North American Transborder Freight Data

Steps for Interactive Analysis

In developing the new North American Transborder interactive interface, BTS combined some of the data fields used in the raw data and created a few new ones.  The data fields described below are used in the new North American Transborder interactive data analysis tool under the Query Detail Statistics button on the North American Transborder Web Page.  They are slightly different from those used under the Download Raw Data button. The naming convention used in the Query Detail Statistics to describe the data fields make it easier to process the original input data tables into a query database.

Sequential Steps in Selecting Data Fields for Query:
The Query Detail Statistics interface allows users to interactively analyze the North American Transborder data on the fly. To use the interface effectively, the data fields on the Query Detail Statistics are arranged in a logical sequence and should be selected as follows:

Step 1.
Users first select the data field U.S. State (the options in U.S. State) AND the options in the data field Trading Partner.

  • U.S. State - U.S. states that import or export commodities
    Includes all states in the U.S. other than its territories. Users can select a single state, choose multiple states for analysis, or aggregate the data for all states. 
  • Trading Partner - Canada and Mexico
    In the North American Transborder, the U.S. trading partners are Canada and Mexico. This data field allows the selection of U.S. exports to "Canada and Mexico" and U.S. imports from "Canada and Mexico". Users can select either a country (Canada or Mexico) or choose a single or multiple Canadian Province and/or Mexican State, or NAFTA trade (which is Canada and Mexico together).

Step 2.
Next, users choose the time period for the analysis by selecting the Year data field. When users select Year 2004 -2011, all transportation modes are available for query and analysis.  By contrast, when users select any year prior to 2004, only land (surface) modes are available for query and analysis.

  • Year - Year of Trade
    This data field represents the calendar year for imports and exports.  It generally indicates the year the goods entered or exited the United States.

    Multiple years can be selected for a time series analysis.
  • Mode - Mode of Transportation
    This field identifies the mode of transportation for shipments entering and exiting the United States.  The specific mode of transportation codes are listed below, followed by definitions for mail, other, and foreign trade zones.

    Aggregate All Modes
    Aggregate All Except Av
    Mail (M)
    Truck (T)
    Rail (R)
    Pipeline (P)
    Other (O)
    Foreign Trade Zones (F) (added April 1995)
    Aggregate All AV Modes
    Air (A) (added in 2004)
    Vessel (V) (added in 2004)

"Mail" represents U.S. Postal Service and courier shipments, and cannot be further subdivided into a mode such as, air, rail, or truck.

"Other and unknown", includes flyaway aircraft, that is aircraft moving under their own power from the aircraft manufacturer to a customer and not carrying any freight, powerhouse (electricity), vessels moving under their own power, pedestrians carrying freight, unknown, and miscellaneous other. 

The actual mode of transportation is not available for imports into FTZs, and therefore they were included as MOT "Other," prior to April 1995.   In April 1995, as the result of inquiries from users, the mode of transport, foreign trade zones (or DISAGMOT 9) were added after a Census investigation.   Although FTZ is being treated as a mode of transportation in this dataset, the actual mode for a specific shipment into or out of a foreign trade zone is unknown because Customs does not collect this information.

Step 3.
Then, users select the next field Month if they want the data by month.

  • Month - Month of Trade
    This data field represents the month for imports and exports as reflected in the Census Bureau’s published statistics.  For imports, it is the month in which the U.S. Customs and Border Protection releases the merchandise to the importer. For exports, it is based on the date when the merchandise leaves the United States.
  • Multiple months in a single year or multiple months with multiple years can be selected for analysis.
  • The users can also select the Annual Summary in the Month field to get the aggregates for all 12 months for the selected year.

Step 4.
Next, users select the Customs Port data field. See Note 1 below:

Note 1: Beginning with the January 2007, BTS makes available data for commodities handled at the gateway ports of entry and exit at country level, allowing cross-tabulation of Commodity by Customs Port. Click here to access the query interface.

The Customs Port and the Commodity data fields were mutually exclusive. In other words, users can select Customs Port or Commodity but not both.  Once users select Customs Ports, the Commodity data field will be automatically disappeared.

For example, the Commodity field is available for analysis and query only if users select the Aggregate All Ports option under Customs Port or choose Aggregate All Commodities option under the Commodity data field.

U.S. State - U.S. State of Origin or Destination
This field identifies the U.S STATE of Origin or Destination based on the TRADE TYPE (Import, Export or Total) data field.

Step 5.
As explained in Note 1, for data prior to January 2007, users must choose if they want to query/analyze the data by Custom Port or Commodity.

  1. If users choose to analyze data by Commodity then Aggregate All Ports should be highlighted in the options.  The Commodity field becomes automatically available for selection.
  2. If the user decides to analyze data by Customs Port in detail, then the user selects various options under Custom Port.
  • Customs Port - U.S port of entry or exit
    This field identifies the Customs port where the entry or exit documentation was filed with Customs and the duties paid.  It may not always reflect the port where the shipment physically crossed the border to or from the United States. This is because, under current Customs regulations, importers or exporters may file import documentation at one port while the shipment actually enters at another port.

    The Canadian and Mexican border customs districts include all public ports.  Some additional non-border or inland ports are identified separately.  Non-border ports with low activity are combined at their parent Customs district and reported by an "XX" (i.e., 35XX).

    Census also uses pre-selected port codes for certain types of shipments.  For imports there are two pre-selected port codes included in this dataset.  Port code 70XX is the Census code used for low value shipments for which Customs allows importers to file informal entries which lack port information.  Port code 60XX covers vessels moving under their own power.  Both 70XX and 60XX are included in this dataset as "other" mode of transport (DISAGMOT 8).
  • Commodity - Export or Import Commodity
    This field identifies commodity traded between the United States and Canada and Mexico at the two-digit level.  This commodity codes are also based on the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States of America (HTSUSA). 

Step 6.
Next, users select options from the Port Name, Code and Type data field. See note 2 below:

Note 2: The data field Port Name, Code and Type is available for analysis only if the user decides to do a detail query using Custom Port (that is when users choose any option other that Aggregate All Ports).

This option allows users to drill down further on selections made under Port Name, Code and Type. 

  • Port Name, Code and Type -
    This field represents the name of the port and groupings of ports by port code and type of mode the port represents. 

Step 7.
Next users select the desired measurement, whether value or weight in the Measure data field.  This data field controls the availability of imports or export data under Trade Type.  Based on the selected Measure the options in Trade Type are displayed. For example, if users select Value (in US dollars), then the Exports, Imports and Total Trade options become available.
The following weight data by Trade Type are available for analysis

  • Import weights for land modes are available for analysis from April 1994 - Present
  • Import and export weights for AV (Air & Vessel) are available for analysis starting January 2004 - Present
  • Export weights are not available for analysis for land modes

Value: Value of Commodity in U.S. dollars
The data field "VALUE" refers to the Customs value or the value of merchandise for duty purposes.  For imports, the value is usually the selling price actually paid or payable for the goods in the foreign country of origin.  It excludes freight costs, insurance and other charges incurred in bringing the merchandise from the foreign port of export to the United States.  For exports, the value is on free alongside ship (f.a.s) basis.  F.A.S. value - is the value of exports at the U.S. seaport, airport, or border port of exportation, based on the transaction price including inland freight, insurance, and other charges incurred in placing the merchandise alongside the carrier at the U.S. port of export.

The use of Canada's import data to produce U.S. export data requires some adjustments to make the two comparable. U.S. exports are valued at the U.S. seaport, airport, or border port of export in the U.S. and include inland freight charges. Canadian imports are valued at the point of origin in the U.S. and do not include inland freight to the U.S. port of exit. To compensate, Canada adds an estimated 4.5 percent of the value to each transaction to cover inland freight (except for shipments where freight is not a consideration, e.g., large aircraft, vessels and drilling platforms.)

Weight: Weight of Commodity in Kilograms, Pounds, U.S. short tons and Metric tons

This data field represents the gross weight in kilograms of shipments, including the weight of moisture content, wrappings, crates, boxes, and containers (other than cargo vans and similar substantial outer containers).
Historically, shipping weight information from the Census Bureau has been available for shipments by vessel and air only.  However, in the North American Transborder, shipment weight is available for all import modes. For exports, shipping weight is not currently available all modes for Canada and Mexico. Currently here is what is available:


  • Trade with Canada - weight data available for all modes - truck, rail, air, and vessel
  • Trade with Mexico - weight data available for all modes - truck, rail, air, and vessel


  • Trade with Canada - weight data available for air and vessel, weight for surface modes not available
  • Trade with Mexico - weight data available for air and vessel, weight for surface modes not available

Step 8 .
This final step allows users to choose the following options for the desired output format:

Data Display:
Users can choose to display values and weights in the following units of measurements - actual numbers, in thousands, millions, or billions.

Output Options:
Users can display the data output in tables with percentage changes, without percentage changes.

Other Options:
Some queries may result in Zeros and NAs due to the data field selection and availability of the data. Users can choose to display the data either with Zeros and NAs or without them. If the user skips the Zeros and NAs option in the main query page, a similar option is available in the query results area. This option in the result area enables the user to suppress the Zeros and NAs after the user views the result. Users can also choose the display commodity option in Other Options  if the analysis is focused on commodity rather than flow.

Outputs of Query

The maximum tables can be 16 tables for each query.  The output tables can be sorted on the fly by clicking the column header.  Two type of tables are available for download, the first one (download the data in a flat table) keeps all values in their raw data units (i.e. VALUE in US$ and WEIGHT in Kg); another (download the display tables) is the results of display (WYSWYG: What You See What You Get), units may change based on the selection of data display (for example, you may select in thousands, then the VALUE or WEIGHT in thousands).

The interface will keep your selections; you can make some changes if you want to make another query.  Once you familiar with the interface and their functions, you can make selections randomly.