September NAFTA freight marks largest decrease since December 2017

November 20, 2018

Tyson Fisher


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in September trucks moved more than 62 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 fifth consecutive month.

However, the value of freight hauled across the borders decreased by nearly 5 percent compared with August, when freight increased by nearly 6 percent from the previous month. This is the largest month-to-month decrease since December 2017, when NAFTA freight dropped by more than 7 percent. Compared to September 2017, freight was up nearly 8 percent. This marks the 23rd 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 September so far.

September NAFTA freight map
Truck NAFTA 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 $63 billion of the nearly $102 billion of imports and exports in September.

Year-to-year, Canada truck freight increased by 5.1 percent and Mexico freight rose by 10.4 percent. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, electrical machinery, motor vehicles and parts, plastics and measuring/testing instruments.

Freight totaled $101.63 billion, down more than $5 billion from the previous month but an increase of more than $7 billion from September 2017.

Vessel freight accounted for the largest increase at 34.2 percent after an increase of 59.7 percent in August. Trucks accounted for an increase of 4.2 percent, the smallest increase among the different modes. Truck freight experienced increases of 5.7 percent in August and 11.2 percent in July.

Approximately 56 percent of U.S.-Canada freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at 16.3 percent. Of the $50.6 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried 68.4 percent 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.