Commodity Flow Survey

Commodity Flow Survey

The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) is one of the flagship programs of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). The U.S. Census Bureau in partnership with BTS conducts the CFS as a component of the Economic Census on a 5-year cycle, with surveys conducted in 1993, 1997, 2002, and most recently in 2007. This survey is the primary source of national- and state-level data on domestic freight shipments by American establishments in mining, manufacturing, wholesale, auxiliaries, and selected retail industries. The CFS provides data on the types, origins and destinations, values, weights, modes of transport, distance shipped, and ton-miles of commodities shipped. The CFS is a shipper-based survey and represents the only publicly available source of commodity flow data for the highway mode. In addition, the CFS also provides one of the most comprehensive data series on the shipment of hazardous materials and exports.

2007 Commodity Flow Survey

According to final estimates, American businesses in industries covered by the CFS made shipments valued at $11.7 trillion, totaling 12.5 billion tons and logging 3.3 trillion ton-miles on the U.S. transportation system (Table 1-6-1 Shipment Characteristics by Mode of Transportation for the United States, available at http://www.bts.gov/publications/commodity_flow_survey/). Trucking continues to dominate as the modal choice for freight shipments, accounting for 71 percent of the value and 70 percent of the tons of all commodity shipments. For the first time in the CFS series, data were also displayed by industry sector. The manufacturing sector contributed 45 percent of the value ($5.2 trillion) and 38 percent of the weight (4.8 billion tons) of all transported goods (Table 1-6-2 - Shipment Characteristics by Industry for the United States, available at http://www.bts.gov/publications/commodity_flow_survey/).

Processing of the 2007 CFS data continued through 2009, and final data products were released in December 2009. All 2007 CFS data products, as well as those from previous surveys, are available at http://www.bts.gov/publications/commodity_flow_survey/. For the first time, data products from the 2002 and 2007 surveys will also reside on the U.S. Census Bureau's American FactFinder, which is available at http://factfinder.census.gov. In addition to a comprehensive set of data tables, users can also generate and produce quick reports and thematic maps using 2007 CFS data.

Hazardous Materials

The release of the 2007 Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) included a separate report on hazardous materials (Hazmat) that represents the only source of national hazardous materials transportation flow data for the highway mode. The CFS questionnaire asked Hazmat shippers to enter the appropriate four-digit Hazmat identification (ID) number on each shipment. This CFS data subset of hazardous materials shipments was then compared to the five-digit Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG) codes that identified both hazardous and possibly hazardous materials. This approach to collecting and processing CFS shipments of hazardous materials created a robust and high-quality set of CFS Hazmat data.

In addition, in anticipation of increased volume of Hazmat shipped, as well as growing safety and security concerns, the CFS strengthened the sampling of Hazmat shippers. The 2007 CFS over sampled shippers that often, or always, shipped hazardous materials. Shippers of specialized materials such as ethanol, hydrogen, explosives, and toxic-by-inhalation materials were over sampled as well. These efforts resulted in a sampling of 5.6 percent of the 4.9 million Hazmat shipments logged by the 2007 CFS in contrast to a 4.9 percent sampling of the 2.6 million shipments recorded in the 2002 CFS.

All modes of transportation sampled by the 2007 CFS included shipments of Hazmat, with truck the predominant mode of Hazmat transportation. Trucking moved 57.8 percent of the value and 53.9 percent of the tonnage while recording 32.2 percent of the ton-miles of Hazmat shipments (Table 1-6-3A - Hazardous Material Shipment Characteristics by Mode of Transportation: 2007). A comparison of Hazmat data between the 2007 CFS and 2002 CFS showed no significant changes in tonnage (up 1.8 percent) or ton-miles (down 1 percent), as seen in Table 1-6-3B - Hazardous Material Shipment Characteristics by Mode of Transportation: 2007 and 2002. However, these data show a 119.4 percent increase in value, which may be due to the increase in the cost of refined petroleum products.