U.S. DOT releases updated freight commodity stats

January 8, 2020

Tyson Fisher


It might behoove truckers looking for cargo to know the top freight commodities. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics updated its Freight Facts and Figures, including new freight flow estimates.

On Wednesday, Jan. 8, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics released its Freight Facts and Figures winter 2020 update. The latest update includes top 10 commodities by weight and value. Most of the report contains figures from 2018, the most recent year in which numbers are available.

For trucks, gravel and crushed stone is the top commodity by weight. Trucks moved nearly 2 billion tons of gravel and crushed stone in 2018. By value, “mixed freight” was the top commodity, with nearly $1.4 billion moved in 2018. Many of the top commodities are consistent with top NAFTA freight.

Looking ahead, top truck commodities by weight is expected to be the same in 2045, in terms of rankings. However, future outlook is different for freight by value. Mixed freight is expected to rank third by value. Electronics will take the top spot with $3 billion of freight, followed by machinery at nearly $2.2 billion.


The Freight Facts and Figures is chockful of other information related to trucks.

Inspections and compliance

In 2018, about 7,500 federal and state safety compliance reviews were conducted, down from nearly 7,900 in 2017. Of those reviews, 35% received a satisfactory rating and 33% conditional. Only 5% were found unsatisfactory. However, nearly 27% were left unrated.

Although nearly the same amount of reviews were made, there were some discrepancies between federal and state reviews. Nearly 1,700 conditional reviews were given under federal reviews. Conversely, only 782 state reviews came out as conditional. Only 352 federal reviews were left unrated, compared to more than 1,600 state reviews.

From 2010 through 2018, the number of roadside inspections has remained mostly the same at around 3.5 million a year. In 2000, there were only about 2.5 million inspections.

In 2018, nearly 58% of roadside inspections ended with a violation. That rate has been consistent since at least 2015. However, the violation rate reached more than 65% in 2010 and was as high as 74% in 2000.

Vehicle inspections were not much better. Since at least 2010, the vehicles out-of-service rate has been consistent at around 20%.

Driver inspections yielded more favorable results. In the past decade, the driver out-of-service rate has hovered around 5%. Twenty years ago, the OOS rate was 8%.

Movement of freight

Is there more local, regional or long-haul freight? That all depends.

Measured by value in 2018, 34% of freight distance is less than 100 miles, with 16.5% of cargo moved between 100 and 249 miles. Regional freight (250-499 miles) accounts for 18% of all freight. Cargo distances of 500-1,000 miles account for approximately 14% of freight.

By weight, the share of freight travelling less than 100 miles jumps to 50.5%. Cargo moving 100-249 miles is nearly 17%, 250-499 miles 16%, 500-1,000 miles is 9%.

Adjusted by ton-miles, cargo distances are much different. Distances of less than 100 miles are only 5% of all cargo. The largest shares are 250-499 miles at 20% and 1,000-1,499 miles at 19%.

Narrowing down distances by mode using ton-miles data, truck freight is dominate up to about 750 miles. Beyond 750 miles, rail cargo starts to take over.


In 2012, trucks moved nearly 10 billion tons of domestic freight, accounting for 66% of all domestic cargo. That number increased to 11 billion tons in 2018, which was 67% of all domestic freight.

Trucks moved 462 million tons of exports in 2012, 52% of all export cargo. Exports moved by trucks dipped slightly in 2018 to 437 million tons, which was only 42% of all export freight. However, that number is expected to increase to 1.2 billion tons in 2045, accounting for 53% of export cargo.

To access the full report, click here.

Tyson Fisher

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.