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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

COVID-19 Restrictions Upend U.S. Land Border Crossings in 2021

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

One impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been stricter crossing restrictions at international borders. This affects freight, workers, and tourism. In the U.S., incoming crossings were limited to freight and essential travel, which caused a sharp decline in the number of vehicles and pedestrians entering the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. The number of crossings gradually began to increase in 2021 when some restrictions eased. 

Personal vehicle and pedestrian crossings from Canada drop more sharply than crossings from Mexico

The number of personal vehicles entering the U.S. from Canada (4.4M) in 2021 decreased 83.4% from 2019 while pedestrian crossings (37,459) fell 92.8%. At the border with Mexico, the decrease was milder, with personal vehicles entering the U.S. (58.5M) down 19.9% and pedestrian crossings (27.9M) down 43.2%. 

Trucks continue to carry freight through the northern and southern borders.

Commercial truck traffic was more resilient amid pandemic border restrictions. The number of trucks entering the U.S. from Canada (5.6M) declined only 2.0% from 2019. The number of trucks entering from Mexico (6.9M) increased 7.9% with the pandemic-related surge in demand for consumer goods.

Incoming passenger bus traffic takes a significant hit.

The most dramatic effect of COVID-19 on U.S. border crossings was felt by the passenger bus industry. The number of buses (4,042) incoming from Canada in 2021 was down 94.7% from 2019. At the Mexican border, the number of incoming buses (95,605) in 2021 fell 36.9 percent.

Pandemic rearranges ranking of U.S.-Canada border crossings, elevates Detroit to top spot for passengers and pedestrians.

With the steep drop in passengers and pedestrians entering the U.S. on the northern border, the ranking of U.S. -Canada border crossings changed. Massena, NY, for example, jumped from the 7th busiest passenger crossing in 2019 to the 3rd busiest in 2021, and Detroit sprang from 3rd to the top position. At the southern border, the changes in crossing ranking were less dramatic.



BTS offers a wide range of statistical information on border crossings and transborder freight.

In addition to more detailed border crossing data, BTS also collects detailed value and weight  statistics on imports and exports of commodities by border crossing, mode of transportation, and other variables on our Transborder Freight pages.

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Border Crossing/Entry Data