The Nation Served by Freight

Economic and social characteristics of the U.S.

The Nation’s 129.9 million households, more than 7.9 million business establishments, and 90,000 governmental units are all part of an economy that demands the efficient movement of freight. Freight transportation has grown over time with the expansion of population and economic activity within the United States and with the increasing interdependency of economies across the globe. The U.S. population grew by 17.6 percent between 2000 and 2021, climbing to 331.8 million. For 2000 to 2020, the U.S. economy measured by gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 40.3 percent in real terms (inflation adjusted). Median household income, another indicator of economic growth, grew by 6.6 percent in constant 2020 dollars between 2000 and 2020. U.S.-international trade grew faster than the overall economy, reflecting unprecedented global interconnectivity.

Population and gross domestic product (GDP) by region

Although freight moves throughout the United States, the demand for freight transportation is driven primarily by the geographic distribution of population and economic activity. Since 2000, population has grown the fastest in the Rocky Mountain region and economic activity has grown the fastest in the Southwest. In 2020, the Mideast and Far West regions have the highest GDP per capita.

Recommended citation
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Freight Facts and Figures (Washington, DC: 2021).

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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