Executive Summary

Executive Summary

The freight transportation industry used the nation’s transportation system to carry $790 billion in merchandise, a record high, between the United States and its two largest trading partners, Canada and Mexico, in 2005.

The goods, weighing nearly 679 million short tons,1 were transported across our land borders, airports, and seaports to and from locations in Canada and Mexico. These and other annual data presented in this report highlight the value and weight of freight shipped across our northern and southern borders, as well as the number of incoming land border crossings by truck, truck containers, rail, and rail containers from Canada and Mexico.

Major Highlights

Land modes of transportation carried 88 percent of the value of goods traded with Canada and Mexico, our North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, in 2005. More imports than exports of freight were transported across our borders with these two countries. Among the individual modes, trucks carried the highest percentage of freight by value (62 percent), and maritime vessels carried the highest percentage of freight by weight (38 percent).

Canada remains our number one trading partner, followed by Mexico, with both countries accounting for 31 percent of the total U.S.-international merchandise trade in 2005.

Transportation Mode

  • Trucks transported 62 percent of the value and 28 percent of the weight of U.S.- NAFTA merchandise freight.
  • Rail hauled 15 percent of the value and 21 percent of the weight.
  • Pipelines carried 7 percent of the value and 13 percent of the weight.
  • Maritime vessels moved 8 percent of the value and 38 percent of the weight.
  • Air flew 4 percent of the value and a much smaller portion of the weight.

Geography

  • For overall U.S.-NAFTA trade transported by all modes, Texas was the lead state by value, accounting for 16 percent of the freight, followed by Michigan with 12 percent.
  • Texas was also the leading state by value for U.S.-NAFTA trade transported by land modes with 14 percent, slightly more than Michigan.
  • The land port of Detroit, Michigan, was the leading port for U.S.-NAFTA freight, handling $130 billion worth of merchandise in 2005, followed by port of Laredo in Texas. Twenty-eight percent of the value of all U.S.-NAFTA merchandise freight was handled by these two ports.
  • California was the top state for U.S.-NAFTA air cargo trade, accounting for 22 percent of the value of all air freight, while Texas was the lead state for maritime cargo with 42 percent of the value of U.S.-NAFTA ocean–borne trade.

By Commodity

  • Motor vehicles and parts was the top traded commodity group by value with 18 percent of all commodities traded between the United States and its NAFTA partners by all modes.
  • By value, the commodity group that includes computer-related machinery and parts (nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery, and parts) was the lead group transported by truck and by rail with 17 and 49 percent share, respectively.
  • By value, mineral fuel, oil, and waxes was the top traded commodity group carried by pipeline (with a 99-percent share) and by vessels (with a 73-percent share). Electrical machinery, equipment, and parts was the top air cargo commodity group by value with 30 percent of the total U.S.-NAFTA trade by air.

Border Crossings

  • In 2005, there were a total of nearly 12 million truck crossings into the United States from Canada and Mexico. These vehicles carried over 11 million truck containers (both loaded and empty) into the country.
  • By comparison, there were 2.6 million loaded and empty rail container crossings into the United States from Canada and Mexico.
  • Michigan recorded 2.7 million truck crossings and truck container entries (loaded and empty), the highest number of crossings from Canada, followed by New York. Texas, with 3.5 million truck crossings and 3.1 million container entries (loaded and empty), recorded the highest number of truck entries on the southern border, followed by California.
  • The land port of Detroit, Michigan, handled 1.7 million truck crossings and truck container entries from Canada. Similarly, the port of Laredo, Texas, handled 1.5 million truck crossings and truck container entries, the highest on the southern border.
  • Michigan recorded 730,100 rail container crossings (loaded and empty), the highest on the northern border with Texas, recording 663,400 container crossings, the highest on the southern border.

The annual freight transportation data featured in this report are based on the Research and Innovative Technology Administration’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) Transborder Freight Dataset and Border Crossing/Entry Dataset.

The Transborder Freight Dataset, released monthly by BTS, provides key transportation data on U.S. import and export merchandise trade with Canada and Mexico. The Transborder Freight data features commodity, mode, and geographic detail on North American freight movements unavailable from any other source.  The Border Crossing/Entry data, released quarterly by BTS, provides counts of incoming vehicle, container, passenger, and pedestrian traffic at U.S. land border ports of entry. Additional information on both datasets and other international reports can be found on the BTS website at: http://www.bts.gov/itt.

1 Weights of export shipments by land modes are not collected in the administrative records that provide official U.S. trade data. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has estimated the land mode export tonnage using value-to-weight ratios derived from imported commodities. Value-to-weight ratios for exported commodities may differ from imported commodities.