November NAFTA freight worst monthly loss in nearly one year

January 28, 2020

Tyson Fisher


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in November trucks moved more than 63% of NAFTA freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. November NAFTA freight suffered the worst month-to-month loss of the year.

The value of freight hauled across the borders decreased by 7.5% compared with October, when NAFTA freight went up by 5.6% compared with the previous month. November NAFTA’s monthly decrease is the largest since December 2018, when cross-border freight went down by more than 10%.

Compared to November 2018, freight was down 3.9% after a 3.3% year-to-year decrease in October and a 0.2% decrease in September. November NAFTA’s decrease continues the first streak of year-to-year decreases since 2016. August 2016 broke a long year-to-year decline streak that began in January 2015 and lasted through July 2016.

In 2018, NAFTA freight decreased by 1% compared to the previous year, with 62% of that freight carried by trucks. November’s monthly decrease still puts cross-border freight at a 7% increase for the year so far.

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

Trucks carried nearly $63 billion of the more than $99 billion of cross-border imports and exports in November, down more than 8% from October and down more than 4% compared with November 2018.

Year-to-year, Canada truck freight decreased by nearly 2%, whereas Mexico freight decreased by 6%. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, motor vehicles and parts, electrical machinery, plastics, and measuring/testing instruments.

November NAFTA freight totaled $99 billion, down significantly by more than $8 billion from the previous month and a decrease of more than $4 billion from November 2018. This is the first time since February 2019 that NAFTA freight dipped below $100 billion, and only the third time total for the year.

Pipeline freight accounted for the largest decrease at 7.6% after a decrease of 2% in October. Vessel freight was up 4.5% after suffering from the largest decrease (9%) in October.

Nearly 58% of U.S.-Canada November NAFTA freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at 15%. Of the more than $50 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried nearly 69% of the loads.