Moving Goods in the United States

Freight Movement  |  Commodities  |  Shipments by State

Freight Movement

The American economy stretches across a continent with links to the world, drawing on natural resources and manufactured products from many locations to serve markets at home and abroad. More freight is moving greater distances as part of far-flung supply chains among distant trading partners.
In 2021 the U.S. transportation system moved a daily average of about 53.6 million tons of freight valued at more than $54 billion.

Weight of shipments by transportation mode

The Freight Analysis Framework estimates tonnage will increase at about 1.6 percent per year between 2023 and 2050.

Value of shipments by transportation mode

The value of freight is forecast to increase faster than tonnage, rising from $1,001 per ton in 2023 to $1,256 per ton in 2050, when controlling for inflation. This increase is due to high-value, low weight commodities growing at a faster rate than low-value, high-weight commodities. Exports at $1,280 per ton and imports at $1,983 per ton were higher than domestic shipments of $914 per ton in 2023. Exports and imports accounted for 12.4 percent of the tons and 20.1 percent of the value of freight shipments in 2023 and are forecast to make up an even greater share of freight moving throughout the United States, reaching 13.8 percent of the tonnage and 21.7 percent of the value by 2050.

Total freight moved by distance

The largest percentage of goods, by weight and value, move relatively short distances (less than 250 miles). Approximately 73.7 percent of the weight and 55.4 percent of the value of goods moved less than 250 miles between origin and destination in 2023. In contrast, about 6.6 percent of the weight and 17.4 percent of the value of goods moved 1,000 miles or more in 2023.

Value of freight by mode and distance

Modal shares of freight vary by distance. Trucks carry the largest shares by value in both current and constant dollars for shipments moved less than 2,000 miles, while rail is the dominant mode by weight and ton-miles for shipments moved 1,000 to 2,000 miles in 2020. Air, multiple modes and mail, water, and rail accounted for over half of the value of shipments moved more than 2,000 miles.

Weight of freight by mode and distance

Ton-miles of freight by mode and distance

Freight Movement  |  Commodities  |  Shipments by State


Top commodities by weight and value

The top 10 commodities by weight accounted for 64.9 percent of total tonnage, while the top 10 commodities by value accounted for 59.7 percent of total value of goods moved in 2023. The leading commodities by weight are natural gas and other fossil fuel products; gravel; gasoline; and nonmetallic mineral products. The leading commodities by value are high value-per-ton goods, such as electronics; motorized vehicles; mixed freight (principally food); and pharmaceuticals.

Top commodities moved by mode

Trucks are involved in the supply chain of all top 10 commodities by tonnage and value. Trucks carry all types of goods, ranging from high-value commodities, such as mixed freight and electronics, to bulk commodities, such as gravel, grains, and gasoline. Mixed freight includes grocery and convenience store goods, office supplies, and hardware and plumbing items. In comparison, rail and water modes primarily move bulk products, while air (including truck-air-transport) moves high-value items, such as electronics and pharmaceuticals. However, trucks moved more high-value, time-sensitive commodities than any other mode in 2023.

U.S. crude oil production by state (thousands of barrels)

Four states are responsible for 80% of domestic oil production. Texas was the largest oil producing state at 1.84 billion barrels in 2022, accounting for 49.8 percent of total U.S. oil production, while New Mexico was a distance second at 574.2 million barrels (15.5 percent), followed by North Dakota’s 385.9 million barrels (10.4 percent) and Alaska’s 159.6 million barrels (4.3 percent).

Shipments of U.S. crude oil moved by pipeline, tanker and barge, and rail

Regional oil shipments by rail increased, on average, from less than 1 percent of all regional shipments in 2010 to about 4 percent in 2022, after peaking at 26.8 percent in 2014. Oil production in the Bakken formation, located in North Dakota, accounted for the majority of new rail shipments, while tankers and barges continued to move crude oil on U.S. inland waterways from port to port along the coast and on the Great Lakes.
map of PADD regions
Establishment of Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts 
During World War II, the United States was divided into five districts to organize the rationing of gasoline and other petroleum products. Today those same regions, called Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDs), are used to analyze patterns of crude oil and petroleum product movements throughout the U.S.

Hazardous materials shipments by transportation mode

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Commodity Flow Survey indicates that 3 billion tons of hazardous materials valued at $1.7 trillion was shipped in the U.S. in 2017, generating a total of 382.5 billion ton-miles. Trucks moved 61.1 percent of the tonnage and 64.9 percent of the value of these shipments. The average shipment by truck was 63 miles compared to an average of 640 miles by rail.

Hazardous materials shipments by hazard class

Flammable liquids are the predominant hazardous materials transported in the United States, accounting for 81.8 percent by value, 83.1 percent by weight, and 70.5 percent of the ton-miles of all hazardous material shipments in 2017. Flammable liquid shipments traveled 100 miles on average.

Moving Goods in the United States  |  Commodities  |  Shipments by State

Shipments by State

Percent of shipments within a state

Thirty states shipped 50 percent or more of their goods (by value) within their own borders in 2023. States with the highest shares of in-state shipments tended to be either relatively large or geographically isolated from other states. Hawaii had the highest share of intrastate shipments by value, followed by Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. Trucks accounted for 79.6 percent of intrastate shipments. Eleven states shipped less than half of their total intrastate value by truck: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Ratio of outbound to inbound domestic shipments by value

An interconnected freight transportation network contributes to state economic growth by supporting resource development and expanding interstate commerce.  A ratio of outbound to inbound shipments greater than 1.0 indicates that a state ships more goods to markets in other states than it receives from other states, whereas a ratio less than 1.0 indicates that a state imports more goods from other states than it exports.
In terms of value, North Dakota has the highest ratios of 2.24, indicating that the value of their goods exported to other states is over double the value of the goods they received from other states.  Although North Dakota has a relatively small population, it is a major oil producer.  Pipeline and rail are the primary modes for moving oil out of North Dakota.
California also exported more to other states than they imported. Electronics were the top outbound commodity from California, due in part to technology manufacturing in Silicon Valley.
Hawaii had the lowest ratio of interstate outbound-to-inbound shipments by value at 0.05 because of its distance location from the mainland and its resource dependency. DC, Nevada, and Montana also exported far less to other states than they imported, partly due to demographics and other factors.

Ratio of outbound to inbound domestic shipments by weight

The top five net interstate exporters by weight are major producers of energy commodities: Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and West Virginia in 2023. Net domestic exporters are states that ship more freight to other states than they receive from other states. According to the Energy Information Administration in 2021, Wyoming is the largest U.S. coal producer, while Montana is the fifth largest coal producer. For domestic markets, rail and barge are used to transport coal over long distances, primarily to power plants.

U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Freight Facts and Figures (Washington, DC: 2022).

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 transportation.

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