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The CFS data are used by policy makers and transportation planners in various federal, state, and local agencies for assessing the demand for transportation facilities and services, energy use, and safety risk and environmental concerns. Additionally, business owners, private researchers, and analysts use the CFS data for analyzing trends in the movement of goods, mapping spatial patterns of commodity and vehicle flows, forecasting demands for the movement of goods, and determining needs for associated infrastructure and equipment.
The CFS covers business establishments in the following industries:
The survey also covers selected auxiliary establishments (e.g., warehouses) of in-scope, multi-unit, and retail companies. Industries not covered by CFS include transportation, construction, most retail and services industries, farms, fisheries, foreign establishments, and most government-owned establishments.
The CFS collects data on shipments originating from within-scope industries, including exports. Imports are not included until the point that they leave the importer's initial domestic location for shipment to another location. The survey does not cover shipments originating from business establishments located in Puerto Rico and other U.S. possessions and territories.
The CFS captures data on shipments originating from selected types of business establishments located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The establishments are asked to provide shipment information about a sample of their individual outbound shipments during a pre-specified one-week period. For shipments that include more than one commodity, respondents are instructed to report the commodity that makes up the greatest percentage of the shipment's weight. How the Data are Collected provides more detail on the information that is collected.
Beginning with the 2007 CFS, a sample of 100,000 establishments is selected based on geographic location and industry. Each establishment selected into the CFS sample is mailed a questionnaire for each of its four reporting weeks. Each sampled establishment is asked to report on a sample of individual shipments during a one week period in each calendar quarter.
The CFS was initiated in 1993. Beginning in 1997, the survey has been conducted every five years for years ending in "2" and "7." Predecessor surveys were conducted in various years between 1963 and 1983, but data for 1983 were not published.