Cross-border freight sees first yearly increase since beginning of pandemic

February 23, 2021

Tyson Fisher


In December, cross-border freight increased year-to-year for the first time since the pandemic began causing disruptions last March, but trucking took a hit compared to the previous month.

Compared to December 2019, cross-border freight was up 0.4% after a 3.2% decrease in November and a 4.7% decline in October, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That marks the first year-to-year increase since last February, just before the nation began implementing lockdowns due to the pandemic.

The value of freight hauled across national borders rose by nearly 1% compared with November, when cross-border freight went down by more than 6% 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.

December’s yearly increase for cross-border freight is the first since last February, when North American freight rose by 2%.

Over the past several years, December has fluctuated between increases and decreases, with a 4% increase in 2019, preceded by a 1% decrease in 2018, 7.4% increase in 2017, 1% decrease in 2016 and an 8.4% decrease in 2015.

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

Trucks carried nearly $61 billion of the nearly $97 billion of cross-border imports and exports in December, a 3.5% decrease from November but an increase of nearly 6% compared with December 2019.

Month-to-month, Canada truck freight decreased by 3%, whereas Mexico truck freight went down by nearly 4%. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, motor vehicles and parts, electrical machinery, plastics, and measuring/testing instruments.

December’s cross-border freight total of nearly $97 billion is up $885 million from the previous month and increased more than $400 million from December 2019.

All modes except truck freight experienced an increase, with vessel freight having the largest increase at 22%.

Nearly 56% of U.S.-Canada November cross-border freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at nearly 16%. Of the more than $49 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried 69% 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.