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Rail indicators

Rail indicators

Transportation Data and Information Hub (TDIH)

December 10, 2018

Freight Rail Service and Performance Indicators

Statistics Canada and Transport Canada are working together to provide Canadians a more detailed picture of the country's transportation system and its operation.

On behalf of Transport Canada, Statistics Canada has released a set of freight rail service and performance indicators requested as part of theTransportation Modernization Act. The Act provides a strengthened suite of measures for all major freight rail companies, including new data provisions that improve the transparency of the supply chain, and help to proactively identify and address transportation challenges in the future. 

Starting this month, Canada's major freight rail companies, including Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, are required to submit specific data on their service and performance on a weekly basis. As of today, this information is available in four tables on the Statistics Canada website as well as a summary table on the Transportation Data and Information Hub of the Canadian Centre on Transportation Data.

Specifically, the tables include information such as average train speed, dwell times at origin and major terminals, the number of cars on line, causes of major delays, and car order fulfilment for grain orders. This information is being collected and made publicly available to increase the understanding of how well Canada's freight rail system is working, and key areas where it can be improved.

The new data requirements under the Transportation Modernization Act will greatly improve transparency in the freight rail system in Canada, enabling shippers and the public to more closely monitor the network, supporting the early identification of service challenges before they escalate. This increased transparency will also encourage railways to communicate openly with their customers when they become aware of system challenges.

The freight rail service and performance indicators are not collected under the Statistics Act. Under the Transportation Modernization Act, the data are reported by rail carriers to Transport Canada and then disseminated on the Statistics Canada website.

For more information, please visit The Daily release Freight rail service and performance indicators. To view the summary table, please see Weekly rail performance indicators.

For more information, please contact Alain Lumbroso (613-993-6254;

November 2018

November 2018

Transportation Data and Information Hub (TDIH)

November 15, 2018

The value of air cargo

In October 2018, The International Air Cargo Association hosted the biennial Air Cargo Forum in Toronto. This forum brought together over 500 experts in the field of air cargo from all over the world, representing shippers, freight forwarders, air carriers, regulators, suppliers and academia.

The forum was an opportunity to discuss the latest topics regarding air cargo, such as digitalization, the use of blockchains, the introduction of artificial intelligence and the potential of unmanned air freight. More importantly, it was an opportunity to review the value of air cargo and its benefits to society.

Air cargo represents about 35% of global trade in terms of value, despite representing less than 1% of all global trade in tonnage.Footnote 1 According to the International Air Transport Association, 20 million parcels worth $25 billion and weighing 140,000 tonnes are transported by air cargo every day. These shipments are made up of a number of consumer and industrial goods, including 1.1 million smartphones, 80,000 flowers and almost 7,000 vaccines. Air cargo also plays a key role in disaster relief, bringing much-needed food, water and medicine to affected areas.

In Canada, 1.3 million tonnes of air freight were enplaned and deplaned at airports in 2017.Footnote 2 Toronto Pearson International Airport was the busiest, with 443,000 tonnes of air cargo, followed by Vancouver International Airport, with 281,000 tonnes, and Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, with 100,000 tonnes.

In 2017, air cargo represented $130 billion in international trade, making up 11.8% of Canada's international trade.Footnote 3 On a value basis, trade is mostly balanced in Canada, with exports accounting for 45% of the total value of trade. However, Canada tends to be a net importer on the United States, Asia and Latin America trade lanes, whereas it is a net exporter to Europe. Air cargo that is exported from Canada to the United States accounts for 30% of Canada's air exports. This indicates that Canadian air cargo exports are a much more diversified marketplace than Canada's overall trade picture, where the United States is the destination for 75.8% of Canada's exports.

Gold, aircraft parts and pharmaceuticals are some of the most important commodities transported as international air freight. Seafood, especially live lobsters, was a key export commodity worth about $400 millionFootnote 4 in Atlantic Canada alone. It was the top exported commodity for that region.

Although air cargo plays an important role in the Canadian economy, it is especially vital in the North. The territories, Labrador and Nunavik cover an area greater than 4.5 million km2 and have a population of about 160,000 inhabitants. Because aviation is the only year-round mode of transportation for many of these communities, the value of air cargo can be expressed not in terms of tonnage or dollars, but in terms of the lifeline that it provides to these communities: food, clothing and other material needs when no alternative exists.

In conclusion, the value of air cargo can be measured in a number of ways, whether it is how it supports Canada's mining, aerospace, pharmaceutical and agri-food sectors, or whether it is how it ensures that northern and remote communities have access to the food, medicine and goods they need. In either case, it is clear that air cargo plays an important role in the economy and is a key component of Canada's transportation system.

For more information, please contact Statistics Canada (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

October 2018

October 2018

Transportation Data and Information Hub (TDIH)

October 15, 2018

Legislative and oversight modernization

The Canadian transportation system is becoming increasingly complex, with technological changes reshaping industries, revolutionizing business models and creating brand new markets. At the same time, innovation and technological change have raised the expectations of the industry and the public that the government will take real-time action.

Many of the Government of Canada's priorities seek to address the shift to a digital economy, demonstrate results based on evidence, and foster innovation and economic competitiveness.

To help meet these challenges, Transport Canada (TC) has undertaken an ambitious transformation agenda that includes two feature initiatives, which focus on modernizing its safety and security legislative and oversight regimes.

The legislative modernization initiative is about modernizing TC's core acts of Parliament, which authorize TC's safety and security programs. The goal is to transform the safety and security legislative regime to ensure that TC can better promote efficiency and innovation. The initiative also aims to ensure that TC has the requisite tools to manage risk through a more comprehensive and flexible oversight regime, and that it can access the necessary data to identify and manage emerging issues.

Oversight modernization is about improving TC's capability to analyze and leverage transportation-related data to inform its approach to public risk management (i.e., the risks that Canadians face when they use the transportation system). The goal is to enhance TC's ability to understand risks throughout the transportation system, while incorporating results into its safety and security programs so that public risks are minimized (e.g., fatality rates from transportation accidents).

Taken together, these initiatives will expand the department's knowledge base on risk-related data and performance. This will enhance TC's ability to measure and report results over time.

For more information, please contact Statistics Canada (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

September 2018

September 2018

Transportation Data and Information Hub (TDIH)

September 17, 2018

Trade diversification at a glance

Canada's transportation system supports Canada's global trade, evaluated at $1.1 trillion in 2017. Of that amount, 63.4% originated in or was destined for the United States, our main trading partner. The United States was the destination for 75.9% of Canadian exports and the origin of 51.3% of imports into the Canadian marketplace (tables 1 and 2).

Canada's trade has become more diversified over the last two decades. In 1998, 84.8% of Canadian exports were destined for the United States and 68.2% of Canadian imports originated there. China and the United Kingdom are increasingly important as destinations for Canadian exports. China's share of Canadian exports grew from 0.8% in 1998 to 4.3% in 2017, while the United Kingdom saw its share increase from 1.4% in 1998 to 3.2% in 2017. The concentration ratio of destination markets (also known as the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, which ranges from 0 [no concentration] to 1 [perfect concentration]) decreased from 0.72 in 1998 to 0.57 in 2016. This finding indicates that the destination of Canadian exports over those two decades became significantly more diversified.Footnote 1

Diversification is even more pronounced with respect to imports, as a result of increased trade with China and Mexico. Imports from these two countries each accounted for 2.6% of the Canadian total in 1998, but imports from China had increased to 12.6% and imports from Mexico had reached 6.3% by 2017.

Table 1 – Exports to Canada's top trading partners, customs basis, 1998 and 2017
  value ($ millions) share (%)
1998 2017 1998 2017
Total 318,415 546,593 100.0 100.0
United States 269,905 414,620 84.8 75.9
China 2,498 23,612 0.8 4.3
United Kingdom 4,412 17,696 1.4 3.2
Japan 8,635 11,831 2.7 2.2
Mexico 1,467 7,853 0.5 1.4
Other 31,498 70,981 9.9 13.0
Source: Statistics Canada, Table 12-10-0011-01, International merchandise trade for all countries and by Principal Trading Partners (× 1,000,000).
Table 2 – Imports from Canada's top trading partners, customs basis, 1998 and 2017
  value ($ millions) share (%)
1998 2017 1998 2017
Total 298,386 561,448 100.0 100.0
United States 203,578 288,298 68.2 51.3
China 7,651 70,927 2.6 12.6
Mexico 7,682 35,506 2.6 6.3
Germany 6,081 17,935 2.0 3.2
Japan 14,015 17,522 4.7 3.1
Other 59,379 131,260 19.9 23.4
Source: Statistics Canada, Table 12-10-0011-01, International merchandise trade for all countries and by Principal Trading Partners (× 1,000,000).

Changing trade patterns have affected Canada's transportation system by shifting some of its focus towards supporting growing trade with Asia. For example, the $2 billion National Trade Corridors Fund seeks to make Canada's transportation system more efficient and more resilient to better connect Canada to the rest of the world. 

In the coming decades, Asia, especially China and India, as well as Latin America could become more important trade partners for Canada. The United States should continue to be Canada's most important trading partner, but to a somewhat lesser degree. The transportation system will therefore be called upon to serve these growing markets while adopting new technologies that will support Canada's connectedness and competitiveness.

For more information on international trade and a closer look at Canada's trade relationship with key countries, please visit the Canada and the World Statistics Hub.

Welcome to the Transportation Data and Information Hub, developed in partnership by Transport Canada and Statistics Canada to provide you with an authoritative source of data and information about transportation in Canada. The Hub is part of the Canadian Centre on Transportation Data (CCTD).

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The Canadian Transportation System

A healthy Canadian economy is strongly connected to a well-functioning transportation sector. Transportation allows products, services and people to access key markets at home and abroad. This helps create prosperity and economic opportunities. Employment in commercial transport industries accounts for about 5% of Canadian jobs, a share that has remained stable over the past two decades. In 2016, Canada's combined total household spending on transportation (including insurance) was $179.5 billion – second only to shelter, in terms of major spending categories. Household spending for personal travel accounted for about 10% of GDP. Read more about the Canadian Transportation System.


Transportation in Canada 2017

Transportation in Canada 2017 Annual Report

Transportation 2030

Transportation 2030: A strategic plan for the future of transportation in Canada

Canada and the World Statistics Hub

The Canada and the World Statistics Hub provides information related to Canada's economic and financial activity with the world. It brings together data from a number of Statistics Canada products and presents it in a single interactive analytical tool.

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