October NAFTA freight hits largest month-to-month increase since March

January 4, 2019

Chuck Robinson


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in October trucks moved more than 63 percent of NAFTA freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. All five modes experienced an increase in freight year-to-year for the sixth consecutive month.

The value of freight hauled across the borders increased by 9 percent compared with September, when freight decreased by nearly 5 percent from the previous month. This is the largest month-to-month increase since March, when NAFTA freight rose by nearly 13 percent. Compared to October 2017, freight was up more than 10 percent. This marks the 24th consecutive month of year-to-year increases.

In 2017, March had the largest month-to-month increase (16 percent) since March 2011, when NAFTA freight was up more than 22 percent compared to February 2011. NAFTA freight declined by nearly 11 percent in July 2017, the largest decline for the year.

In March 2017, the index reached more than $100 billion for the first time since October 2014 before going back below that mark in April. That landmark was revisited in October 2017 and maintained through November 2017 before dipping below the $100 billion mark again in December. March marked the first month in 2018 to reach beyond $100 million, which has been maintained through at least October so far.

Map-chart showing truck NAFTA value by state
Truck NAFTA value by state compared to September. Blue states denote an increase, while orange states denote a decrease. (Courtesy Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

Trucks carried more than $70 billion of the nearly $111 billion of imports and exports in October.

Year-to-year, Canada truck freight increased by 9 percent and Mexico freight rose by 11.3 percent. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, electrical machinery, motor vehicles and parts, plastics and measuring/testing instruments.

Freight totaled $110.8 billion, up more than $9 billion from the previous month and an increase of more than $10 billion from October 2017.

Vessel freight accounted for the largest increase at 33.8 percent after an increase of 34.2 percent in September. Trucks accounted for an increase of 9 percent, the second smallest increase among the different modes next to rail at 4 percent. Truck freight experienced increases of 4.2 percent in September and 5.7 percent in August.

Nearly 57 percent of U.S.-Canada freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at 16.1 percent. Of the $56.6 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried nearly 70 percent of the loads.


Chuck Robinson formerly was senior copy editor for a weekly trade publication serving the fresh produce industry. He has served trade publications, horticultural journals and community newspapers for 25 years.