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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

2002 Commodity Flow Survey

Monday, July 2, 2012

2002 Commodity Flow Survey


The 2002 Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) is undertaken through a partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), U.S. Department of Transportation. This survey produces data on the movement of goods in the United States. It provides information on commodities shipped, their value, weight, and mode of transportation, as well as the origin and destination of shipments of manufacturing, mining, wholesale, and select retail establishments. 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 last conducted in 1997.

This report contains background information on the 2002 Commodity Flow Survey and then presents detailed tabular results on shipment characteristics by mode of transportation, commodity, distance shipped, and shipment weight. In Appendix A, key characteristics of the 2002 CFS are compared to those of the 1993 and 1997 surveys. Appendix B focuses on the reliability of the estimates and discusses sampling and nonsampling errors. Tables containing estimates of sampling variability corresponding to each table on shipment characteristics are also included in Appendix B.

This report presents the final United States summary data. It contains more detail than the preliminary United States report issued in December 2003 and reflects all revisions based on the geographic level analyses conducted since then. Additional reports will include data for census regions, divisions, states, and selected metropolitan areas, as well as selected data on exports and hazardous material shipments.


The 2002 CFS covers business establishments with paid employees that are located in the United States and are classified using the 1997 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) in mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and select retail trade industries, namely, electronic shopping and mail-order houses. Establishments classified in services, transportation, construction, and most retail industries are excluded from the survey. Farms, fisheries, foreign establishments, and most government-owned establishments are also excluded.

The survey also covers auxiliary establishments (i.e., warehouses and managing offices) of multiestablishment companies, which have nonauxiliary establishments that are in-scope to the CFS or are classified in retail trade. The coverage of managing offices has been expanded in the 2002 CFS, compared to the 1997 CFS. For the 1997 CFS, the number of in-scope managing offices was reduced to a large extent based on the results of the 1992 Economic Census. A managing office was considered in-scope to the 1997 CFS only if it had sales or end-of-year inventories in the 1992 Census. However, research conducted prior to the 2002 CFS showed that not all managing offices with shipping activity in the 1997 CFS indicated sales or inventories in the 1997 Economic Census. Therefore, the 1997 Economic Census results were not used in the determination of scope for managing offices in the 2002 CFS.

For the 1993 CFS and the 1997 CFS, establishments were classified based on the 1987 Standard Industrial Classification System (SIC). Though an attempt was made to maintain similar coverage between the 1997 CFS and the 2002 CFS, there were some changes in industry coverage due to the conversion from SIC to NAICS. Most notably, coverage of the logging industry changed from an in-scope Manufacturing SIC code (SIC 2411) to an out-of-scope Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting NAICS code (NAICS 1133). Also, coverage of the publishing industry changed from in-scope Manufacturing SIC codes (SIC 2711, 2721, 2731, 2741, and part of 2771) to out-of-scope Information NAICS codes (NAICS 5111 and 51223).

See Appendix A for a comparison between the 2002, 1997, and 1993 surveys. Also see Appendix C for a more detailed discussion on industry coverage and the sample design. The NAICS industries covered in the 2002 CFS are listed in the following table:

NAICS code Description
212 Mining (Except Oil and Gas)
311 Food Manufacturing
312 Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing
313 Textile Mills
314 Textile Product Mills
315 Apparel Manufacturing
316 Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing
321 Wood Product Manufacturing
322 Paper Manufacturing
323 Printing and Related Support Activities
324 Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing
325 Chemical Manufacturing
326 Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing
327 Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing
331 Primary Metal Manufacturing
332 Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
333 Machinery Manufacturing
334 Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing
335 Electrical Equipment, Appliance, and Component Manufacturing
336 Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
337 Furniture and Related Product Manufacturing
339 Miscellaneous Manufacturing
421 Wholesale Trade, Durable Goods
422 Wholesale Trade, Nondurable Goods
4541 Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses
49310 Warehousing and Storage
551114 Corporate, Subsidiary, and Regional Managing Offices


The CFS captures data on shipments originating from select types of business establishments located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The data do not cover shipments originating from business establishments located in Puerto Rico and other U.S. possessions and territories. Shipments traversing the U.S. from a foreign location to another foreign location (e.g., from Canada to Mexico) are not included, nor are shipments from a foreign location to a U.S. location. Imported products are included in the CFS at the point that they left the importer's domestic location for shipment to another location. Shipments that are shipped through a foreign territory with both the origin and destination in the U.S. are included in the CFS data. The mileages calculated for these shipments exclude the international segments (e.g., shipments from New York to Michigan through Canada do not include any mileages for Canada). Export shipments are included, with the domestic destination defined as the U.S. port, airport, or border crossing of exit from the U.S.

The ''Industry Coverage'' section of the text lists the NAICS groups covered by the CFS. Other industry areas that are not covered, but may have significant shipping activity, include agriculture and government. For agriculture, specifically, this means that the CFS does not cover shipments of agricultural products from the farm site to the processing centers or terminal elevators (most likely short-distance local movements), but does cover the shipments of these products from the initial processing centers or terminal elevators onward.


To estimate the distance traveled by each freight shipment sampled for the 2002 Commodity Flow Survey, the BTS Mileage Calculation Team used routing algorithms and an integrated, intermodal transportation network developed and updated expressly for this purpose by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The BTS Team worked at a secure data site within the Census Bureau. Each record contained the ZIP Code shipment origin and destination, and the mode or modal sequence required by the routing algorithm for distance estimation. Each record also contained information on type of commodity moved, its weight, dollar value, and hazardous materials status. For export shipments, data on the U.S. port of exit were also identified, along with foreign destination city and country. Processing of shipment records began in the fall of 2002, with completion in October 2003.

One essential exercise was editing and imputing both absent and invalid geographic data elements, specifically origin and destination ZIP Codes, prior to estimating the distance traveled for each freight shipment. For this purpose, the BTS Mileage Calculation Team developed and maintained databases of domestic city/state names and foreign city/country names. The missing data elements, along with other related data problems found by the BTS Team, were either: (1) imputed because of high probability of accurate correction by the BTS Team, such as imputing a missing destination ZIP Code, given a destination city and state; or (2) reported back to the Census Bureau, allowing for call-backs to shippers for clarification/correction.

For a domestic shipment, the mileage is calculated between the center of the geographic area (centroid) of the U.S. origin ZIP Code and the centroid of the destination ZIP Code. The mileage for the shipments within a ZIP Code is calculated by means of a formula that approximates the longest distance within the boundaries of that ZIP Code. The mileage for an export shipment is calculated between a shipments centroid of U.S. origin ZIP Code and its foreign destination country (city in the case of Canada and Mexico), via a U.S. port of exit (POE), be it seaport, airport, or border crossing. However, only the portion of mileage that falls within the U.S. is included in the CFS estimates. That is to say, once the export reaches the POE, the POE is considered the final domestic destination, the domestic route is finished, and any following mileage is not counted from the POE. These mileages are computed using routing algorithms that find the minimum impedance path over mathematical representations of the U.S. and North American highway, railway and waterway networks, and a transglobal representation of U.S.originating air freight and deep-sea transport networks. Shipment mileages were estimated for each record by summing over the distances of links contained within each minimum impedance path. Impedance was computed as a weighted combination of distance, time, and cost factors.

The ORNL multimodal network database is composed of mode-specific subnetworks representing each of the major transportation modes, such as highway, railway, waterway, and airway (pipeline network was not available due to security reasons). The links of these networks represent linehaul transportation facilities. Network nodes represent intersections and interchanges, along with the access points to the transportation network. To simulate local access, test links are created from each five-digit ZIP Code centroid to nearby nodes on the network. For the truck network, local access is assumed to exist everywhere. For the other modes this is not true. Before any test links are created for these modes, a search procedure is used to determine if and where such networks are most likely to provide access to the ZIP Code. For shipments involving more than one mode, such as truck-rail or rail-water shipments, intermodal transfer links are added to the network database to connect the individual modal networks together for routing purposes. An intermodal terminals database and a number of terminal transfer models were developed at ORNL to identify likely transfer points for different classes of freight. A measure of link impedance was calculated for each access, line-haul, and intermodal transfer link traversed by a shipment. These impedances were mode specific and are based on various link characteristics. For example, the set of links characterizing the highway network included speed impacting factors, such as the presence of a divided or undivided roadway, the degree of access control, the rural or urban setting, the number of lanes, the degree of urban congestion, and the length of the link. Link impedance measures were also assigned to the local access links. Intermodal transfer link impedances are estimated in terms of the time it takes to move goods through a transfer facility. In the case of rail and air freight, intercarrier transfer penalties were also considered to obtain proper route selections. A shortest path algorithm is used to find the minimum impedance path between a shipment's origin ZIP Code centroid and destination ZIP Code centroid. The cumulative length of the local access plus line-haul links on this path provides the estimated distances used in CFS mileage computations. When rail and air freight were involved, these shipment distances were often averaged over more than one path between an origin-destination pair.

Mileage Data for Pipeline Shipments

For pipeline shipments, ton-miles and average miles per shipment are not shown in the tables. For most of these shipments, the respondents reported the shipment destination as a pipeline facility on the main pipeline network. Therefore, for the majority of these shipments, the resulting mileage represented only the access distance through feeder pipelines to the main pipeline network, and not the actual distance through the main pipeline network. Pipeline shipments are included in the U.S. totals for ton-miles and average miles per shipment. For security purposes, there is no pipeline network available in the public domain with which to route petroleum-based products. Hence, any modal distance, either single or multi, involving pipeline was considered as solely pipeline mileage from origin ZIP to destination ZIP and calculated to equal great circle distance (GCD). Note: Great circle distance is defined as the shortest distance between two points on the earth's surface, taking into account the earth's curvature.


Value of shipments. The dollar value of the entire shipment. This was defined as the net selling value, f.o.b. plant, exclusive of freight charges and excise taxes. The value data are displayed in millions of dollars.

The total value of shipments, as measured by the CFS, and the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) while similar in size provide different measures of economic activity in the United States and are not directly comparable. GDP is the value of all goods produced and services performed by labor and capital located in the United States. In 2002, the U.S. GDP was estimated at $10.4 trillion (measured in current U.S. dollars). The value of shipments, as measured by the CFS, is the market value of goods shipped from manufacturing, mining, wholesale, and mail order retail establishments, as well as warehouses and managing offices of multiunit establishments.

Three important differences can be identified between GDP and value of shipments:

  1. GDP captures goods produced by all establishments located in the United States, while the CFS measures goods shipped from a subset of all goods-producing establishments.
  2. GDP measures the value of goods produced and of services performed. CFS measures the value of goods shipped.
  3. GDP counts only the value-added at each step in the production of a product. CFS captures the value of shipments of materials used to produce or manufacture a product, as well as the value of shipments of the finished product itself. This means that the value of the materials used to produce a particular product contributes multiple times to the value.

Commodity. Products that an establishment produces, sells, or distributes. This does not include items that are considered as excess or byproducts of the establishment's operation. Respondents reported the description and the five-digit Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG) code for the major commodity contained in the shipment, defined as the commodity with the greatest weight in the total shipment.

Average miles per shipment. For the 1993 CFS, we excluded shipments of Standard Transportation Commodity Classification (STCC) 27, Printed Matter, from our calculation of average miles per shipment. We made this decision after determining that respondents in the 1993 CFS shipping newspapers, magazines, catalogs, etc., had used widely varying definitions of the term ''shipment.'' For the 1997 and 2002 CFS, we made numerous efforts throughout our data collection and editing to produce consistent results from establishments shipping SCTG 29, Printed Products. As a result, we have included printed products in the average miles per shipment estimates for 1997 and 2002.

Distance shipped. In Table 3, shipment data are presented for various ''distance shipped'' intervals. Shipments were categorized into these ''distance shipped'' intervals based on the great circle distance between their origin and destination ZIP Code centroids. All other distance-related data in this and other tables (i.e., ton-miles and average miles per shipment) are based on the mileage calculations. (See the ''Mileage Calculations'' section for more details.)

Great circle distance. The shortest distance between two points on the surface of a sphere over the surface of that sphere.

Mode of transportation. The type of transportation used for moving the shipment to its domestic destination. For exports, the domestic destination was the port of exit.

Mode Definitions

In the instructions to the respondent, we defined the possible modes as follows:

  1. Parcel delivery/courier/U.S. Postal Service. Delivery services that carry letters, parcels, packages, and other small shipments that typically weigh less than 100 pounds. Includes bus parcel delivery service.
  2. Private truck. Trucks operated by a temporary or permanent employee of an establishment or the buyer/receiver of the shipment.
  3. For-hire truck. Trucks that carry freight for a fee collected from the shipper, recipient of the shipment, or an arranger of the transportation.
  4. Railroad. Any common carrier or private railroad.
  5. Shallow draft vessels. Barges, ships, or ferries operating primarily on rivers and canals; in harbors, the Great Lakes, the Saint Lawrence Seaway; the Intra-coastal Waterway, the Inside Passage to Alaska, major bays and inlets; or in the ocean close to the shoreline.
  6. Deep draft vessel. Barges, ships, or ferries operating primarily in the open ocean. Shipping on the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway is classified with shallow draft vessels.
  7. Pipeline. Movements of oil, petroleum, gas, slurry, etc., through pipelines that extend to other establishments or locations beyond the shipper's establishment. Aqueducts for the movement of water are not included.
  8. Air. Commercial or private aircraft, and all air service for shipments that typically weigh more than 100 pounds. Includes air freight and air express.
  9. Other mode. Any mode not listed above.
  10. Unknown. The shipment was not carried by a parcel delivery/courier/U.S. Postal Service, and the respondent could not determine what mode of transportation was used.

In the tables, we have used additional terms for mode, which we define as follows:

  1. Air (includes truck and air). Shipments that used air or a combination of truck and air.
  2. Single modes. Shipments using only one of the above-listed modes, except parcel or other and unknown.
  3. Multiple modes. Shipments for which two or more of the following modes of transportation were used:
    Private truck
    For-hire truck
    Shallow draft vessel
    Deep draft vessel

    In addition, Parcel, U.S. Postal Service, or Courier shipments are considered multiple modes because this category includes all parcel shipments whether on the ground or via air tendered to a parcel or express carrier. In defining this mode, we did not combine these shipments with any other reported mode because by their nature, Parcel, U.S. Postal Service or Courier are already multimodal. For example, if the respondent reported a shipment's mode of transportation as ''parcel'' and ''air,'' we treated the shipment as parcel only. Also in the CFS reports, the ''Truck and Rail'' and ''Rail and Water'' combinations included under ''Multiple Modes'' may not reflect all the movement of trailers or containers by rail and at least one other mode of transportation. Since the shipper may not always know the modal combinations used to transport the goods, some shipments moving by more than one mode may be reported as a single mode shipment. This may result in underestimation of multimodal shipments in the CFS.
  4. Other multiple modes. Shipments using any other mode combinations not specifically listed in the tables.
  5. Other and unknown modes. Shipments for which modes were not reported, or were reported by the respondent as ''Other'' or ''Unknown.''
  6. Truck. Shipments using for-hire truck only, private truck only, or a combination of for-hire truck and private truck.
  7. Water. Shipments using shallow draft vessel only, deep draft vessel only, or Great Lakes vessel only. Combinations of these modes, such as shallow draft vessel and Great Lakes vessel are included as ''Other multiple modes.'' (Note: By definition, ''shallow draft,'' ''Great Lakes,'' and ''deep draft'' are mutually exclusive.)
  8. Great Lakes. In the tables in this publication, ''Great Lakes'' appears as a single mode. ORNL's transportation network and mileage calculation system allowed for separate mileage calculations for Great Lakes between the origin and destination ZIP Codes.

Other Definitions and Terms

Shipment. A shipment is a single movement of goods, commodities, or products from an establishment to a single customer or to another establishment owned or operated by the same company as the originating establishment (e.g., a warehouse, distribution center, or retail or wholesale outlet). Full or partial truckloads are counted as a single shipment only if all commodities on the truck are destined for the same location. If a truck makes multiple deliveries on a route, the goods delivered at each stop are counted as one shipment. Interoffice memos, payroll checks, or business correspondence are not considered shipments. Shipments such as refuse, scrap paper, waste, or recyclable materials are not considered shipments unless the establishment is in the business of selling or providing these materials.

Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG). The commodities shown in this report are classified using the SCTG coding system. The SCTG coding system was developed jointly by agencies of the United States and Canadian governments based on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (Harmonized System) to address statistical needs in regard to products transported. See Appendix D for more details.

Ton-miles. The shipment weight multiplied by the mileage traveled by the shipment. The respondents reported shipment weight in pounds. Aggregated pound-miles were converted to ton-miles. Mileage was calculated as the distance between the shipment origin and destination ZIP Codes. For shipments by truck, rail, or shallow draft vessels, the mileage excludes international segments. For example, mileages from Alaska to the continental United States exclude any mileages through Canada (see the ''Mileage Calculations'' section for more details). For trucks making mutliple stops, the ton-miles are calculated for each delivery, and each drop-off point is treated as a final destination. Ton-miles estimates are displayed in millions.

Tons shipped. The total weight of the entire shipment. Respondents reported the weight in pounds. Aggregated pounds were converted to short-tons (2,000 pounds). For freight shipped to distribution centers for subsequent reshipment, the tonnage is counted each time the goods are transported.

Total modal activity (Table 2 only). The overall activity (e.g., ton-miles) of a specific mode of transportation, whether used in a single-mode shipment, or as part of a multiple-mode shipment. For example, the total modal activity for private truck is the total ton-miles carried by private truck in single-mode shipments, combined with the total ton-miles carried by private truck in all multiple-mode shipments that include private truck (private truck and for-hire truck, private truck and rail, private truck and air, etc.)


The following abbreviations and symbols are used in the tables for this publication:

Represents an estimate equal to zero or less than 1 unit of measure.
D Denotes estimates withheld to avoid disclosing data of individual companies.
S Estimate does not meet publication standards because of high sampling variability or poor response quality.
CFS Commodity Flow Survey.
lb Pounds.
n.e.c. Not elsewhere classified.
NA Not applicable.


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