The majority of goods in the U.S. are transported by trucks

Every day HMD Trucking trucks carry their loads across the country. They move along the roads among thousands of other trucks with huge trailers. Sometimes we can understand what’s inside thanks to the inscriptions on their sides. But most of the time their contents remain unknown to us.

Of course we wonder what they are carrying, where from, and where to? And what contribution does each trucking company and its cargo make to the economy of the region and the whole country?

These questions are easy to answer if you look at the U.S. Census Bureau’s five-yearly Commodity Flow Survey. The recent year for which data are available now is 2017. Reading the data, you can see what a big impact that truck transportation has on our daily lives.

The total value of goods transported by trucks is trillions of dollars

As described in the Сommodity Flow Survey, trucks moved 71.6% or $10.4 trillion of goods. All goods transported  in the U.S. are valued at $14.5 trillion.

California and Texas topped the country in the value of cargo. More than $1 trillion of goods were shipped from each of these states.

Texas ranks first in total haul weight too, moving approximately 1.3 billion tons of goods. Second place went to California with 580.6 million tons.

It should also be noted that Texas is first in other modes of shipment, like rail and pipeline.

In other types of transportation, including parcel and postal service, California had leadership with $350.2 billion of shipments.

Truck Owners

The CFS reports also reveal truck owners, which gives an idea of the importance of small businesses to nationwide trucking. So, according to this data, about 75% of the value of all trucking in the United States was transported by hired trucks.

But these data vary from state to state. In New Hampshire, for example, the proportion of trucks is almost 50/50, while in Hawaii the majority of the trucks are owned by large companies.

How Far The Trucks Move?

Tennessee led the way in terms of the average miles carried in 2017 with a score of 416. Nationwide, the average number of miles per truck was 206 miles. By comparison, the average haul distance for all types of transport was 679 miles.

The truck license plates we see on the road would seem to show that these goods are traveling long distances, but they are not: 39.0% of the value and 65.0% of the weight of all goods shipped by trucks traveled less than 50 miles.

In all modes of transportation, 35.3% of the total value of all freight and 57.9% of the weight of freight traveled less than 50 miles from start to finish of their trip.

And as with truck ownership, the proportion of the cost of shipments depending on the distance of transportation varied a lot across the different states.

So the share of the value of cargos from Tennessee that traveled 50 or more miles by truck is higher than the proportion of the country as a whole.

How Many Goods Are Hauled?

Loads ranging between 10,000 and 50,000 pounds accounted for the largest share of value (31.3%) and weight (40.6%) of loads moved by all modes of shipment in the United States. The same weight range also accounted for the largest share of truckloads with 41.0% of the value and 55.6% of the tons.

Like the shipping distance, the average shipment weights varied by different states.

In some states, such as Texas, heavy loads accounted for a larger share of the cargo values than average in the country. While in other states, such as Hawaii and California, light weight loads accounted for a larger share of the total shipments’ value.

What Types of Goods Are Hauled by Trucks?

Among all transportation modes, “Mixed freight” had the largest share of freight value in 2017 ($1.4 trillion out of $14.5 trillion) and “Gravel and crushed stone” accounted for the largest share of weight (1.6 billion tons of 12.5 billion tons).

“Mixed freight” also ranked first in road freight value at 94.4%. “Gravel and crushed stone” led freight shipments with 1.4 billion of the 1.6 billion tons of this commodity.

Commodity Flow Survey provides not only detailed data on truck cargo by the commodity itself. It also produces data related to temperature-controlled shipments. The refrigerated trucks move goods that are an important part of the US economy, such as meat, for example.

That way “Other Prepared Foods and Fats and Oils” accounted for a large share of the total cargo weight. 129.0 million tons of these commodities were transported in temperature-controlled trucks. And mixed freight was still ranked first among commodities with 195.7 million tons.

Truck shipments of “Miscellaneous Manufactured Products” averaged 982 miles, a lot higher than the average of 117 miles for all types of goods.

With the constantly growing popularity of online ordering of goods, the temperature-controlled shipping statistics promises to be changing in the future.