Trucking still dominates in freight movement

| 1/23/2006

In case anyone doubted it, when it comes to moving freight, trucking is still top dog.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics released a new report Monday, Jan. 23, that increased previous estimates on the amount of freight moved in 2002 – but still pointed to the fact that when it comes to freight movement, trucks get the job done.

Working jointly on the calculations, BTS and the Federal Highway Administration now estimate that more than 19 billion tons of freight, valued at $13 trillion, was carried more than 4.4 trillion ton-miles in 2002, according to a press release on the report.

That means on a typical day in 2002, approximately 53 million tons of goods valued at about $36 billion moved on the nation’s multimodal transportation network.

The BTS report notes that some long-standing freight trends persist and new ones are emerging. Trucking remains the single most-used mode of shipping, totaling 70 percent by value, 60 percent by weight and 34 percent by ton-miles. In general, trucking dominates shipment distances of less than 500 miles while rail dominates the longer distance shipments.

Air freight and express delivery are growing the most rapidly, although air cargo remains a small and specialized part of freight activity in terms of tonnage, according to the report. Intermodal freight and use of containers for multimodal shipments are both increasing according to the press release.

In 2002, more than $1 out of every $10 – which accounts for 11 percent – of freight goods shipped was for electronic, electrical and office equipment, making it the top commodity but down slightly from 13 percent of the value in 1997. One out of every six tons transported by freight carriers was gravel and crushed stone. The top commodity by ton-miles in 2002 was coal, carrying 686 billion tons and accounting for about 22 percent of all ton-miles, according to the release.

BTS estimated in the new report that 25 percent more in value and 23 percent more weight measured by tons moved on the transportation system than it previously estimated. The new estimates include previously uncovered sectors such as construction, retail, services and municipal solid waste.