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 Find the latest Coronavirus-related transportation statistics on the BTS COVID-19 landing page.

United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Freight Analysis Framework Frequently Asked Questions

Thursday, March 4, 2021

1. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FREIGHT ANALYSIS FRAMEWORK (FAF) AND THE COMMODITY FLOW SURVEY (CFS)?

The CFS primarily covers the mining, manufacturing, and wholesale sectors. FAF is comprehensive and integrates additional data to estimate volumes of shipments from industries that are not covered by the CFS, including foreign trade. The CFS provides the building blocks for the FAF:

  • Over 70 percent of FAF5 freight flows by value are directly from the CFS;
  • Definitions for FAF’s 132 domestic regions;
  • Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG) commodity coding scheme, used at the two-digit level for FAF, and FAF mode classifications.

2. HOW ARE METROPOLITAN AREAS DEFINED IN THE FAF?

The CFS regions are a hybrid of Core-Based Statistical Areas (defined by the Office of Management and Budget) and state boundaries (any single CFS region is limited to only one State). BTS and Census selected these major regional economic centers with the goal of balancing the need for wide geographic representation with the need for data of good quality. The result is a unique region delineation that includes Metropolitan Areas (including partial), state remainders, and entire states.

While there are no changes to the number of CFS areas between 2012 and 2017, there are changes to the CFS area boundary definition for three 2017 CFS areas: Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL; Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK (TX Part); and Lake Charles-Jennings, LA. In addition to the counties included in the 2012 CFS area definition, the 2017 CFS area for Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega includes Tallapoosa County, AL; Dallas-Fort Worth includes Fannin County, TX; and Lake Charles-Jennings includes Jefferson Davis Parish, LA.

More information is available at the Census CFS program page.

3. BESIDES THE COMMODITY FLOW SURVEY (CFS), WHAT OTHER DATA SOURCES ARE USED TO CONSTRUCT THE FAF?

Other major data sources for the FAF include Census Foreign Trade Statistics, Economic Census data, Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS), National Highway Planning Network (NHPN), Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS), Energy Information Administration (EIA), and other industrial data. 

4. ARE THERE COUNTY-LEVEL DATA OR DATA FOR FINER LEVELS OF GEOGRAPHY IN THE FAF?  

Currently, county-level data are not available in the FAF. BTS and FHWA are aware of the growing interest in having data at finer geographic levels, and we are researching the topic.

5. IS THERE A LIST OF COUNTIES THAT MAKE UP THE FAF DOMESTIC ZONES?

Yes, a list of the U.S. counties comprising FAF5 and FAF4 domestic regions can be found on the Census CFS website.

6. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CURRENT VALUE AND CONSTANT VALUE?

Because of inflation, the purchasing power of the dollar changes from year to year. Current value (Total Current M$) of freight in FAF reflects the actual nominal-dollar values for the reported year. For example, the current values of goods for 2014 are in 2014 dollars.

Constant value (Total M$)  reflects the inflation-adjusted dollar values in FAF5 base year dollars. Since the FAF5 base year is 2017, the price of each commodity is set similar to its respective price in 2017. For example, the constant values of goods for 2019 are in 2017 dollars. For FAF4, the base year is 2012.

7. WHAT IS A TON-MILE?

A ton-mile is the movement of one ton of freight for one mile. (It is similar to vehicle-miles travelled, or VMT.) This measure is at the shipment level, so any total flow is the sum of the individual products of distance and weight.

8. WHAT ARE THE USES FOR FAF SUMMARY STATISTICS?

The “Summary Statistics” available on the FAF webpage include both state-level and FAF zone-level summary tables in Excel format.  These tables are designed to provide illustrative examples of FAF data and to quickly provide basic state-level and FAF zone-level freight statistics.  Please note that these tables are generated using “Total Flows,” which include both domestic and foreign trade shipments moved within the U.S., and they are presented by domestic mode of transportation only.

Five sets of summary statistics are provided with the release of the FAF:

  • Tonnage/value for shipments within, from, and to state/FAF zone by trade type and mode;
  • Tonnage/value for shipments within, from, and to state/FAF zone by commodity;
  • Top ten commodities by tonnage/value shipped within, from, and to state/FAF zone;
  • Top five trade partners by tonnage/ value; and
  • Top 50 origin-destination pairs by tonnage/value (NOT provided for FAF4).

“Within” means intrastate/intra-FAF-zone moves, “From” is for outbound shipments moved from the given state/FAF zone to all other states/FAF zones, and “To” is for inbound shipments moved from all other states/FAF zones to the given state/FAF zone. Note that the “From” and “To” tabulations exclude intrastate/intra-FAF-zone movements.

9. WHAT IS THE DATA EXTRACTION/TABULATION TOOL (DET)? 

The DET is a web-based tool that allows users to extract a subset of desired records from the national FAF origin-destination-commodity-mode (ODCM) matrix. The resulting output can be saved in csv file format. Data in this file can then be analyzed or processed by the user to generate statistics as needed.

10. WHY IS THE DET NOT WORKING?

For assistance or other DET support, please email faf@dot.gov.