Detailed Justification for the Freight Statistics Program

Detailed Justification for the Freight Statistics Program

What Do I Need To Know Before Reading This Justification?

Understanding how freight moves throughout the country and to and from the nation's ports is essential in informing the USDOT's transportation policy and investment decisions. The Freight Statistics Program is designed to bring this information to light by conducting comprehensive multimodal freight surveys and data analyses.

  • Except for temporary setbacks during the recent economic downturn, freight transportation continues a long-term growth, supporting economic activity throughout the US and providing the means for American exports to reach foreign markets.
  • Freight transportation is an increasingly significant contributor to congestion, safety exposure, infrastructure performance, and greenhouse gas and other emissions, and local congestion is creating disruptions and added costs for a growing amount of interstate and international commerce.
  • The USDOT Strategic Plan identifies the need for better information on freight flows to enhance the nation's ability to make optimal transportation investment decisions.
  • The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) is the only source for national truck shipments and national truck hazardous materials shipment data.
  • The International Freight Data System (IFDS) partnership of USDOT agencies supports a requirement of Section 405 of the SAFE Port Act of 2006.
  • BTS works with USDOT agencies with regulatory authority over hazardous materials transport in the CFS effort to ensure the CFS effectively addresses emerging issues in this area.

What Is The Request And What Will We Get For The Funds?

FY 2012 Freight Statistics Program
Budget Request

Program Activity FY 2010 Actual FY 2012 Request ChangeFY 2010-2012
Freight Statistics Program 10,723 16,021 5,298
TOTAL1 $10,723 $16,021 $5,298

1 The total funding includes salaries and administrative expenses and contract program.

Base Program

The base program includes continued analysis and research using the 2007 Commodity Flow Survey data and international trade and freight transportation data and analysis, including data for the formula used in calculating apportionments for border state infrastructure grants (Federal Highway Administration). The Freight Statistics Program produces special and focused reports on key transportation issues.

Commodity Flow Survey

The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) is the flagship survey of the Freight Statistics Program and has been recognized within USDOT and by external customers as one of the USDOT's most valued freight data series since its initiation in 1993. Although the CFS is a multimodal survey, it is the only available source of national freight data for the highway mode. It also provides the most comprehensive set of national data on the movement of hazardous materials. These data are also fundamental in supporting the USDOT's strategic objective of economic competitiveness.


Text Version

2007 CFS state value map screen shot

International Data Program

BTS is currently focusing its International Data Program on data collection, analysis and outreach. Topics covered by the current program include U.S. international trade and transportation, travel and border crossings, North American transportation research, and global competitiveness. All of these functional areas are focused on data collection, integration, analysis and outreach. The largest topic area for the International Data Program is international multi-modal freight transportation data and information. Transborder data collection and analysis is ongoing and is released monthly. The International Freight Data System (IFDS) partnership project is DOT agencies' interface with the Customs and Border Protection's International Trade Data System (ITDS). Section 405 of the SAFE Port Act of 2006 formally established ITDS. The SAFE Port Act requires all agencies with import and export regulations and authorities to participate in ITDS.

Key Actions:

  • Release monthly the North American freight transportation (Transborder Freight) data for customers including USDOT staff, Congressional staff, state DOTs, international organizations, universities and academics, and others.
  • At least one value-added report will be developed in early 2011 U.S. Freight Movement Highlights utilizing 2007 CFS and other freight data sources.
  • Conduct research and analysis using available freight transportation data to support USDOT's strategic goals and to inform on key transportation issues and events that impact all modes of transportation.

Key Outputs:

  • Comprehensive and timely multimodal and intermodal import and export data are available.
  • Publication of the international and intermodal freight reports provide data profiles of the nation's leading international and intermodal transportation gateways. It highlights key gateways and border crossings for air, water, and surface modes.
  • Hazardous materials import data delivered to USDOT modal administrations. These data fill critical data gaps, improve risk assessments and support evaluations of entities that transport hazardous materials improving the safety of the U.S. transportation system.

Key Outcomes:

  • Comprehensive 2007 CFS-related data products and other freight data products and research easily accessible online for transportation decision makers and the general public.
  • Customers use Transborder Freight data for a variety of purposes, including trade corridor studies, risk assessments, decision making, transportation infrastructure planning, and other purposes.
  • Improved understanding the demand that freight movements place on the U.S. transportation system.

Program Funding Increases:

Commodity Flow Survey (CFS)        $2M

Even though it is considered the most comprehensive national survey of commodity movements, limitations to CFS data are caused by sample size constraints and coverage issues. In addition, the CFS scope and methodology must be continuously assessed and reexamined to address changes in freight transportation logistics and business operations. The 2012 CFS will oversample specific industries/geographies to provide more robust estimates for specific modes (particularly less frequently used modes like water and air) or specific important commodities (e.g., biofuels).

The FY 2012 enhancement request is for $2M to maintain the current sample size and operation and support a slightly expanded coverage of establishments.

The Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS)        $3M

The $3M funding increase for VIUS will capture the physical and operating characteristics of trucks nationallycrucial data for evaluating the role of trucks in transportation. Data from the VIUS will be used to conduct safety analysis, estimate fuel consumption and the economic productivity of trucks, and develop statistics of highway usage and cost allocation. Since a significant percentage of trucks are owned by households and used for personal transportation, the VIUS will collect key information about passenger travel as well as freight. Plans include expansion of coverage to automobiles and buses for a very small cost increment to provide a complete picture of vehicle use for personal and business purposes.

International Freight Data System (IFDS)        $.9M

This increase to the IFDS program will be used to address safety, regulatory, legislative and policy issues, and to conduct research and analysis. International data used by USDOT are obtained from this and other sources and disassociates the shipper from the manifest (or transportation) data, which impedes the production of accurate transportation statistics. USDOT obtains international transportation data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The IFDS would improve import and export data quality and provide an automated system for obtaining multimodal and intermodal international cargo movement from a single source. USDOT modal partners will obtain critical data including hazardous materials shipment data, vehicle and vehicle parts import data, mode of transportation data, and analytical and statistical data via the IFDS to support resource allocation decisions, risk assessments, licensing decisions, and safety standard reviews. This project also supports agencies with import and export (global supply chain security) roles and responsibilities.

RITA aims to design and build the IFDS data warehouse and interface with CBP on behalf of USDOT modal administrations, which will share multi-modal data from a single portal.

Ongoing and consistent commitment for annual contributions from the modal administrations for operation and maintenance (O&M) is required due to budget constraints. To alleviate a potential risk for recurring O&M costs, this request would fund O&M for the IFDS on behalf of the USDOT partnering agencies.

Key Actions: Conduct an enhanced/expanded 2012 Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) data collection; operate and maintain the International Freight Data System; design the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS).

Key Outputs: Complete 2012 CFS data collection; Methodology for the VIUS and targeted surveys; IFDS data delivery to modal customers.

Key Outcomes: Comprehensive national and international freight data made available for transportation planning and policy decisions for all modes of transportation. Data will be available to transportation decision makers to support data-driven decisions, to support efficient allocation of resources and effective transportation investments.

What Is This Program?

Strategic Goals: Safety, environmental sustainability, state of good repair, livable communities, and economic competitiveness. The USDOT Strategic Plan identifies the need for intermodal and cross-modal research and data-driven decision-making. For example, through these programs, national (CFS) and international (IFDS) hazardous materials shipment data will be made available for the USDOT agencies for safety, regulatory evaluation, analysis, and risk assessment.

Purpose/Beneficiaries: Develops and compiles data on freight movements within, through, into and from the U.S. by all modes of transportation.

Partners: USDOT modal administrations, other federal agencies and the transportation industry.

Description: Collects, compiles, and analyzes freight data for all modes of transportation, and provides analytic reports and products from a multimodal and intermodal perspective on the performance and impacts of national and international freight flows on the national transportation system.

Prior Year Accomplishments:

  • Complete research efforts and be fully engaged in the planning and implementation of the 2012 CFS.
  • BTS will sponsor a CFS Data Users Conference.
  • Complete 2007 value-added data products.
  • Execute a release schedule for the TransBorder Freight Data.
  • Collaborate with the U.S. Census Bureau, Canadian and Mexican transportation and statistics agencies, and other federal agencies in the North American Transportation Statistics Interchange.
  • Complete trilateral update of the North American Transportation Statistics (NATS); lead the design and release a summary report on key trilateral indicators based on NATS-OD (online database).
  • Continue to conduct outreach to customers to assure that the most important data are provided, and develop innovative methods for meeting freight data needs at the state and local levels.
  • Lead the first phase deployment of the IFDS data warehouse for USDOT, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); the IFDS is the USDOT interface to the DHS Customs and Border Protection's International Trade Data System (ITDS).
  • Prepare reports on key transportation issues such as container ports, NAFTA trade and freight transport, trade with U.S. trade partners, national freight movements (including hazardous materials shipments), and changes in global transportation activities.

Why Is This Particular Program Necessary?

Information on the movement of goods as described in the Intermodal Transportation Data, National Transportation Atlas Database, and Transportation Statistics Annual Report has been requested by Congress in the past. Goods movement data are central to analyses of transportation projects required under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other federal legislation.

Support of interstate commerce is a core function of the federal government. Data describing the volume, value, and geography of freight movement and performance of the transportation system identify the most cost-effective investments in freight infrastructure. These data help policy-makers understand the potential effectiveness of proposed regulations, financial incentives, and other policies to improve safety and environmental sustainability. Freight data are also key to understanding and enhancing the role of the domestic transportation system in moving U.S. international trade, particularly in supporting the Presidential goal of increasing exports.

Further expansion of the 2012 CFS will allow for increased flow data and better commodity by mode estimates. Through the first phase of the IFDS data warehouse and interface with Customs and Border Protection's import data, USDOT will obtain international transportation data to address safety, environmental and policy issues, and for research and analysis.

Economic activity is variable and must be monitored to assure that the freight transportation system is responding effectively to the nation's logistical needs. Failure to meet the logistical needs of manufacturing and services can result in loss of jobs and reduced spending on other economic activities. Without requested FY 2012 funds, the CFS would not continue and the national freight data program would decline.

How Do We Know The Program Works?

Effective: Demand from the USDOT, modal administrations, research community, industry, state and local governments, and the general public. A wide array of transportation data users rely on data from the Freight Data Program, including researchers and media who utilize the data and analysis.

Research: BTS receives routine feedback from its stakeholders and customers through formal and informal means. This includes:

  • Customer outreach and listening sessions;
  • Input from the American Customer Satisfaction Index;
  • Data requests and downloads from the RITA web pages;
  • Participation in freight-related conferences and workshops to proactively seek feedback on our products.

Sub-program balance: Sub-programs necessary for understanding freight flows.

Efficient: TRB panels have identified these collections as the optimal approach.

Why Do We Want/Need To Fund The Program At The Requested Level?

Funding options: FY 2012 $16.021M

History/outyear needs: FY 2010 $10.723M; FY 2012 $16.021M.