Cross-border freight hauled by trucks snaps three-year growth streak

February 26, 2024

Tyson Fisher


Nearly three years of continuous growth in cross-border freight hauled by trucks was snapped in December, with North American freight down modestly.

According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, truck freight valued at more than $73 billion was hauled across the borders in December. That is a decrease of nearly 11% from November and represents a decline of nearly 1% compared to December 2022.

The last time trucking cross-border freight experienced a year-to-year decrease was in February 2021. Since then, it has seen a 33-month streak of increases before December’s drop. The 11% month-to-month decline is the largest drop since the pandemic, when North American freight dropped by 38.5% in April 2020 compared to the previous month.

Cross-border freight hauled by trucks across the U.S. northern border rose by more than 1% compared to December 2022. At the southern border, the value of freight decreased by 2.5%.

The top three truck commodities at the northern border were computers/parts ($5.6 billion, up 5.5%), vehicles/parts ($4.6 billion, down 4.2%) and electrical machinery ($2.3 billion, up 1.1%). At the Mexican border, top commodities include electrical machinery ($8.9 billion, down 3%), computers/parts ($8.5 billion, down 10%) and vehicles/parts ($6 billion, up 1.8%).

By weight, cross-border freight hauled by trucks went down by 5% compared to the previous year and decreased by 12% compared to November. Year-to-year, North American truck freight by weight has increased only three times since July 2022.

Top Canadian commodities for trucking by weight include wood (up 7%), vehicles (down 1%) and iron/steel (up 11%). In Mexico, the top three commodities are edible vegetables/roots (down 9%), vehicles (down 4%) and edible fruits/nuts (down 18%).

Accounting for all modes of transportation, the total value of cross-border freight reached nearly $122 billion in December. That is a decrease of 0.1% compared to the previous year and a loss of more than 7% compared to the previous month.

December’s year-to-year decline disrupts a two-month gain in October and November, which ended a seven-month losing streak. In 2023, cross-border freight dropped in eight months, including a seven-month streak that started in March. Prior to that, North American freight saw a two-year growth streak.

Canadian freight was up nearly 1% compared to the previous year, whereas Mexican freight dropped by 1%.

By weight, freight crossing the borders went up by nearly 6% compared to December 2022 but was down by nearly 2% compared to November.

Three of the five modes showed a decrease in freight value in December when compared to the previous year. Pipeline freight and airfreight both went down by 10% in addition to the trucking decline. Vessel freight was up 7%, and rail freight increased by nearly 3%. LL