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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

Commodity Flow Survey (CFS)

Tuesday, April 9, 2024


BTS recently examined the history of past CFS data collections.  The analysis focused on the past five surveys over the time period of 1997-2017 and includes historical datasets and visualizations.  To learn more, please click here.


A report comparing the Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) and Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) is now available! 

Freight data users should understand the differences between the CFS and FAF and choose the most appropriate data fitting for their analysis purpose.  The data users must consider the greater detail in the CFS and the more complete coverage of the FAF when determining the data.  This study examines where the differences exist by transportation mode, commodity, origin, and destination.  For example, at the state-level comparison, the CFS covers 35-80% and 38-83% of the FAF in weight of outgoing and incoming freight flows, respectively.  This means caution should be exercised in using state-level estimates of domestic freight flows based on the CFS data, especially states with a lower CFS coverage.

To learn more, please see "Comparison of Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) and Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) for 2017 Domestic Freight Flows".

Commodity Flow Survey Overview

The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS), is conducted every five years for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by the U.S. Census Bureau (Census) as part of the Economic Census. The 2022 CFS is the seventh survey since the program started in 1993. The CFS is a shipper survey of approximately 100,000 establishments from the industries of mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, auxiliaries (i.e. warehouses and distribution centers), and select retail and service trade industries that ship commodities. Data requested by the CFS includes the type of commodities shipped, their origin and destination, their value and weight, and mode(s) of transport. This observed data provides a comprehensive, multimodal picture of in-scope national freight flows and represents the only publicly available source of data for highway freight. Results from the CFS are used to analyze trends in the movement of goods, mapping spatial patterns of commodity and vehicle flows, forecasting demands for the movement of goods, and for guiding management and investment decisions on transportation infrastructure.  Additionally, the CFS serves as the main source of data for the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF). 

To learn more about the CFS, watch the video below.

Title 13 Dataset

A Title 13 (T13) dataset is now available to researchers through the Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC). Please look at the CFS FAQ page for more information on the differences between the Public Use File (PUF) and the T13 data.
Title 13 versions of the 2012 and 2017 CFS data are available for researchers to request in FSRDCs. Researchers can now access CFS data without the lengthy IRS approval process.
Researchers still need to request FSRDC access and receive Special Sworn Status (SSS) clearance. The project must provide a benefit back to the Census Bureau and estimates must have Disclosure Review Board (DRB) approval before being released. Lastly, the data cannot be used for regulatory purposes. More details on the process of applying for FSRDC access and SSS clearance can be found here.

The CFS captures samples of shipments originating from selected types of business establishments located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The dataset includes origin establishment information, domestic destination or port of exit, commodity, value, weight, mode(s) of transportation, the date on which the shipment was made, and an indication of whether the shipment was an export, hazardous material, or temperature controlled. For shipments that include more than one commodity, respondents are instructed to report the commodity that makes up the greatest percentage of the shipment's weight. For exports, the respondent is asked to provide the mode of export and the foreign destination city and country. For hazardous materials shipments, the corresponding UN/NA code is collected.
The CFS is comprised of Title 13 and Title 26 data.  Title 13 data is information collected directly from establishments by the Census Bureau, while Title 26 data is information received from the IRS.  The Title 13 version of CFS data have been altered to remove Title 26 data.  These alterations impact roughly 5% of the shipment-level data and 10% of the establishment-level information.    

Please direct inquires and interest to:  AND

Commodity Flow Survey Workshop

The latest CFS workshop, organized by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), was held in September 2020.  The workshop was an opportunity for data producers and data users to work together to find more efficient ways to align freight data products, answer freight data questions, share information and knowledge, and identify emerging issues that are important for understanding freight movements.

The post-workshop circular can be found at the link below.  Please direct any questions you may have to