Cross-border freight remains near record high levels in August

October 26, 2021

Tyson Fisher


Total cross-border freight experienced its sixth consecutive year-to-year increase in August, with trucking freight seeing a modest increase compared to July.

Compared to August 2020, cross-border freight rose by 21% after a 22% increase in July and a 41% increase in June, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. May’s year-to-year increase of 94% was the largest by percentage since the U.S. Department of Transportation began compiling numbers in 1993. Conversely, last May North American freight dropped by nearly 49%. That was the largest annual decrease on record.

The value of freight hauled across national borders increased by nearly 2% compared with July, when cross-border freight went down by 4% compared with the previous month. In the past 20 years, cross-border freight in August has increased 16 times when compared to the previous month. August freight decreased in 2015, 2014, 2008 (recession year) and 2002.

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

Trucking cross-border freight was one of only two modes that experienced a month-to-month increase in August.

Trucks carried nearly $71 billion of the more than $113 billion of imports and exports in August, a nearly 3% increase from July. Compared to a year ago, truck freight was up 16%.

Month-to-month, Canada truck freight increased by more than 2%, whereas Mexico truck freight went up by more than 3%. Top truck commodities were computer-related machinery/parts (up 0.5%), electrical machinery/equipment and parts (up 4.4%), vehicles other than railway (up 9.2%), plastics/articles (up 3.9%) and measuring/testing instruments (up 2.6%).

August’s cross-border freight total of more than $113 billion is up by nearly $2 billion from the previous month, and it increased significantly by nearly $20 billion from August 2020. June’s total value of nearly $116 billion set a new record high for North American freight by value, previously set in March at nearly $115 billion, indicating a return to a pre-pandemic economy.

All modes except trucking and pipeline experienced a month-to-month decrease. Rail freight and airfreight suffered the biggest loss with a 2% decrease each, followed by vessel freight with a 0.5% drop. Pipeline freight increased by more than 7%.

Nearly 54% of U.S.-Canada August cross-border freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at more than 15%. Of the more than $56 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried nearly 71% of the loads. LL

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.