US Transborder Truck Freight Jumps 13% in January

Laredo is Busiest Port of Entry with Cargo Valued at $20.1 Billion
Truck traffic at the World Trade International Bridge at the Laredo, Texas, Port of Entry
An overview of truck traffic at the Laredo, Texas, Port of Entry. The port of entry was the busiest in the U.S. in January, moving cargo valued at $20.1 billion. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

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North American transborder truck freight in January jumped nearly 13% from the same month last year, with solid increases in total goods traded both with Canada and Mexico, according to new Bureau of Transportation Statistics figures released March 22.

In overall freight values, trucking captured $77 billion. That represented the bulk of the total $125.8 billion of transborder freight moved by all modes of transportation, BTS figures noted for January. Truck trade across the U.S.-Mexico border accounted for $44.7 billion.

The top three truck commodities in U.S.-Mexico trade were electrical machinery ($10 billion), computers/parts ($9 billion) and vehicles/parts ($6.3 billion).

Busy at the Border

The busiest truck ports in January by freight value:

Laredo, Texas $20.1 billion

El Paso-Ysleta, Texas $6.7 billion

Otay Mesa, Calif. $4.6 billion

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Trucks trading between the U.S. and Canada moved $33 billion worth of cargo in both directions during January. The busiest Canadian ports of entry were Detroit ($10.2 billion), Buffalo, N.Y. ($5.4 billion) and Port Huron, Mich., ($5.3 billion). The top truck cargo categories were computers/parts ($5.6 billion), vehicles/parts ($4.8 billion) and electrical machinery ($2.3 billion).

Separately, a March 15 BTS analysis of U.S. transborder trade with its North American partners during the pandemic indicated freight activity recovered last year from pandemic-era 2020 lows.

In 2019, before the pandemic, the U.S. notched $1.2 trillion in trade with Canada and Mexico, of which trucks handled $772 billion. Although freight traffic was not affected by pandemic-related border closures, overall economic activity slowed in 2020 after pandemic lockdowns in all three nations. From 2019 to 2020, the value of total trade with Canada and Mexico declined 13.3% to $1 trillion — with the value of truck cargo falling to $694 billion.

A rebound started in 2021 as U.S. North American trade moved up to $1.2 trillion ($827 million from trucks).

Bureau of Transportation Statistics transborder trade with Canada and Mexico 2019-2022

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

In 2022, the value of U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico hit $1.6 trillion, jumping 50% from 2020. These figures showing a 2% climb pointed to a slow recovery from pre-pandemic 2019’s $1.2 trillion in trade with Canada and Mexico. The total weight of 2019 trade was 579.4 million tons.

Despite these gains, less cargo was being trucked back and forth to Canada.

“By the end of 2022, truck crossings from Canada had not fully recovered to their 2019 levels, still down 3.3%. Truck crossings from Mexico have continued steady growth since 2020, with 2022 crossings exceeding 2019 by 12.5%,” BTS noted.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics mode of transborder trade with Canada and Mexico 2019-2022

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

In 2022, trucks transported $948 billion in freight over U.S. northern and southern borders. Top commodities were computers and machinery (valued at $183 billion), electrical machinery ($145 billion) and vehicles/parts ($125 billion).

The busiest U.S.-North American truck port last year was Laredo, which handled $238 billion of freight with Mexico. Next came Detroit with $115 billion and El Paso/Ysleta at $73 billion.

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