Two transportation modes – rail and truck – carried more U.S. freight by value with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico in February 2016 than in February 2015. However, the total value of cross-border freight carried on all modes fell 2.0 percent from February 2015 to $84.0 billion in February 2016 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 rail increased 6.0 percent, the largest increase from 2015 to 2016 of any mode. The 6.0 percent year-over-year growth in the value of rail freight is largely due to an increase in imports of vehicles and parts, the largest commodity carried by rail. The value of commodities moved on trucks increased by 4.7 percent from 2015 to 2016. The value of freight on other modes declined: air 1.7 percent; pipeline 35.6 percent; and vessel 41.0 percent. A drop in the price of crude oil in 2015-2016 played a key role in the large declines in the dollar value of goods 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 67.4 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 $29.3 billion of the $45.0 billion of imports (65.1 percent) and $27.3 billion of the $39.0 billion of exports (70.0 percent).
Rail remained the second largest mode by value, moving 15.6 percent of all U.S.-NAFTA freight, followed by vessel, 4.3 percent; pipeline, 4.0 percent; and air, 3.8 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 87.0 percent of the total value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows.
From February 2015 to February 2016, the value of U.S.-Canada freight flows fell 5.5 percent to $42.6 billion even as two modes of transportation – rail and truck – carried a higher 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 36.9 percent and 47.2 percent respectively year-over-year. U.S-Canada air freight value declined 3.2 percent because of a 31.3 percent decline in the value of shipments of aircraft and aircraft parts.
Trucks carried 61.5 percent of the value of the freight to and from Canada. Rail carried 16.6 percent followed by pipeline, 7.4 percent; air, 4.8 percent; and vessel, 2.7 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 85.4 percent of the value of total U.S.-Canada freight flows.
From February 2015 to February 2016, the value of U.S.-Mexico freight grew 2.0 percent to $41.4 billion as three out of the five transportation modes – truck, rail, and air – carried more U.S.-Mexico freight value than in February 2015. Freight carried by truck increased 7.7 percent. Rail freight value rose 4.7 percent while air freight value increased 1.2 percent. Vessel freight value decreased by 37.4 percent, while pipeline freight value dropped by 11.9 percent, both due mainly to lower crude oil prices.
Trucks carried 73.5 percent of the value of freight to and from Mexico. Rail, carried 14.6 percent followed by vessel, 5.8 percent; air, 2.8 percent; and pipeline, 0.6 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 88.7 percent of the value of total U.S.-Mexico freight flows.