Logistics and Transportation Spotlight

The Logistics and Transportation Industry in the United States

Overview

The logistics and transportation industry in the United States is highly competitive. By investing in this sector, multinational firms position themselves to better facilitate the flow of goods throughout the world's largest consumer market. International and domestic companies in this industry benefit from a highly skilled workforce and relatively low costs. Spending in the U.S. logistics and transportation industry totaled $1.4 trillion in 2016 (7.5 percent of U.S. GDP that year). Analysts expect industry investment to correlate with sector-specific growth in the U.S. economy. America's highly integrated supply chain network links producers and consumers through multiple transportation modes, including air and express delivery services, freight rail, maritime transport, and truck transport. To serve customers efficiently, multinational and domestic firms provide tailored logistics and transportation solutions to ensure coordinated goods movement from origin to end user through each supply chain network segment.

Industry Subsectors

Logistics services: This subsector includes inbound and outbound transportation management, fleet management, warehousing, materials handling, order fulfillment, logistics network design, inventory management, supply and demand planning, third-party logistics management, and other support services. Logistics services are involved at all levels in the planning and execution of the movement of goods.

Air and express delivery services (EDS): Firms offer expedited, time-sensitive, and end-to-end services for documents, small parcels, and high-value items. An $87 billion industry in the United States, EDS firms also provide the export infrastructure for many exporters, particularly small and medium-sized businesses that cannot afford to operate their own supply chain. Recent EDS industry growth has been generated by the expansion of electronic commerce use by businesses and consumers.

Freight rail: High volumes of heavy cargo and products are transported long distances throughout the United States via rail network. Each day, this 140,000-mile system delivers an average of 5 million tons of goods and serves nearly every industrial, wholesale, retail, and resource-based sector of the economy. Freight rail moves more than 70 percent of the nation's coal, about 58 percent of its raw metal ores, 1.6 million carloads of wheat, corn, and other agricultural products, and  13.7 million intermodal containers and trailers that transport consumer goods.

Maritime: This subsector includes carriers, seaports, terminals, and labor involved in the movement of cargo and passengers by water. Water transportation moves nearly 70 percent of all U.S. international merchandise trade, including 72 percent of U.S. exports by tonnage. 

Trucking: Over-the-road transportation of cargo is provided by motor vehicles over short and medium distances. According to the American Trucking Associations, trucking revenues were $676.2 billion in 2016. That year, trucks moved more than 10 billion tons of freight.

Prepared in collaboration with the International Trade Administration's Industry & Analysis Unit (I&A)

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Industry & Analysis (I&A) staff of industry, trade and economic analysts devise and implement international trade and investment strategies to strengthen the global competitiveness of U.S. industries. By combining in-depth analysis with the International Trade Administration’s industry relationships, I&A devises initiatives to unlock export and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses, represent the interests of U.S. industry in trade negotiations, and publishes research on global opportunities for U.S. companies.