Transportation Economic Trends
Contribution of Transportation to the Economy:
Contribution of Transportation Services to the Economy and the Transportation Satellite Accounts
This page discusses transportation's direct contribution to the economy; specifically, the contribution of transportation services to gross domestic product (GDP)—a measure of economic activity. GDP attributed to the demand for transportation relative to other goods and services is an alternative measure of transportation's direct contribution to the economy.
In 2018 transportation (for-hire, in-house, and household) contributed $1,240.8 billion to an enhanced U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) of $20.9 trillion—as measured by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Transportation Satellite Accounts.
- Trucking (for-hire and in-house) contributed the largest amount, at $354.6 billion.
- Household transportation, measured by the depreciation cost associated with households owning motor vehicles, contributed $348.5 billion—the second largest contribution to GDP.
Contribution of Transportation Services to the Economy and Transportation Satellite Accounts
Gross domestic product (GDP) attributed to the demand for transportation offers one way to measure the contribution of transportation to the economy. The contribution of transportation services to GDP (shown here) offers another way to measure transportation's contribution to the economy. This metric captures less than expenditures on transportation goods and services because it misses the contribution of goods used for transportation, such as vehicles and fuels.
The contribution of transportation services to GDP amounts to less than the contribution of the goods and services produced by other industries. However, all industries rely on transportation to acquire the raw materials needed for production and to deliver their products to businesses and households.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics' (BTS) Transportation Satellite Accounts (TSAs) shows:
- the contribution of transportation to the economy, and
- the use of transportation by industries.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) provides this information for for-hire transportation. The TSAs re-organize BEA's data to include in-house and household transportation.
(1) For-hire transportation services: air, rail, truck, passenger and ground transportation, pipeline, and other support services that transportation firms provide to industries and the public on a fee basis.
(2) In-house transportation services: air, rail, truck, and water transportation services produced by nontransportation industries for their own use (e.g., grocery stores owning and operating their own trucks to move goods from distribution centers to retail locations).
(3) Household transportation services: ownership and operation of motor vehicles by households. Here, BTS calculates the contribution of household transportation as the depreciation associated with households owning a motor vehicle.
Households contribute the largest amount to GDP followed by truck transportation, with for-hire and in-house truck transportation contributing a nearly equal dollar value. Other for-hire transportation contributes the third largest to GDP.
Other for-hire transportation includes: pipeline, transit and ground passenger transportation; sightseeing transportation and transportation support; courier and messenger services; and warehousing and storage.
Not adjusted for inflation, the dollar contribution of for-hire transportation increased from 2012 to the most recent date for which data are available. As a share of GDP, the contribution of each for-hire mode remains stable over time.
Contribution of For-Hire Transportation to State Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The contribution of for-hire transportation to national and state GDP varies by state. States with larger total GDPs, such as California, for-hire transportation contributes more to national GDP even though for-hire transportation may account for a small portion of state GDP. States with major transportation hubs, such as Nebraska, for-hire transportation contributes to a large portion of the state’s GDP.
The contribution of in-house and household transportation to state GDP is not available.
In-house Transportation and Household Transportation
Not adjusted for inflation, the dollar contribution of in-house and household transportation increased from 2012 to the most recent date for which data are available. As a share of GDP, the contribution of each remains virtually unchanged over time.
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at www.bts.gov/product/transportation-economic-trends.
- Gross domestic product attributed to the demand for transportation (alternative measure of transportation's contribution to the economy)
- Use of transportation services by industries (transportation's indirect contribution to the economy)