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Box C - Meaning of Shipment, Value, Tons, and Ton-Miles in the CFS

Box C - Meaning of Shipment, Value, Tons, and Ton-Miles in the CFS

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, each stop is counted as one shipment. 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.

Value of shipments. The CFS defines the value of shipments as the market value in dollars of goods shipped by businesses. It represents the net selling value, excluding freight charges and taxes. CFS measures 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 intermediate materials used to produce a particular product could contribute multiple times to the value if it is shipped multiple times during the survey year. For example, if a $1,000 product is shipped from a manufacturer in Boston, MA, to a distributor in Washington, DC, who ships it to a wholesaler in Chicago, IL, who then ships it to a retail outlet in Los Angeles, CA, the value of the shipment (product) is counted three times if the manufacturer, distributor, and wholesaler are sampled by the CFS. Each shipment is counted to represent each transportation movement (solid lines in the map). The same product is counted only once, however, if it is directly shipped from the manufacturer in Boston to the retailer in Los Angeles (dotted line in the map).

Example of Shipment Flow. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, please call 800-853-1351 or email

Tonnage of shipments. This represents the total weight of a shipment. Businesses report the entire weight of a shipment in pounds. As with value of shipments above, the tonnage of a product could be counted multiple times depending on the number of times the product is transported in the production and consumption cycle.

Ton-miles. Ton-miles measure the shipment weight multiplied by the mileage traveled by the shipment. Businesses report shipment weight in pounds. Aggregated pound-miles were converted to ton-miles. Mileage is 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 contiguous states exclude any mileages through Canada. Unlike value and tonnage, the national total for ton-miles is not subject to multiple counting because the number of shipments does not affect the calculations.

For additional information, see Commodity Flow Survey United States 2002 Preliminary report. Also available at

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, 2002 Economic Census: Transportation Commodity Flow Survey, Preliminary Report, December 2003.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017