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

July 22, 2020

Tyson Fisher


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 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.