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Factfinder for the Nation: Transportation and Warehousing, and Utilities Statistics

Report Number CFF No. 13 [Revised]

Introduction

While there are statistics available as far back as 1789 on U.S. water transportation (number of merchant vessels and their trade) and 1830 on railroads (at that time there were 23 miles of railroads in operation, and 40 miles actually built), the Federal censuses did not begin collecting and reporting data on such subjects until 1880. There were special censuses of water transportation in 1906, 1916, and 1926, as well as one covering "express" business in 1907. The monthly Survey of Current Business in the 1920's and early 1930's also requested some transportation data.

For much of the last century, Federal regulatory agencies have collected and published most of the statistics needed on transportation, and the U.S. Census Bureau's role has been limited to gathering data only for those areas not already covered by other agencies. In 1957, the Census Bureau conducted a national travel survey, sponsored by the travel industry, and took the first "census of transportation" (actually several surveys) in 1963 with funds appropriated by Congress. Similar enumerations followed in 1967 and as part of subsequent economic censuses (carried out every 5 years for years ending in "2" and "7"). Utilities were included in the census for the first time for 1992, and a Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) was conducted for 1993. The Truck Inventory and Use Survey was first done for 1963. For the 1997 census year, its name was altered to Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS).

The censuses are conducted under the authority of Title 13, U.S. Code, which also makes response mandatory. Surveys are similarly authorized, but response is mandatory only for annual, or less frequently done surveys (e.g., the CFS and VIUS), and is voluntary to those occurring more frequently than annually. Responses are confidential by law, and the U.S. Census Bureau must make certain that no individual's or firm's operations can be identified in published reports—including CD-ROM (compact disk; read-only memory) products or the agency's online systems.

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