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Commodity Flow Survey 2017: Select Industries Shipped Almost 12.5B Tons, Up 10.4% from 2012

Release Number: 
BTS 46-20

Date: Thursday, July 16, 2020

American manufacturers, wholesalers, and other selected industries shipped nearly 12.5 billion tons of goods in 2017, 10.4% more than in 2012, with a total value of more than $14.5 trillion, according to final estimates from the 2017 Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) released today. The CFS covers about three-fourths of all U.S. freight movements, excluding imports, shipments from farms, crude oil production, and a few smaller categories.

On a typical day in 2017, establishments in these industries moved 34.2 million tons of goods, valued at $39.7 billion, and generated approximately 8.5 billion ton-miles on the nation's transportation network.

Truck shipments of manufactured goods, raw and refined products, and other goods represent more than 70% of both the value and the weight of freight as reported in the 2017 CFS. Trucks alone in 2017 moved 8.8 billion tons valued at $10.4 trillion.

Final 2017 CFS estimates and additional data products can be found on the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) CFS webpage. Additional information on survey coverage, contents, and methods is available on this page as well. 

The CFS is conducted as a partnership between BTS and the U.S. Census Bureau and is a component of the Economic Census. The 2017 CFS is the sixth in the series that began 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. The CFS provides a multimodal picture of national freight flows and represents the only publicly available source of data for the highway mode.

The 2017 CFS is the most comprehensive data collection of goods movement in the U.S. prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic and would serve as a benchmark of goods movement under normal economic conditions.

The CFS, conducted every five years, is the principal source of data for the Department of Transportation’s Freight Analysis Framework (FAF). The FAF, produced through a partnership between BTS and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), estimates freight movements not covered by the CFS by integrating data from a variety of sources to create a comprehensive picture of freight movement among states and major metropolitan areas by all modes of transportation.

Starting with data from the CFS and international trade data from the Census Bureau, the FAF incorporates data from agriculture, extraction, utility, construction, service, and other sectors. The FAF annual estimates based on the 2017 CFS will be available in late 2020. Existing FAF information can be found on the BTS website.

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) will hold a virtual workshop on the future of the CFS and related national freight data programs on Thursday, Sept. 24. The workshop will facilitate discussion among federal, state, and local level planners, as well as transportation researchers, academics, and practitioners that use federal freight transportation data. The workshop is an opportunity for data producers and data users to work together to identify improvements to the future CFSs, find more efficient ways to align the CFS with the FAF to answer more freight data questions, share information and knowledge, and come up with emerging issues that are important for understanding freight movements.

The workshop is sponsored by BTS, and features participants from partner agencies such as the Census Bureau and FHWA. A preliminary agenda is available and TRB will provide details on registration when available.

Updated: Thursday, July 16, 2020