NAFTA freight rebounds in February after two months of losses

May 20, 2019

Tyson Fisher


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in February trucks moved 64% of NAFTA freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. Three of five modes, including trucks, experienced a year-to-year increase.

The value of freight hauled across the borders decreased by 1.5% compared with January, when freight increased by more than 3% from the previous month.

Compared to February 2018, freight was up only 0.2% after 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. So far, NAFTA freight is down 0.4% for the year, with trucks hauling 65% of cross-border freight.

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

Trucks carried more than $60 billion of the more than $94 billion of imports and exports in February.

Year-to-year, Canada truck freight decreased by more than 2%, 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 $94.189 billion, down more than $1.4 billion from the previous month but an increase of more than $200 million from February 2018.

Vessel freight accounted for the largest increase at 5.2% after an increase of 0.7% in January. Trucks had the second highest increase at 1.3%. Truck freight experienced increases of 4% in January and 1% in December. Pipeline freight had the largest decrease at 6% after reporting a significant decrease of 42% in January.

Approximately 58% of U.S.-Canada freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at 6%. Of the nearly $48 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried more than 70% of the loads.