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BTS releases March North American freight numbers

U.S.-NAFTA trade totaled $101.5 billion in March 2014, the second highest amount on record, as four of five transportation modes – air, vessel, pipeline, and trucks – carried more U.S.-NAFTA trade than in March 2013, according to the TransBorder freight data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

The March 2014 trade total, a 6.2 percent increase from March 2013, was exceeded only by trade value in October 2013. U.S-NAFTA trade has increased from the same month of the previous year in eight of the last nine months, interrupted by a 0.2 percent decrease in January.  The January decline reflected the severe weather in the northern states and along the U.S.-Canada border.

Trade by Mode 
In March, commodities moving by pipeline grew the most of any mode, 25.2 percent.

Vessel freight increased 9.9 percent, air rose 6.7 percent and truck freight rose 6.3 percent. Rail declined 5.2 percent from year to year. The increase in the value of freight carried by pipelines reflects both a rise in the volume and prices for oil and other petroleum products, the primary commodity transported by pipelines.

Trucks carry nearly three-fifths of U.S.-NAFTA trade and are the most heavily utilized mode for moving goods to and from both U.S.-NAFTA partners. Trucks carried 60.1 percent of U.S.-NAFTA trade in March 2014, accounting for $31.2 billion of exports and $29.8 billion of imports.  

Although the value of freight carried by rail decreased from year to year, rail remained the second largest mode moving 14.8 percent of all U.S.-NAFTA trade, followed by vessel at 8.4 percent, pipeline at 8.2 percent and air at 3.7 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 83.1 percent of the total U.S.-NAFTA freight flows.

Trade with Canada
Year-to-year, the value of U.S.-Canada trade by pipeline increased the most of any mode, growing 25.2 percent. U.S.-Canada pipeline trade comprised 94.9 percent of total U.S.-NAFTA pipeline trade in March. Vessel freight exports to Canada increased 105.3 percent due to an increase in exports of mineral fuels, a larger percentage increase than the 95.5 percent rise in exports by pipeline. Mineral fuel exports by vessel to Canada in March were valued at $1.15 billion, 2.1 percent more than the $1.12 billion transported by pipeline.

Trade with Mexico
With U.S.-Mexico trade more dependent on trucks than trade on the northern border, a 10.2 percent rise in truck freight fueled the overall 8.8 percent increase in southern border trade. Shipments by truck comprised 77.4 percent of the dollar value of the overall increase. For exports, a 14.1 percent increase in shipments using trucks made up 86.0 percent of the overall 10.7 percent increase.

See BTS Transborder Data 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.