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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Commodity Flow Survey (CFS)?

The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) is the primary source of national and state-level data on domestic freight shipments by American businesses. As a shipper-based survey, the CFS collects information on how U.S. establishments transport raw materials and finished goods; the types of commodities shipped by mode of transportation; the value, weight, origin, and destinations of shipments.

Why are you doing this survey?

The results of this survey are in great demand by transportation policy planners and decision makers at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and at state DOT's as well. The CFS data help these agencies make informed decisions about our transportations system and highway infrastructure, including how to allocate the billions of dollars needed to maintain and improve the transportation system in this country.

The CFS produces summary statistics on the uses of our transportation system at the national, state, and sub-state levels.

Who is in this survey?

The 2012 CFS is a sample survey of approximately 100,000 business establishments from the mining, manufacturing, wholesale, and selected retail industries. Certain auxiliary establishments, such as warehouses are also included. We cannot mention names of specific companies, because that would be a violation of our confidentiality protection.

How often is the survey conducted?

As a part of the Economic Census, the CFS is conducted every 5 years (in years ending in “2" and “7”). The first CFS was conducted in 1993 and provided data on the movement of goods by mode of transportation. In later years, data on hazardous materials and exports (beginning in 1997) and NAICS industry (beginning in 2002) were added.

Is my response mandatory?

Yes. Your participation in the CFS is required by law: Title 13, United States Code. The Economic Census is the major source of facts about the structure and functioning of the nation’s economy. It provides essential information for government, business, industry, and the general public.

Where can I find CFS data?

There are several ways to get CFS data:

  1. The CFS data are available in the American FactFinder for 2007 and 2012.
  2. For years prior to 2007, the data can be found at the Historical Data tab.
  3. Printed publications are available on the CFS website. To request a hard copy of a publication, please call 1-800-853-1351.

If my establishment participated in the previous CFS, do I have to participate in the next CFS?

A new sample is selected for each survey, but some companies may get re-selected based on their industry, size, location, or a combination of these factors. To exclude everyone that was in a previous CFS would greatly affect the reliability of the data.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Commodity Flow Survey | (301) 763-2108 | |  Last Revised: June 26, 2015