NAFTA freight experiences largest monthly increase in two years

May 29, 2019

Tyson Fisher


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in March trucks moved 63% of NAFTA freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. All modes except air freight experienced a year-to-year increase.

The value of freight hauled across the borders increased by 13.8% compared with February, when freight decreased by 1.5% from the previous month. March marks the largest month-to-month increase since March 2017 when freight was up 16% from February 2017.

Compared to March 2018, freight was up 1.4% following a slight increase in February and back-to-back yearly decreases in January and December. December’s decrease broke a 25-month streak of year-to-year increases. The last year-to-year decrease before that occurred in October 2016.

In 2018, NAFTA freight increased by more than 7% compared to the previous year, with 63% of that freight carried by trucks. March’s significant increase takes NAFTA out of the red for the year so far with a 0.2% increase since January.

March 2019 NAFTA map
Truck NAFTA value by state compared to February. Blue states denote an increase, while orange states denote a decrease. (Courtesy Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

Trucks carried more than $67 billion of the more than $107 billion of imports and exports in March.

Year-to-year, Canada truck freight decreased by 0.4%, whereas Mexico freight rose by nearly 3%. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, motor vehicles and parts, electrical machinery, plastics, and measuring/testing instruments.

Freight totaled $107.23 billion, up more than $13 billion from the previous month and an increase of more than $1 billion from March 2018. This marks the first time this year NAFTA freight totaled more than $100 billion, and the highest it has been since October when NAFTA freight totaled $110.796 billion.

Pipeline freight accounted for the largest increase at 8.6% after a decrease of 6% in February. Vessel had the second highest increase at 2.9%, followed by trucks with a 1.3% increase. Truck freight experienced increases of 1.3% in February and 4.1% in January. Air freight had the only decrease at 4% after reporting an increase of 0.6% in February.

Approximately 57% of U.S.-Canada freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at 6%. Of the more than $53 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried 68.5% 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.