Cross-border freight drops in March, snapping three-year growth trend

May 23, 2024

Tyson Fisher


Bucking a three-year trend, cross-border freight hauled by trucks took a dip in March, the first year-to-year drop in March since the pandemic first hit in 2020.

According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, truck freight valued at more than $86 billion was hauled across the borders in March. That was an increase of 3% from February but represented a decrease of 4.5% compared to March 2023.

March’s year-to-year decrease was only the third over the past three years and was the largest since August 2020, when cross-border freight went down by 8%. Trucking freight across North America has been trending upward since November 2020, with only two other decreases since then: a 2% decrease in February 2021 and a 1% decrease in December 2023.

Cross-border freight hauled by trucks across the U.S. northern border dropped by nearly 5% compared to March 2023. At the southern border, the value of freight decreased by 4.5%.

The top three truck commodities at the northern border were computers/parts ($6.5 billion, down 3%), vehicles/parts ($5.5 billion, up 0.5%) and electrical machinery ($2.6 billion, down 0.3%). At the Mexican border, top commodities included electrical machinery ($10.4 billion, down 7%), computers/parts ($10.4 billion, up 4%) and vehicles/parts ($7.1 billion, down 4%).

By weight, cross-border freight hauled by trucks went down by 5% compared to the previous year but increased by 4% compared to February. Year-to-year, North American truck freight by weight has increased only five times since July 2022.

Top Canadian commodities for trucking by weight included wood (down 2%), vehicles (up 9%) and iron/steel (down 11%). In Mexico, the top three commodities were edible vegetables/roots (down 4%), vehicles (down 5%) and edible fruits/nuts (down 6%).

Accounting for all modes of transportation, the total value of cross-border freight reached nearly $134 billion in March. That was a decrease of 6% compared to the previous year but a gain of 4% compared to the previous month.

March’s year-to-year decrease continues a downward trend that began a year ago. In 2023, cross-border freight dropped in eight months, including a seven-month streak that started in March. However, the value of North American freight has increased three times since October.

Canadian freight was down 6% compared to the previous year, whereas Mexican freight dropped by 5%.

By weight, freight crossing the borders went down by 5% compared to March 2023 but increased by 5% compared to February.

All modes of freight transportation experienced a drop in freight by value in March compared to the previous year: pipeline down 15%, airfreight down 14%, vessel down 5% and rail down 0.4%. LL