All five transportation modes carried less U.S. freight by value with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico in March 2016 compared to March 2015. The total value of cross-border freight carried on all modes fell 5.8 percent from 2015 to $90.5 billion in current dollars, according to the TransBorder Freight Data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).
Freight by Mode
The value of commodities moving by truck declined 1.1 percent, the smallest decrease from 2015 to 2016 of any mode. The value of freight carried on other modes also declined: rail 7.7 percent; air 9.0 percent; vessel 31.9 percent; and pipeline 33.2 percent (Figure 1, Table 2). A drop in the price of crude oil played a key role in the large declines in the dollar value of products shipped by vessel and pipeline. Crude oil (a component of mineral fuels) comprises a large share of the commodities carried by these modes. Average monthly prices for crude petroleum and refined fuel are available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Trucks carried 67.3 percent of U.S.-NAFTA freight and continued to be the most heavily utilized mode for moving goods to and from both U.S.-NAFTA partners. Trucks accounted for $31.4 billion of the $48.0 billion of imports (65.3 percent) and $29.5 billion of the $42.5 billion of exports (69.4 percent).
Rail remained the second largest mode by value, moving 15.5 percent of all U.S.-NAFTA freight, followed by vessel, 4.5 percent; air, 4.0 percent; and pipeline, 3.6 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 86.4 percent of the total value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows.
From March 2015 to March 2016, the value of U.S.-Canada freight flows fell 8.8 percent to $46.4 billion as all modes of transportation carried a lower value of U.S.-Canada freight than a year earlier.
Lower crude oil prices contributed to a year-over-year decrease in the value of freight moved between the U.S. and Canada. Crude oil is a large share of freight carried by pipeline and vessel, which were down 34.4 percent and 53.3 percent respectively year-over-year.
Trucks carried 62.1 percent of the value of the freight to and from Canada. Rail carried 17.0 percent followed by pipeline, 6.5 percent; air, 4.9 percent; and vessel, 2.3 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 85.5 percent of the value of total U.S.-Canada freight flows.
From March 2015 to March 2016, the value of U.S.-Mexico freight fell 2.6 percent to $44.1 billion as all modes of transportation except truck carried a lower value of U.S.-Mexico freight than a year earlier. Freight carried by truck increased 0.7 percent, primarily because of an increase in shipments of computers and parts. Rail freight value declined 8.6 percent while air freight value declined 10.1 percent. Pipeline freight value dropped by 14.2 percent, while vessel freight value decreased by 18.9 percent, both due mainly to lower crude oil prices.
Trucks carried 72.7 percent of the value of freight to and from Mexico. Rail carried 14.0 percent followed by vessel, 6.8 percent; air, 3.0 percent; and pipeline, 0.6 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 87.2 percent of the value of total U.S.-Mexico freight flows.