Transportation facilities that move international trade into and out of the United States reveal the importance of all modes and intermodal combinations to global connectivity.
Top U.S.-international freight gateways by value of shipments
facilities that move international trade into and out of the United States
reveal the importance of all modes and intermodal combinations to global
connectivity. In 2022, Los Angeles, CA was the leading
U.S.-international freight gateway, moving $310.7 billion in cargo.
Value of U.S.-international merchandise trade by coasts and border
Foreign trade has had a major impact on all U.S. borders and
coasts. An increase in trade with China has resulted in a large share of trade
moving through Pacific coast ports, and the newly expanded Panama Canal allows
larger vessels to transit between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Since 2003,
the value of merchandise trade increased by 74 percent in inflation adjusted
terms. Ports and airports on the Atlantic coast continued to account for the
largest share in terms of trade value. In 2022, they accounted for 29.5 percent
of the total $4.4 trillion in trade (2015 dollars).
U.S.-international freight trade by transportation mode
Water is the leading transportation mode for
U.S.-international freight trade. Ships moved 44.6 percent of the value ($2.3
trillion) and 78.6 percent of the weight (1.6 billion tons) in 2022. Air freight, which accounted for 0.4 percent
by weight, was the second largest mover of goods by value (28.6 percent),
accounting for $1.5 trillion. Truck moved 6.3 percent of total freight tonnage
and 18.5 percent of total value.
Together, rail and pipeline accounted for about 7.0 percent of the total
value and 14.5 percent of the total weight of U.S.-international freight trade.
Value of U.S.-international freight flows by region and transportation mode
Water is the leading transportation mode for
U.S.-international freight trade. In 2022 vessels moved $2.3 trillion in
freight to and from the United States, followed by air at $1.5 trillion.
Trucking was the primary category of mover from and to Canada and Mexico,
followed by pipeline for Canada and rail for Mexico.
Domestic transportation mode of exports and imports by tonnage
International trade has grown considerably, and the movement
of these goods within the United States is placing pressure on the domestic
transportation network and on all modes. Trucks are the most common mode used
to move imports and exports between international gateways and inland
locations. This trend is expected to continue with tonnage of U.S.-international
trade forecast to grow at a rate of about 2.1 percent per year between 2023 and
Top trading partners of the U.S. in merchandise trade
Canada is the United States’ top trade partner, followed by Mexico
and China. Canada’s share of trade with the United States has risen by 8.9 percent
from 2020 to 2023, growing from $515 to $939 billion. At the same time China
went from the top trade partner to the third largest, falling from 17 percent
of trade to 14.7 percent. However, the value of trade with China has increased
by 30.8 percent from $545 to $787 billion. Two notable changes in the ranking
of U.S. trade partners include Vietnam’s jump from 68 to 10, and India’s climb
from 25 to 9 between 2000 and 2022.
Value and tonnage of U.S. freight trade with Canada and Mexico by transportation mode
The value of freight shipped to and from our North American
neighbors, Canada and Mexico, has grown by 139.5 percent since 2000. Trucks were the most heavily utilized mode,
carrying 60.6 percent of the value and 85.8 percent of the tonnage traded with
these countries in 2022. Every mode
carried more U.S. freight by value with Canada and Mexico in 2022 than in 2020.
Value of U.S. exports to and imports from Canada and Mexico by land transportation mode
Truck and rail transport most of the U.S. bidirectional
freight with Canada and Mexico. Goods carried by truck were largely responsible
for the 130.2 percent increase in the value of freight from Mexico between 2010
and 2023. While trade via pipeline with these two countries increased markedly,
it comprised a relatively small share of total trade value.
Number of incoming trucks, trains, and loaded containers crossing the
U.S.-Mexico and U.S-Canada borders
A large number of trucks and trains carry goods from Mexico
and Canada to the United States. In 2022, approximately 7.3 million trucks
hauled nearly 5 million loaded containers into the United States from Mexico, 2.2
times the number of loaded containers entering the United States from Mexico in
2000. In contrast, the number of
incoming trucks and loaded containers on trucks from Canada declined by 22.0
and 22.2 percent, respectively, while incoming loaded rail containers increased
by 38.9 percent over the same period.
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Freight Facts and Figures (Washington, DC: 2019).
Freight Facts and Figures, developed by the Bureau of
Transportation Statistics, is a collection of charts and statistical
tables about freight transportation in the United States. These
interactive visualizations and tables provide a snapshot of freight
movement; the extent, condition, and performance of the freight
transportation system; the economic implications of freight movement;
and the safety, energy, and environmental impacts of freight