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The Commodity Flow Survey


A rich source of data on the movement of goods in the United States

Ton Miles by Transportation Mode: 1997-2007The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) is a joint effort by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) and the U.S. Census  Bureau. The CFS produces data on the type, value, weight, origin and destination, and transportation mode of commodity shipments originating from U.S. manufacturing, mining, wholesale, and select retail establishments.

The CFS, as part of the Economic Census, is conducted every 5 years in years ending in 2 and 7.Preliminary data tables for the 2012 CFS are now available, and the detailed final data will be released in December 2014.

CFS data are used by policy makers and transportation planners in Federal, State, and local agencies to assess demand for transportation facilities and services, energy use, safety risk, and environmental concerns.

Additionally, business owners, private researchers, and analysts use the CFS data to analyze trends in the movement of goods, map spatial patterns of commodity and vehicle flows, forecast demands for the movement of goods, and to determine needs for associated infrastructure and equipment.

CFS Based Publications

The CFS is a primary data collection program that produces a rich source of information on the movement of goods in the United States and provides the source data for a number of publications. Three principal reports coproduced by BTS and the U.S. Census Bureau, based on CFS data, are available online:

  • United States: National Data—Provides national level, comprehensive data tables on domestic shipments that cover a wide mix of parameters, including transportation mode, distance shipped, shipment weight, two- and three-digit commodity code, industry, and destination.

  • United States: Hazardous Materials—Provides comprehensive data tables on domestic hazardous materials shipments, including HazMat shipments by transportation mode, hazard class, selected UN numbers, hazardous v. nonhazardous characteristics, State of origin and destination, and much more.

  • United States: Exports—Presents data on shipments from any of the 50 States and the District of Columbia to a foreign country or to a U.S. possession or territory. Data collected includes foreign country and city of destination, mode of shipment out of the United States, U.S. port, airport, or border crossing of exit, and domestic mode of transport to a U.S. destination. In addition, shipment characteristics, including value, tons, and ton miles, are presented in summary form in this report.

The CFS also provides data for the following web-based sources:

  • State Summaries: Commodity Flow Survey—Provides tables for each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia for value and weight of shipments, major commodity shipped, mode of transportation used, distance shipped, destination State, and industry. This report is produced by BTS and available online at the BTS web site.

  • American FactFinder—This website provided by the Census Bureau (http://factfinder2.census.gov ) is the access point for all available CFS data. Data for 2007 are available in 57 tables for value, weight, ton miles, and average distance per shipment in various combinations of commodity, origin and destination geography, mode, shipment distance, shipment weight, and industry. The tables also include the HazMat and Export series.

CFS data and other freight-related data can be obtained by any of the following:

Commodities by Tons Shipped: 2002 and 2007

Millions of Tons of Commodities

  2002 2007
Total 11,668 12,543
Agriculture products and fish 1,139 1,077
Grains, alcohol, and tobacco products 652 706
Stones, nonmetallic minerals, and metallic ores 2,645 2,877
Coal and petroleum products 3,300 3,595
Basic chemicals, chemical, and pharmaceutical products 882 891
Logs, wood products, and textile and leather 701 757
Base metal and machinery 1,476 1,720
Electronic, motorized vehicles, and precision instruments 219 193
Furniture, mixed freight and misc. manufactured products 629 725

Note: Totals include less than 1 million tons of SCTG 99 (Commodity Unknown) in 2007 and 24 million tons of SCTG 99 in 2002.
Source: Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, 2007 Commodity Flow Survey, Table A06, available at http://factfinder2.census.gov/.

Updated: Sunday, May 21, 2017