The weight of driver jobs

North American freight numbers are providing a glimpse into driver jobs.

Trucks carried more U.S. freight by value with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico in May 2016 compared to May 2015 but declines in all other freight modes led to a 3.1 percent decrease to $89.8 billion in the total current dollar value of cross-border freight.

May was the 17th consecutive month that the total value of U.S.-NAFTA freight declined from the same month of the previous year, according to the TransBorder Freight Data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The value of commodities moving by truck increased 1.3 percent as the value of incoming freight from Mexico (up 6.2 percent) and Canada (up 11.4 percent) exceeded the 5.5 percent decrease in shipments from the U.S.  Of the top 10 commodities transported between the U.S. and other NAFTA countries by truck, fruits and nuts had the highest year over year increase – 13.2 percent.  The value of freight carried on other modes declined: rail 3.1 percent; air 3.8 percent; pipeline 21.4 percent; and vessel 30.7 percent.

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(link is external).

Trucks carried 66.0 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 $31.2 billion of the $47.9 billion of imports (65.3 percent) and $28.1 billion of the $42.0 billion of exports (66.9 percent).

Rail remained the second largest mode by value, moving 15.8 percent of all U.S.-NAFTA freight, followed by vessel, 5.4 percent; pipeline, 3.9 percent; and air, 3.7 percent. The surface transportation modes of truck, rail and pipeline carried 85.8 percent of the total value of U.S.-NAFTA freight flows.