Truck NAFTA value reaches highest in at least 12 years

May 22, 2018

Tyson Fisher


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in March trucks moved more than 63 percent of NAFTA freight – with trains, planes, ships and pipelines picking up the rest. Four of five modes experienced an increase in freight year to year. By value, trucks carried the most cross-border since at least January 2006.

The value of freight hauled across the borders rose significantly by 12.6 percent compared with February, when freight dropped by nearly 3 percent from the previous month. Compared to March 2017, freight was up 5.5 percent. This marks the 17th consecutive month of year-to-year increases.

March 2017 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 and maintained through November before dipping below the $100 billion mark again in December. March marks the first month in 2018 to reach beyond $100 million.

August, November and December were the only months to have a year-to-year increase in 2016, at 0.7 percent, 3.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. August was the first year-to-year increase since December 2014, when freight increased by more than 5 percent.

Trucks carried nearly $67 billion of the nearly $106 billion of imports and exports in March, the most in terms of value since at least January 2006. Data on the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ website only goes as far back as January 2006.

Year-to-year, Canada truck freight increased by 3.8 percent and Mexico freight rose by 4.4 percent. Top truck commodities were computers and parts, motor vehicles and parts, electrical machinery, plastics, and measuring/testing instruments.

Freight totaled $105.767 billion, up nearly $12 billion from the previous month and an increase of more than $5 billion from March 2017.

Vessel freight accounted for the largest increase at 42 percent after an increase of 45 percent in February. Trucks accounted for an increase of 4.1 percent. Truck freight experienced increases of 9 percent in February and 10.2 percent in January.

More than 57 percent of U.S.-Canada freight was moved by trucks, followed by rail at 17 percent. U.S.-Mexico freight went up by nearly 6 percent compared with March 2017. Of the $51.865 billion of freight moving in and out of Mexico, trucks carried more than 68 percent of the loads.