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The 1997 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, U.S. Department of Transportation. 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 1997 CFS covers business establishments in mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and selected retail industries. The survey also covers selected auxiliary establishments (e.g., warehouses) of in-scope multiunit and retail companies. The survey coverage excludes establishments classified as farms, forestry, fisheries, governments, construction, transportation, foreign establishments, services, and most establishments in retail.


The CFS captures data on shipments originating from selected types of business establishments located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. We requested that the respondent provide the following information about their establishment’s shipments: domestic destination or port of exit, commodity, value, weight, mode(s) of transportation, the date on which the shipment was made, and an indication of whether the shipment was an export, hazardous material, or containerized. 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. For exports, we also ask the respondent to provide the mode of export and the foreign destination city and country. For hazardous materials shipments, we ask for the correspsonding UN/NA code.


The survey was initiated for 1993. Beginning with 1997, the survey will be conducted every 5 years for years ending in "2" and "7." Commodity surveys were conducted between 1963 and 1983, but data for 1983 were not published. No data were collected for 1987.


The 1997 CFS consists of a sample of 100,000 establishments chosen based on geographic location and industry. Each establishment selected into the CFS sample is mailed a questionnaire for each of its four reporting weeks. For the CFS '97 each sampled establishment was asked to report on a sample of individual shipments during a one week period in each calendar quarter. In addition, about 20,000 establishments received a modified questionnaire for their final reporting period,requesting additional information on transportation facilities and equipment.


Information is available in printed reports and electronic form for the 1997 Preliminary Commodity Flow Survey. The Preliminary is on the U.S. level, the tables include tons, miles, ton-miles and value by mode of transportation (including intermodal combinations), shipment distance, commodity, and weight. In the Fall of 1999, the finalized data will become available. The geographical breakdowns will include U.S., Census Divisions and Regions, individual states, the top 50 Metropolitan Areas (MA), and remainder of state category.


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 Army Corps of Engineers uses the data for feasibility studies of navigation projects. 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.


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


oTransportation Annual Survey

oVehicle Inventory and Use Survey

oCensus of Transportation, Communications, and Utilities


o  Services                                 o Next Program
o U.S. Economy o Economy Overview

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, SSSD,
Commodity Flow Survey Branch

Created: December 15, 1999
Last revised: November 14, 2000

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