Four out of five major transportation modes – truck, pipeline, vessel and air – carried less U.S. freight and with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico by value in 2016 than in 2015. Rail is the only major mode to carry more freight, increasing by 0.2 percent. The total value of cross-border freight carried on all modes fell 3.4 percent from 2015 to $1.069 trillion in current dollars, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).
Freight by mode
The modal share of commodities moving by truck increased by 1.1 percentage points, rail increased by 0.5 percentage points, and air was unchanged from 2015 to 2016. The modal share of freight on other modes declined: pipeline by 0.5 percentage points and vessel by 1.1 percentage points.
A large drop in the year-over-year price of crude oil in early 2016 played a key role in the annual declines in the dollar value of goods shipped by vessel (down 20.0 percent) and pipeline (down 12.9 percent). By the end of 2016, the year-over-year price of crude oil was increasing. Average monthly prices for crude petroleum and refined fuel are available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Trucks carried 65.5 percent of U.S.-NAFTA freight, a 1.1 percentage point increase from 2006, and continued to be the most heavily utilized mode for moving goods to and from both U.S.-NAFTA partners. Trucks accounted for $362.0 billion of the $572.2 billion of imports (63.3 percent) and for $338.0 billion of the $496.9 billion of exports (68.0 percent).
Rail remained the second largest mode, moving 15.5 percent of all U.S.-NAFTA freight, followed with vessel by 5.5 percent; pipeline by 4.6 percent and air by 3.9 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 85.6 percent of the total value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows.
Trucks carried 63.3 percent of the $572.2 billion of imports, followed by rail, 18.8 percent; pipeline, 6.6 percent; vessel, 5.2 percent; and air, 3.1 percent. Truck carried 68.0 percent of the $496.9 billion of exports, followed by rail, 11.7 percent; vessel, 5.8 percent; air, 4.8 percent; and pipeline, 2.4 percent.
From 2015 to 2016, the value of U.S.-Canada freight flows fell 5.4 percent to $544.0 billion. Trucks carried 60.1 percent of the value of the freight to and from Canada, followed with rail by 16.2 percent; pipeline by 8.4 percent, vessel by 3.3 percent; and air by 4.8 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 84.8 percent of the value of total U.S.-Canada freight flows.
Trucks carried 60.1 percent of U.S.-Canada freight in 2016, a 1.3 percentage point increase from 2006. Rail and air both had a percent share gain of 0.2 points, while vessel’s share fell 0.6 points and pipeline’s share fell 2.1 points.
Trucks carried 53.5 percent of the $278.1 billion of 2016 imports from Canada, followed by rail, 21.1 percent; pipeline, 13.6 percent; vessel, 4.1 percent; and air, 4.0 percent. Truck carried 67.1 percent of the $266.0 billion of 2016 exports to Canada, followed by rail, 11.2 percent; air, 5.6 percent; pipeline, 3.0 percent; and vessel, 2.5 percent.
Michigan led all states in freight with Canada in 2016 with $71.8 billion, and increase of 3.9 percent. The other top 10 states for U.S.-Canada freight in 2016 all showed year-over-year decreases, Indiana had the smallest percent decrease over 2015 by 0.3 percent. Texas had the largest percent decrease over 2015 among the top 10 states, by 15.0 percent.
The top commodity category transported between the U.S. and Canada in 2016 was vehicles and parts at $106.1 billion with $59.8 billion or 56.4 percent moving by truck.
From 2015 to 2016, the value of U.S.-Mexico freight fell 1.1 percent to $525.1 billion. Trucks carried 71.0 percent of the value of the freight to and from Mexico, followed with rail by 14.7 percent; vessel by 7.7 percent; air by 3.0 percent; and pipeline by 0.7 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 86.4 percent of the value of total U.S.-Mexico freight flows.
Trucks carried 71.0 percent of U.S.-Mexico freight in 2016, a 5.0 percentage point increase from 2006. Rail’s share increased by 1.7 percentage points from 2006, while pipeline’s share increased by 0.5 percentage points, air’s share declined by 0.5 percentage points and vessel’s percentage share fell 7.0 points.
Trucks carried 72.5 percent of the $294.2 billion of 2016 imports from Mexico, followed by rail, 16.5 percent; vessel, 6.2 percent; air, 2.4 percent; and pipeline, 0.1 percent. Truck carried 69.1 percent of the $231.0 billion of 2016 exports to Mexico, followed by rail, 12.4 percent; vessel, 9.6 percent; air, 3.8 percent; and pipeline, 1.6 percent.
Texas led all states in freight with Mexico in 2016 with $173.7 billion. Of the top 10 states for U.S.-Mexico freight in 2016, Michigan had the highest percent change over 2016, increasing by 11.0 percent.
The top commodity transported between the U.S. and Mexico in 2016 was electrical machinery at $102.6 billion, with $94.0 billion or 91.6 percent moved by truck. The next highest commodity category transported by a single mode in U.S.-Mexico freight was vehicles and parts with $43.7 billion in freight moved by rail.
See BTS Transborder Statistics Release for summary tables and additional data. See North American Transborder Freight Data on the BTS website for additional data for surface modes since 1995 and all modes since 2004.