United States Freight Transport Report

Providing expert analysis, independent forecasts and competitive intelligence on the freight transport industry.

Report includes: BMI Industry View, Industry SWOT Analysis, Industry Forecasts, Freight Transport Risk Reward Index, Macroeconomic Forecast, Company Profiles and Regional and Country Industry Overviews.

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United States Freight Transport Report
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BMI View: The US freight sector will enjoy healthy growth across all freight modes in the coming years given the positive turn in economic activity and the additional benefit of lower fuel prices due to the global oil price rout. We expect road freight will be the key outperformer in both the short term and medium term given our expectation for robust increases in the consumer sector.

The US economy will continue to strengthen in 2016, with real GDP set to increase from 2.5% in 2015 to 2.6% this year. This growth will be driven by a pick-up in private consumption as labour conditions and consumer confidence improve. Lower oil prices will also help to free up income otherwise spent on fuel. We expect these factors will continue to underpin growth and demand for freight services in the medium term, while lower oil prices will also boost companies' bottom line. We forecast economic growth to average 2.5% annually between 2016 and 2020.

In terms of trade, demand for imported consumer goods will keep imports elevated in the coming years and keep freight volumes on a positive growth trajectory. Real import growth will increase by an annual average of 4.3% between 2016 and 2020, just below our expectation for export growth of 4.7% each year. In the shorter term, the steep decline in the price of oil will weigh on US crude producers' margins, and reduce the pace of domestic energy production expansion over the next several quarters, requiring greater volumes of fuel imports than would have otherwise been the case.

Road freight will continue to be the dominant freight mode in the US in terms of volumes carried over our medium-term forecast period, benefitting from increased consumer demand for imported goods, an uptick in online retail deliveries across the country and continued demand for grain road freight over short distances. Over the medium term we project the volumes of freight carried by road to expand by an annual average of 6.3%.

Rail freight represents a sizeable tranche of the US freight sector, and with strong demand for agricultural exports, particularly grain, in conjunction with our expectations of a continued uptick in demand for both crude oil transport by rail, as well as intermodal rail freight, we expect steady growth over the medium term, albeit at a slower rate than road.

The US rail freight sector will register stable growth in 2016 before gradually picking up over the medium term. Demand for rail freight will continue to be driven by agricultural exports, though we caution that a drop-off in crude oil prices may have an impact on production in the coming year. Rail freight volumes will dip from 4.1% in 2015 to 3.8% in 2016 before increasing gradually to reach 4.7% in 2020.

We expect growth in the airfreight sector will increase at a slower pace compared to the other freight modes given the limited capacity of the sector and relative competitiveness of road and rail for transporting large quantities of goods cross-country. Air freight volumes are set to increase by 3.4% in 2016, supported by strengthening consumer demand and by an annual average of 3.7% over the next five years.

We expect a revival in public and private sector investment into transport infrastructure, a key component of our generally constructive view towards US infrastructure. In 2014, transportation spending from federal, state and local sources increased by 4.0% year-on-year (y-o-y), a significant figure considering 90% of US transport investment comes from public sources. With growing bipartisan support for infrastructure spending, we expect this trend to continue in the years ahead. Our view is strengthened by the 'Build America Investment Initiative', which launched in 2014 and aspires to increase public-private partnerships across the transport sector.

Key BMI Forecasts

  • We forecast total road freight volumes will rise by 6.3% y-o-y over 2016 to reach 151.8bn tonnes.

  • We forecast total rail freight volumes will rise by 3.8% y-o-y over 2016 to reach 1.9bn tonnes.

  • We forecast total air freight volumes will rise by 3.4% y-o-y over 2015 to reach 10.1mn tonnes.

  • Top trade partners will be the Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and Germany.

Latest News:

  • CSX broke ground on a USD60mn 70-acre intermodal facility in November 2015. The facility, formally known as the Pittsburgh Intermodal Rail Terminal, has been undergoing demolition since September, and the project is to be completed in 2017.

  • Delta Airlines attributed a 20% decline in cargo revenue in Q315 to the tough pricing environment for US operators following the end of the West Coast port strike as well as currency headwinds on international routes.

BMI Industry View
Freight Transport
Operational Risk
Industry Forecast
Trade Forecast
Table: Trade Overview (United States 2012-2019)
Table: Key Trade Indicators (United States 2012-2019)
Table: Main Import Partners
Table: Main Export Partners
Road Freight Forecast
Table: Road Freight (United States 2012-2019)
Rail Freight Forecast
Table: Rail Freight (United States 2012-2019)
Air Freight Forecast
Table: Air Freight (United States 2012-2019)
Market Overview
Company Profile
Norfolk Southern Corporation (Norfolk Southern)
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway
YRC Worldwide
Delta Cargo
Political Outlook
Domestic Politics
Table: A Large And Growing Field
Long-Term Political Outlook
Table: Political Overview
Oil Price Outlook
Global - Crude Oil, Refined Fuels And Natural Gas Prices, 10-Year Forecasts
Table: Energy Price Forecasts (Global 2013-2018)
Table: Energy Price Forecasts (Global 2019-2024)
Macroeconomic Forecasts
Economic Analysis
Table: US - Key Economic Indicators
Table: US - Private Consumption Forecasts
Table: US - Private Investment Forecasts
Table: US - Government Consumption And Investment Forecasts
Table: US - Net Exports Forecasts
Demographic Forecast
Table: Population Headline Indicators (United States 1990-2025)
Table: Key Population Ratios (United States 1990-2025)
Table: Urban/Rural Population & Life Expectancy (United States 1990-2025)
Table: Population By Age Group (United States 1990-2025)
Table: Population By Age Group % (United States 1990-2025)
Industry Forecast Methodology
Sector-Specific Methodology

The United States Freight Transport Report has been researched at source, and features latest-available data covering commercial transport and logistics by road, rail, air and water; industry forecasts, company rankings covering leading national and multinational operators; and analysis of latest industry trends, opportunities, projects and regulatory changes.

BMI Research's United States Freight Transport Report provides industry professionals and strategists, sector analysts, investors, trade associations and regulatory bodies with independent forecasts and competitive intelligence on the American freight transport and logistics industry.

Key Benefits

  • Benchmark BMI's independent freight transport industry forecasts on United States to test other views - a key input for successful budgetary and planning in the strategic freight transport market.
  • Target business opportunities and risks in the American freight transport sector through our reviews of latest industry trends, regulatory changes and major deals, projects and investments in United States.
  • Assess the activities, strategy and market position of your competitors, partners and clients via our Company Profiles (inc. SWOTs, KPIs, and latest activity).


BMI Industry View

Summary of BMI’s key industry forecasts, views and trend analysis covering freight transport and logistics, regulatory changes, major investments and projects and significant national and multinational company developments.

Industry SWOT Analysis

Analysis of the major strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within the freight transport sector and within the broader political, economic and business environment.

BMI Industry Forecasts

Historic data series (2008-2012) and forecasts to end-2019 for all key industry and economic indicators (see list below), supported by explicit assumptions plus analysis of key downside risks to the main forecast including:

  • Transport Sector: Total freight carried by road, rail, inland waterways, maritime, air and pipeline (mn tonnes-km/mn tonnes).
  • Trade: Exports and imports (USDmn) by category of goods (manufactured goods, food, chemicals etc.); top five import and export trade partners (USDmn); imports/exports to each global region (USDmn)
  • Port Data: Throughput (‘000 tonnes) for all major ports in the state.
  • Oil Products Prices: Price forecasts for gasoline and aviation fuel (USD/bbl) at all major global energy trading hubs.
  • Economic Indicators: Nominal GDP (USDbn); real GDP growth (%); GDP per capita (USD); industrial production (%); unemployment (%)

Market Overview

Details of the freight infrastructure in each state by segment (road, rail, air, water and pipelines). Full analysis of the competitive landscape within each segment.

Industry Trends and Developments

Analysis of the latest projects across the freight transport sector (road, rail, air, sea and logistics) including a market overview which provides an outline of the key elements driving development.

Political Outlook

The Freight Transport market reports contain a chapter detailing the political outlook of a given region, examining the domestic politics, long-term outlook and foreign policy, and assessing the impact this could have on freight and transport businesses.

Company Profiles*

Examines the short- to medium-term business strategies of key industry players. Strategy is examined within the context of BMI’s industry forecasts, our macroeconomic views and our understanding of the wider competitive landscape to generate company SWOT analyses.

The latest financial and operating statistics and key company developments are also incorporated within the company profiles, enabling a full evaluation of recent company performance and future growth prospects.


The Freight Transport reports draw on an extensive network of primary sources, such as multilateral organisations, government departments, industry associations, chambers and company reports

*Company profiles are not available for every country. Those reports instead contain information on the current activities of prominent companies operating in the market.