whereas Mexico truck freight dropped by 4%. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, motor vehicles and parts, electrical machinery, plastics, and measuring/testing instruments.

August cross-border freight totaled more than $93 billion, up more than $2 billion from the previous month but a decrease of nearly $12 billion from August 2019.

Pipeline freight accounted for the largest increase, at 15% after increasing by 46% in July. The smallest increase by mode came from trucking for the second straight month, followed by rail freight at 7%. All five major modes experienced an increase in cross-border freight in August, just as they did in July and June. However, increases have become smaller, signaling a slower growth rate over since June’s first monthly increase since the pandemic caused shutdown orders in March.

Nearly 60% of U.S.-Canada August cross-border freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at nearly 16%. Of the nearly $47 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried nearly 71% of the loads. LL

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Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.