Cross-border freight in October marks fifth straight increase

January 7, 2021

Tyson Fisher


October’s cross-border freight continued a month-to-month streak but remains lower compared to last year, albeit a much lower yearly decline than in previous months.

Compared to October 2019, cross-border freight was down 4.7% after a 4.9% decrease in September and an 11% decline in August, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That marks the lowest year-to-year decrease since North American freight began to drastically decrease in March, bringing numbers closer to pre-pandemic levels.

The value of freight hauled across national borders increased by nearly 6% compared with September, when cross-border freight went up by more than 3% 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 $102 billion, the last time October North American freight was valued lower was as recently as 2017, when it was valued at $100.6 billion. In May, the value was about $56 billion, the lowest since the 2009 recession.

October cross-border freight marks the fifth 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.

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

Trucks carried nearly $68 billion of the more than $102 billion of cross-border imports and exports in October, a 7% increase from September, but a decrease of less than 1% compared with October 2019.

Month-to-month, Canada truck freight increased by 2%, whereas Mexico truck freight went up by nearly 11%. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, motor vehicles and parts, electrical machinery, plastics, and measuring/testing instruments.

October cross-border freight totaled more than $102 billion, up nearly $6 billion from the previous month but a decrease of $5 billion from October 2019.

All modes except pipeline freight experienced an increase, with airfreight leading the way with a nearly 10% increase. Truck freight was close behind at 7%, followed by a 5% increase in vessel freight. Pipeline freight was down 2%.

Nearly 60% of U.S.-Canada October cross-border freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at nearly 16%. Of the nearly $54 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried 72% of the loads. LL

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.