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Commodity Flow SurveyCommodity Flow Survey



General Questions

Questionnaire Related Questions

Answers to General Questions

  • Purpose of the Survey

    • 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; and the distance shipped
    • 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.

  • Selection and Coverage

    • Who is in this survey?
      The 2007 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 did you get my name and address?
      We used the Census Bureau’s list of employer establishments called the Business Register.

    • Is the survey mandatory?
      Yes. Your participation in the CFS is required by law: Title 13, United States Code.

    • I was in the survey last time. Why didn’t you choose someone else?
      We did select a new sample for the 2007 CFS, but some companies get reselected because of their importance to the sample based on their industry, size, location, or a combination of these factors. To exclude everyone that was in the 2002 CFS would greatly affect the reliability of the data products from the 2007 CFS.

    • How can we get off the survey? We don’t have the time to complete the questionnaire.
      Because this survey is mandatory, we cannot, by law, remove you from the survey. We will be glad to work with you to minimize the reporting burden as much as possible.

    • I don’t have any shipments. Do I still have to be in the survey?
      Our definition of shipments includes deliveries and other movements of goods that some respondents don’t always consider as shipments. If you do not have any shipments and do not make deliveries of any kind, please contact us at 1-800-772-7851 so we can determine whether or not you need to report.

    • I don’t have any commodities. Should I be in the survey?
      For this survey, the term commodities covers a variety of goods and products that this establishment produces, sells, or distributes.. If you are shipping any products, materials, etc. you need to report these shipments. For further clarification on what to include or not include, see Item D(1)

    • I am a small business, do my shipments really matter?
      Yes. We need to have small businesses included in our sample to get an accurate measure of shipping practices. The impact of many small businesses, taken together as a group, is very important.

    • Our company only does local shipments, should we be removed from the survey?
      No.. Local shipments have just as much impact on our transportation system as interstate shipments. This survey includes local and interstate shipments and the domestic portion of shipments to foreign destinations.

  • Confidentiality

    • Who else will see my report?
      By law, your reports are strictly confidential.. The information you provide is kept confidential and is seen only by persons sworn to protect the confidentiality of your information. The data you provide are used solely for statistical purposes and will be published only in summary form that does not reveal the operations of an individual company. Title 13, U.S. Code provides strict penalties for violations of confidentiality.

    • Will the Internal Revenue Service see my report?
      No. By law, no other governmental agency, including the IRS has access to the data you provide. Even copies of the CFS report in your files are exempt from any legal process (including IRS audits).

  • Reporting in the 2007 CFS

    • How often will I have to report in this survey?
      We will send you one questionnaire during each quarter of 2007: a total of 4 reports. Each report covers the same one-week period within the quarter, asking for information on a sample of your shipments for the week. (That is, a company whose first report covers the third week of the first quarter will also receive questionnaires covering the third week of quarters 2, 3, and 4.)

    • Can I get a time extension?
      Yes, if warranted. Please contact us at 1-800-772-7851. We will be glad to provide additional time to complete the questionnaire.

Answers to Questionnaire Related Questions

  • Establishment Operations

    • We went out of business before/during/after the reporting period. What should we do?
      If this establishment went out of business before the reporting period, complete only Items A-C and the CONTACT information on the back of the survey form, and mail the form back in the envelope provided.
      If this establishment went out of business during or after the reporting period, complete the questionnaire as instructed. In Item D, enter all the shipments made during the one-week reporting period and sample as instructed in Item E.
      In Item C, please indicate the date this establishment went out of business. Enter any other information that might be useful in better understanding your operating status during the reporting period in the Remarks section on the back of the form.

    • We’re a seasonal business, should we still report in the survey?
      Yes. If you happen to have no shipments during a certain report period, complete Items A-D of the survey form, entering a "0" for Item D - Total Number of Shipments. Then complete the CONTACT information on the back of the form and note the reason no shipments were reported in the Remarks section.

    • Our company is at the address to which you sent the form, but we have a different name. What should we do?
      Mark ‘No’ in Item A on the front of the form and enter the correct name of your establishment in the space provided. Continue to complete the form for your establishment.

    • This is a different company than the one printed on the label. Should I still complete the questionniare?
      Please contact us at 1-800-772-7851 so we can determine whether or not you need to report.

    • We have recently changed the business operations of our company, are you still interested in our response?
      Please contact us at 1-800-772-7851 so we can determine whether or not you need to report.

  • Shipment Information

    • Our shipping documents do not show all the information requested? What should we do?
      Whenever possible, please provide an estimate of the missing item. If estimates cannot be provided, please explain this in the remarks section, and complete as much of the form as possible before returning.

    • We have different documents for different types of shipments/modes/customers. How should we sample?
      It is important that we obtain an accurate sample of all types of shipments that this establishment makes. Use the file or combination of files that gives you the best representation of all of your week’s shipments, regardless of modes of transportation, destinations, and commodities shipped. Contact us at 1-800-772-7851 if you need further assistance.

    • Our shipments are not measured in pounds. How should we report this item?
      Please provide an estimate of the weight in pounds. If this is not possible, enter the weight using your unit of measure and clearly note on the form what measure (gallons, barrels, etc.) is being reported.

    • Should we include the transfer of our inventory to another location of our company as shipments?
      Yes, you should include these shipments in your sampling.

    • What if our sample of shipments misses important shipments (or includes atypical ones)? Should we substitute other shipments?
      No. Report only those shipments you sampled. We appreciate any information, regarding the unusual nature of the sample and would like you to note this type of information in the Remarks section on the last page of the questionnaire.

    • How many shipments should I report on the form?
      If your establishment made 40 or fewer shipments during the assigned reporting week, you will report all shipments. If your establishment made more than 40 shipments during the assigned week, Item E on page 3 of the survey form provides instructions on how to select a sample of your shipments. The number of shipments you should sample and report should be between 20 and 40.

    • We have more than 12,800 shipments during the one-week report period. What should our sampling rate be?
      Please use the expanded sampling rate table, or call us at 1-800-772-7851 to obtain your sampling rate number.

    • Our company didn’t do any shipments during the report period you asked about - should we wait until we’re doing shipments?
      No. Note on the form that you had no shipments (and the reason) and return the questionnaire.

    • If we don’t know the total number of shipments, can we leave this blank?
      Please provide your best estimate for the total number of shipments. This item is very important and we need at least an estimate.

    • Should we count shipments that go by mail?
      Yes, but do not include correspondence or other company documents sent by mail, parcel, or courier. For other products going by mail, use the mode of transportation code "1".

    • I can’t find the commodity code for my products, what should I do?
      Refer to commodity look-up reference for assistance in locating the appropriate commodity code. If you can still not locate a code for a given commodity, enter a detailed description of the commodity for each shipment and leave the commodity code fields blanks.

    • What is a United Nations or North American (UN/NA) code?
      A UN or NA code as they are sometimes referred to (also known as the HAZMAT ID,) is a four-digit code assigned to hazardous materials shipments. This number typically appears on your shipping invoice or other shipping document. If you need assistance in identifying the appropriate UN/NA code, refer to UN/NA codes [xls] or [pdf] for a complete listing of codes or contact us at 1-800-772-7851.

    • I am not sure of the destination of my shipments. Should I leave that blank?
      Please enter as much information as you know about the destination. Even just the city/county and state will be helpful. The zip code by itself is also a help.

    • What is meant by physical location?
      The physical location is the actual location where shipments take place, as opposed to where the paperwork or the request for shipments originate, such as a P.O. Box address or a company mailing address (if different from the physical location).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Service Sector Statistics Division,
Commodity Flow Branch