Cross-border truck freight down slightly in September

November 20, 2019

Tyson Fisher


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in September trucks moved 63% of NAFTA freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. Cross-border freight value is up for the year so far, down slightly compared to this time last year and down significantly compared to the previous month.

The value of freight hauled across the borders decreased by 3.5% compared with August, when freight increased by 2.6% from the previous month.

Compared to September 2018, freight was down 0.2% after a 1.7% year-to-year decrease in August and a 1.2% increase in July. December’s decrease last year broke a 25-month streak of year-to-year increases. The last year-to-year decrease before that occurred in October 2016. Since December, there have been four year-to-year decreases.

In 2018, NAFTA freight decreased by 1% compared to the previous year, with 62% of that freight carried by trucks. September’s monthly decrease still puts cross-border freight at a 9% increase for the year so far.

September trucking cross-border freight
Truck cross-border freight value by state compared to August. Blue states denote an increase, while orange states denote a decrease. (Courtesy Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

Trucks carried nearly $64 billion of the more than $101 billion of cross-border imports and exports in September, down 3.1% from August but up 1.1% compared with September 2018.

Year-to-year, Canada truck freight increased by 1.1%, whereas Mexico freight increased by 1.2%. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, motor vehicles and parts, electrical machinery, plastics, and measuring/testing instruments.

Freight totaled $101.4 billion, down nearly $4 billion from the previous month and a decrease of nearly $200 million from September 2018. This is the lowest NAFTA value in 2019 since February, when cross-border freight was only $94.2 billion.

Vessel freight accounted for the largest decrease, at 12.3% after a decrease of 11.5% in August. Rail freight was the only other mode with a year-to-year decrease at 2%. Air freight experienced the highest increase for the third consecutive month at 8.6%.

More than 56% of U.S.-Canada freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at 15.6%. Of the more than $50 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried 70% of the loads.