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 25 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. The top 25
U.S.-international freight gateways, measured by value of shipments in 2019,
consist of 10 water ports, 5 land-border crossings, and 10 air gateways. The Port of Laredo, TX was the leading
U.S.-international freight gateway (land), moving $226.8 billion in cargo. The top 25 gateways accounted for 64.0 percent of the $4.14 trillion (current dollars) in total U.S.-international freight trade.
Value of U.S.-international merchandise trade by coasts and border
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 31 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 2020, they accounted for 44.0 percent of the total $2.7 trillion in trade
U.S.-international freight trade by transportation mode
is the leading transportation mode for U.S.-international freight trade. Ships
moved 40.2 percent
of the value (over $1.5 trillion) and 69.9
percent of the weight (1.5 billion tons) in 2020. Air freight, which accounted for 0.4 percent by weight,
was the second largest mover of goods by value (30.8 percent), accounting for $1.16 trillion. Truck
moved 10.5 percent
of total freight tonnage and 18.4
percent of total value. Together,
rail and pipeline accounted for about 5.3 percent of the total value and 18.6 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 2020 vessels moved $1.5 trillion in freight to and from the United States, followed by air at $1.2 trillion. Trucking was the primary mover from and to Canada and Mexico, followed by rail.
Domestic transportation mode of exports and imports by tonnage
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 2.9 percent per year
between 2018 and 2045.
Top trading partners of the U.S. in merchandise trade
For the first time,
Mexico is the United States’ top trade partner, followed by Canada and China.
Mexico’s share of trade with the United States grew by 80.5 percent, from $303
to $547 billion between 2000 and 2019, while China’s share more than doubled
from 6.0 to 13.5 percent, and its total value of freight grew from $148 to $497
billion over the same period. Two notable changes in the ranking of U.S. trade
partners include Vietnam’s jump from 68 to 13, and India’s climb from 25 to 9
between 2000 and 2019.
Value and tonnage of U.S. freight trade with Canada and Mexico by transportation mode
value of freight shipped to and from our North American neighbors, Canada and
Mexico, has grown by 62.8 percent since 2000. Trucks were
the most heavily utilized mode, carrying 65.3 percent of the value and 19.8 percent of the
tonnage traded with these countries in 2020. Every
mode carried less U.S. freight by value with Canada and Mexico in 2020 than in 2019.
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 163.3 percent increase in
the value of freight from Mexico between 2000 and 2020. While trade via pipeline with these two
countries increased markedly, it comprised a relatively small share of total
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 2020, approximately
6.4 million trucks hauled nearly 4.2 million loaded containers into the United
States from Mexico, representing a doubling in 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 26.0 and 40.3 percent, respectively, while incoming loaded
rail containers increased by 43.8 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