Truck cross-border freight dipped in July, still way up from a year ago

September 28, 2021

Tyson Fisher


Despite declining from an all-time high in June, July still raked in the highest value of cross-border freight for that month on record, although truck freight took a monthly hit.

Compared to July 2020, cross-border freight rose by more than 22% after a 41% increase in June and a 94% increase in May, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. May’s year-to-year increase was the largest by percentage since the U.S. Department of Transportation began compiling numbers in 1993. Conversely, last May North American freight dropped by nearly 49%. That was the largest annual decrease on record.

The value of freight hauled across national borders decreased by 4% compared with June, when cross-border freight went up by nearly 7% compared with the previous month. In the past 20 years, cross-border freight in July has decreased 18 times when compared to the previous month. Freight rose last year as the country recovered from pandemic-induced shutdowns and in 2009 when the nation was beginning to rebound from the Great Recession.

Cross-border freight map (trucks)
Truck cross-border freight value by state compared to June. Blue states denote an increase, while orange states denote a decrease. (Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

Like nearly every other mode, trucking cross-border freight in July was down.

Trucks carried nearly $69 billion of the more than $111 billion of imports and exports in July, a 5% decrease from June. Compared to a year ago, truck freight was up 13%.

Month-to-month, Canada truck freight decreased by more than 8%, whereas Mexico truck freight went down by 2.5%. Top truck commodities were computer-related machinery/parts (down 3%), electrical machinery/equipment and parts (up 0.5%), vehicles other than railway (down 10%), plastics/articles (down 3%) and measuring/testing instruments (down 5%).

July’s cross-border freight total of more than $111 billion is down by nearly $5 billion from the previous month, but it increased significantly by more than $20 billion from July 2020. June’s total value of nearly $116 set a new record high for North American freight by value, previously set in March at nearly $115 billion, indicating a return to a pre-pandemic economy.

All modes except vessel experienced a month-to-month decrease. Trucking freight and airfreight suffered the biggest loss with a 5% decrease each. However, vessel freight increased by more than 3%.

Nearly 54% of U.S.-Canada July cross-border freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at more than 16%. Of the nearly $56 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried nearly 70% of the loads. LL