Cross-border freight in May experiences largest yearly drop on record

July 22, 2020

Tyson Fisher

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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in May trucks moved nearly 70% of April cross-border freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. Cross-border freight experienced its largest yearly decrease amid the COVID-19 pandemic, beating the previous record set just one month prior.

Compared to May 2019, freight was down 49% after a 41% year-to-year decrease in April and an 8% decrease in March.

May cross-border freight marks the largest year-to-year drop in transborder freight by value since records began.

The value of freight hauled across the borders decreased by 3.5% compared with April, when cross-border freight went down by more than 41% compared with the previous month. April’s monthly drop is the largest on record. Valued at more than $56 billion, total May cross-border freight is the lowest it has been since May 2009.

In 2019, transborder 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.

Trucking cross-border freight in May 2020
Truck cross-border freight value by state compared to April. Blue states denote an increase, while orange states denote a decrease. (Courtesy Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

Trucks carried more than $39 billion of the more than $56 billion of cross-border imports and exports in May, up nearly 2% from April but a decrease of more than 43% compared with May 2019.

Month-to-month, Canada truck freight increased by more than 10%, whereas Mexico freight dropped by nearly 6%. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, motor vehicles and parts, electrical machinery, plastics, and measuring/testing instruments.

May cross-border freight totaled nearly $56.1 billion, down by more than $2 billion from the previous month and a massive decrease of nearly $54 billion from May 2019.

Pipeline freight accounted for the largest decrease at 32% after decreasing by 32% in April. Air and truck freight were the only modes to experience an increase in cross-border freight in May. Airfreight increased by 1.5%, and truck freight was up 1.6%.

Nearly 64% of U.S.-Canada May cross-border freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at more than 5%. Of the more than $25 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried more than 77% of the loads.

Tyson Fisher

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.