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Trucks moved 63 percent of trans-border freight in March, up nearly $1 billion, according to data

Trans-border freight totaled $107.2 billion in March, with trucks moving 63 percent of all freight by value with United States trading partners Canada and Mexico, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

Trucks carried $67.4 billion of United States freight in March 2019, compared to $66.5 billion during the same time last year, and continued to be the most utilized mode for moving goods to and from both Canada and Mexico. Trains, airplanes, ships and pipelines accounted for the rest of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) freight movement.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) represents President Donald Trump’s effort to modernize NAFTA, which has been in place since 1994. The USMCA agreement was signed in November 2018, but still needs to be ratified by the legislatures of each country.

With the threat of President Trump’s 5 percent tariffs no longer hanging over his country, Mexico’s president said he expects to ratify the USMCA trade agreement by the end of the week. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Mexico’s Senate would hold a special session this week and the first item on the agenda would be ratification of the USMCA.

The USMCA would update country of origin rules, labor provisions, U.S. farmers receiving access to Canadian dairy markets and intellectual property and digital trade laws.

For now, trans-border freight between Mexico and the U.S. rose by almost 3 percent in March, with total freight valued at $36.4 billion. The vast majority of freight moved by trucks were computers and computer parts ($13.7 billion), motor vehicles and auto parts ($10.7 billion) and electrical machinery ($10.1 billion).

Canada truck freight decreased by 0.4 percent in March to $31 billion. Trucks still accounted for 57.2 percent of all trans-border freight between the U.S. and Canada.

The three busiest truck ports for trans-border freight were Laredo ($15.8 billion), Detroit ($9.6 billion) and El Paso ($5.1 billion), accounting for 45.3 percent of total trans-border truck freight.

Rail was the second most used mode to transport freight, accounting for $16.2 billion (15.1 percent of all transborder freight) in March 2019.

The value of trans-border goods traveling by rail between the U.S. and Mexico was $7.6 billion, up 9 percent compared to the same period the previous year, while it was down 5.7 percent between the U.S. and Canada ($8.7 billion).

Laredo was the busiest trans-border truck freight gateway in March; the city was also the busiest rail border port for moving goods. Laredo accounted for $4 billion of rail freight in March 2019, while Port Huron, Michigan, came in second at $2.3 billion and Detroit was third with $2.2 billion.

Laredo, Port Huron and Detroit rail ports accounted for almost 53 percent of all trans-border rail freight in March. The top three rail commodities (63.6 percent of total trans-border rail freight) were motor vehicles and parts ($8.4 billion), fuels ($1.1 billion) and plastics ($0.9 billion).

The U.S. trans-border freight total of $107.23 billion in March was up more than $13 billion from the previous month and an increase of more than $1 billion from March 2018. It marked the first time in 2019 that trans-border freight totaled more than $100 billion.

Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]