U.S. Department of Commerce

Commodity Flow Survey

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PURPOSE

The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) is undertaken through a partnership between the Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Research and Innovative Technology Administration. This survey produces data on the movement of goods in the United States. The data from the CFS are used by public policy analysts and for transportation planning and decision-making to assess the demand for transportation facilities and services, energy use, and safety risk and environmental concerns. The CFS was conducted previously in 2002, 1997, and 1993.

COVERAGE

Industry coverage

The CFS covers business establishments in mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and selected retail and services trade 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.

Shipment coverage

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.

CONTENT

The CFS is conducted throughout the survey year with information collected during each calendar quarter. Establishments selected in the CFS sample are mailed four questionnaires - one during each calendar quarter of the survey year. The establishments are asked to provide shipment information about a sample of their individual outbound shipments during a prespecified one-week period. Generally, the four questionnaires are the same. The following information is collected:

  • Shipment ID number
  • Shipment date (mm/dd)
  • Shipment value
  • Shipment weight in pounds
  • Commodity code from Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG)list
  • Commodity description
  • Hazmat number [United Nations (UN) or North American (NA) number]
  • U.S. destination (city, state, Zip Code) - gateway for export shipment
  • Modes of transportation
  • Foreign destination (exports only - city and country)
  • Export mode

FREQUENCY

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. No data were collected for 1987.

METHODS

Beginning with the 2007 CFS, a sample of 100,000 establishments was chosen based on geographic location and industry. Each establishment selected into the CFS sample was mailed a questionnaire for each of its four reporting weeks. Each sampled establishment was asked to report on a sample of individual shipments during a one week period in each calendar quarter. Respondents who are interested in electronic reporting can request and use a secure electronic reporting option.

PRODUCTS

Data for the 2007 and 2002 CFS at the national, state, and select metro levels are available in American Factfinder (AFF), with additional data breakdowns including state level, sub-state level, hazardous materials, and exports.

Information is available online for the 2002, 1997, and 1993 Commodity Flow Surveys. Estimates of value, tons, ton-miles, and average miles are available for national, state, and selected metropolitan areas. Breakdowns by mode of transportation, shipment distance, shipment weight, commodity, as well as other breakdowns, are also available. A limited supply of print reports and CD-ROMs may be available for some survey years.

Print reports are available for the 2007 U.S. level, hazardous materials, and export data.

USES

The U.S. Department of Transportation, state DOTs, and metropolitan planning organizations use the updated and expanded information on commodity flows for policy development, assessing infrastructure needs, and safety issues. The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the data for improvements to the balance of payment accounts, national input-output accounts, and regional projections.

Transportation carriers use these data to better understand their markets and more efficiently serve shippers. Manufacturers use the information to locate plants and to identify trends in transportation of their product.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Provides the only comprehensive and consistent statistics of commodity flows with product detail.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Service Annual Survey: Selected Transportation and Warehousing (merged into Service Annual Survey)

Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey

Economic Census


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