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CFS FAQs

What is the purpose of the Commodity Flow Survey (CFS)?
Who conducts the CFS and how often is it conducted?
What types of establishments are included in the CFS?
List of NAICS industries covered in the 2012 CFS
What type of information is collected in the CFS?
How were the data collected in this survey?
What are some common uses of the data?
When will data products be available from the 2012 CFS?
What are some of the differences between the 2012 survey and earlier surveys?

What is the purpose of the Commodity Flow Survey (CFS)?
The CFS assesses the demand for transportation facilities and services, energy use, and safety risk and environmental concerns.  CFS data are used by policy makers and transportation planners in various federal, state, and local agencies.  Additionally, business owners, private researchers, and analysts use the CFS data for analyzing trends in the movement of goods, mapping spatial patterns of commodity and vehicle flows, forecasting demands for the movement of goods, and determining needs for associated infrastructure and equipment.  The CFS provides a comprehensive picture of national freight flows and stands as the only publicly available source of data for the highway mode.

Who conducts the CFS and how often is it conducted?
The CFS is conducted as a partnership between the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey is conducted on a five-year cycle as a component of the economic census. Previous surveys were conducted in 1993, 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012.

What types of establishments are included in the CFS?
The CFS is a shipper-based survey, and that captures data on shipments originating from select types of business establishments located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The 2012 survey sampled 102,565 establishments with paid employees that were located in the United States and were classified in the 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) as mining, manufacturing, wholesale, and select retail and services trade industries (electronic shopping, mail-order houses, fuel dealers, and publishers).  The survey also covers auxiliary establishments (i.e., warehouses and managing offices).

The CFS does not include establishments classified in transportation, construction, and most retail and services trade industries are excluded from the survey.  Farms, fisheries, foreign establishments, and most government-owned establishments are also excluded.  While foreign-based businesses exporting to the United States are excluded from the survey sample, domestic portions of imported shipments can be captured in the CFS once arriving at a U.S. based establishment (assuming it is an eligible shipping establishment included in the CFS).

The NAICS industries covered in the 2012 CFS are listed in the following table:

NAICS Code

Description

212
Mining (Except Oil and Gas)
311
Food Manufacturing
312
Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing
313
Textile Mills
314
Textile Product Mills
315
Apparel Manufacturing
316
Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing
321
Wood Product Manufacturing
322
Paper Manufacturing
323 1
Printing and Related Support Activities (except 323122)
324
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing
325
Chemical Manufacturing
326
Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing
327
Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing
331
Primary Metal Manufacturing
332
Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
333
Machinery Manufacturing
334
Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing
335
Electrical Equipment, Appliance, and Component Manufacturing
336
Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
337
Furniture and Related Product Manufacturing
339
Miscellaneous Manufacturing
423
Wholesale Trade, Durable Goods
424
Wholesale Trade, Nondurable Goods
4541
Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses
45431
Fuel Dealers
48412
General Freight Trucking
48422
Specialized Freight Trucking
4931
Warehousing and Storage
51113
Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers
551114 4
Corporate, Subsidiary, and Regional Managing Offices

1 Excludes Pre-Press Services (NAICS 323122)

2 Includes only captive warehouses that provide storage and shipping support to a single company. Warehouses offering their services to the general public and other businesses are excluded.  NAICS 4841 and 4842 are new industries to the 2012 CFS.  For tabulation and publication purposes, NAICS 484 is grouped with NAICS 4931.

3 In previous cycles, NAICS 51223 Music Publishers was tabulated and published in NAICS 5111.  However, for the 2012 cycle, NAICS 51223 was not sampled.

4 Includes only those establishments in NAICS 551114 with shipping activity.

What type of information is collected in the CFS?
The CFS collects information about the commodities shipped by U.S. establishments. Information collected for each outbound shipment includes:

  • Shipment ID Number
  • Shipment Date (Month, Day)
  • Shipment Value
  • Shipment Weight in pounds
  • Commodity Code from Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG) List
  • Commodity Description
  • An indication of whether the shipment was temperature controlled
  • United Nations or North America (UN/NA) number for hazardous material shipments
  • U.S. Destination (city, state, zip code) – or gateway for export shipment
  • Mode(s) of transport
  • City and country of destination for exports
  • Export mode

By CFS definition, a shipment is a single movement of goods, commodities, or products from an establishment to a customer or to another establishment owned or operated by the same company as the originating establishment (e.g., a warehouse, distribution center, or retail or wholesale outlet). Full or partial truckloads are counted as a single shipment only if all commodities on the truck are destined for the same location. If a truck makes multiple deliveries on a route, the goods delivered at each stop are counted as one shipment. Interoffice memos, payroll checks, or business correspondence are not considered shipments. Shipments such as refuse, scrap paper, waste, or recyclable materials are not considered shipments unless the establishment is in the business of selling or providing these materials.

How were the data collected in this survey?
The sample for the 2012 CFS consisted of 102,565 establishments.  Each establishment selected into the 2012 CFS sample was assigned to report for four reporting weeks via questionnaire.  Each reporting week was in a separate calendar quarter and was in the same relative position each quarter.  For example, an establishment might have been requested to report data for the 5th, 18th, 31st, and 44th weeks of the survey year.  In this instance, each reporting week corresponds to the 5th week of each quarter. 

The establishments were asked to provide specific shipment information about a sample of their individual outbound shipments during the reporting week in each calendar quarter.  For the 2012 CFS, respondents had the option to report electronically via Centurion, the Census Bureau’s electronic reporting system.  (Reporting via paper questionnaire was also an option.)

What are some common uses of the data?
Analysts and researchers in both the public and private sectors use data from the CFS for a variety of purposes, including:

  • analyzing trends in goods movement over time;
  • conducting national, regional and sectoral economic analysis;
  • developing models and analytical tools for policy analyses, management and investment decisions;
  • forecasting future demand for goods movement and associated infrastructure and equipment needs;
  • establishing benchmarks for estimating national accounts; and
  • analyzing and mapping spatial patterns of commodity and vehicle flows.

CFS data are used as the basis for the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Freight Analysis Framework, a model that displays by mode the movement of goods over the national transportation network.

In addition, the CFS Hazardous Materials report is the sole source of hazardous material flow data available for the highway mode.

When will data products be available from the 2012 CFS?
Preliminary data tables from the 2012 survey were released on December 10, 2013 and are available on the BTS website at http://emedjimurje.info/archive/publications/commodity_flow_survey/2012/united_states/index

These tables provide shipment characteristics (value, tons, ton-miles, average miles) by:

  • mode of transport
  • total modal activity
  • distance shipped
  • weight of shipments
  • type of industry
  • commodity shipped

Final data products will be released in December 2014 and will include a comprehensive set of data tables, such as:

  • shipment characteristics at the national, state, and metropolitan area levels
  • geographic flow tables by commodity, industry, and mode
  • specially tabulated tables for hazardous materials and exports
  • specially tabulated tables for temperature control and rush delivery estimates

NOTE: The majority of 2012 CFS data products will be made available via electronic media released on the CFS Website or the . The final data release will include three printed publications at the national level. These reports will include national-level data for the:

  • United States
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Exports

What are some of the differences between the 2012 survey and earlier surveys?
The planning and design of the 2012 CFS resulted in several major improvements to the design of the survey. Highlighted efforts and improvements included:

  • improved sample design – the 2012 sample size was 102,565 establishments (102,369 in 2007 and 51,005 in 2002), incorporating both state-level and national-level reliability constraints;
  • expanded coverage of industries and geography;
    • added trucking establishments
    • added 11 additional Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) geographies
  • a precanvass survey (advance survey) to increase sample efficiency;
  • improved data processing, including revisions of editing and imputation procedures and quality assurance;
    • utilized optical character recognition (OCR);
    • applied additional edits to NAICS-SCTG relationships;
  • electronic reporting system made available to all respondents and that helped operations to become more efficient;
  • enhanced processing to determine the mileage traveled by shipments, most notably through the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology that focuses on improvements in the routing logic and systematic output for consistent error detection and correction; and
  • improved data products and dissemination methods, including the application of new non-disclosure methodology;
  • enhanced Geomiler software;
  • added the two new questions on rush delivery and temperature control to the 2012 CFS;
  • refined and conformed mode classifications to industry standards:
    • added a multiple waterways transportation mode and taking it out of multiple modes;
    • redefined air and parcel by dropping weight requirements and increasing weight for parcel;
    • imputed unknowns and preserved true “other” modes;

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The following tables include a summary comparison of the other key characteristics among the 1993, 1997, 2002, and 2007 Commodity Flow Surveys.

Comparison of Industry Coverage

1993 CFS and 1997 CFS

2002 CFS

2007 CFS

2012 CFS

Establishments classified based on the 1987 Standard Industrial Classification System (SIC)
Establishments classified based on 1997 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
Establishments classified based on 2002 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
Establishments classified based on 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
Publishers in Manufacturing Sector
Not covered1
Publishers in Information Sector1
Publishers in Information Sector1
Logging in Manufacturing Sector
Not in scope. Classified in agriculture (NAICS 113)
Not in scope. Classified in agriculture (NAICS 113)
Not in scope. Classified in agriculture (NAICS 113)
Other Manufacturing (excluding Printing Trade Services (SIC 279))
Other Manufacturing (excluding Prepress Services (NAICS 323122))
Other Manufacturing (excluding Prepress Services (NAICS 323122))
Other Manufacturing (excluding Prepress Services (NAICS 323122))
Mining (except mining services (SICs 108, 124, 138, 148) and oil and gas extraction (SICs 131 and 132))
Mining (except support activities (NAICS 213) and oil and gas extraction (NAICS 211))
Mining (except support activities (NAICS 213) and oil and gas extraction (NAICS 211))
Mining (except support activities (NAICS 213) and oil and gas extraction (NAICS 211))
Wholesale (merchants and manufacturers' sales branches and government- owned liquor stores)
Wholesale (merchants and manufacturers' sales branches and government liquor wholesales
Wholesale (merchants and manufacturers' sales branches and government liquor wholesales
Wholesale (merchants and manufacturers’ sales branches and government-owned liquor wholesales)
Retail - catalog and mail order houses
Retail - electronic shopping and mail order houses
Retail - electronic shopping and mail order houses, fuel dealers
Retail - electronic shopping and mail order houses, fuel dealers
Auxiliaries (e.g., warehouses)
Auxiliaries (e.g., warehouses)
Auxiliaries (e.g., warehouses)3
Auxiliaries (e.g., warehouses)3
Generalized and Specialized Freight Trucking
 
 
General Freight Trucking (NAICS 4841)4and Specialized Freight Trucking (NAICS 4842)4

1 Under NAICS, publishers were reclassified from Manufacturing (SIC 2711, 2721, 2731, 2741, and part of 2771) to Information (NAICS 5111 and 51223) and were excluded in the 2002 CFS. However, for the 2007 CFS, publishers were restored as an in-scope industry.

2 Because of changes in the classification of establishments between SIC and NAICS, logging establishments (NAICS 1133), which were covered as part of Manufacturing in the 1993 and 1997 surveys, were not included in 2002 and 2007. Detailed information about NAICS classification can be found on the Census Bureau's  Website.

3 While included in all surveys, the procedures for identifying in-scope auxiliary establishments has changed over the years. For the 1997 CFS, a managing office was considered in-scope only if it had sales or end-of-year inventories in the 1992 Census. Research conducted prior to the 2002 CFS showed that not all managing offices with shipping activity in the 1997 CFS indicated sales or inventories in the 1997 Economic Census. Consequently the 1997 Economic Census results were not used to determine scope for managing offices in the 2002 CFS. For 2002, an auxiliary was included if it supported an in-scope or retail company. For the 2007 CFS, an advance survey of approximately 40,000 auxiliary establishments was conducted in 2006 to identify auxiliary establishments with shipping activity. Those that indicated that shipping was performed (as well as non-respondents) were included in the CFS sample universe.

4 Includes only captive warehouses that provide storage and shipping support to a single company. Warehouses offering their services to the general public and other businesses are excluded. For tabulation and publication purposes, NAICS 484 is grouped with NAICS 4931.

Sample Size

1993

1997

2002

2007

2012

Total sample size of 197,176 establishments selected from a universe of about 790,000 in-scope establishments.
Total sample size of 102,739 establishments selected from a universe of about 770,000 in-scope establishments.
Total sample size of 51,005 establishments selected from a universe of about 760,000 in-scope establishments.
Total sample size of 102,369 establishments selected from a universe of about 754,000 in-scope establishments.
Total sample size of 102,565 establishments selected from a universe of about 716,000 in-scope establishments.
Survey Methodology

1993

1997, 2002, and 2007

2012

Respondents reported key characteristics for each shipment from a sample of their individual outbound shipments during a 2-week period in each of the four calendar quarters of the reference year.
Respondents reported key characteristics for each shipment from a sample of their individual outbound shipments during a 1-week period in each of the four calendar quarters of the reference year.
Respondents reported key characteristics for each shipment from a sample of their individual outbound shipments during a 1-week period in each of the four calendar quarters of the reference year.
Paper Questionnaire Only
Paper Questionnaire Only
Two reporting options: Paper Questionnaire or Electronic Questionnaire
 
UN/NA Listing
UN/NA Listing
 
SCTG Lookup (2007 only)
SCTG Revisions
 
Weight Conversion Charts (2007 only)
"How to Sample" video
 
Sample Selection Calculator
Sample Selection Calculator
 
Establishment Level Content for Third Party Logistics (3PL) (2007 only)
 
Reported Mode of Transportation

1993

1997, 2002, and 2007

2012

For-hire truck
For-hire truck
For-hire truck
Private truck
Private truck
Private truck
Railroad
Railroad
Railroad
Air
Air
Air
Inland water and/or Great Lakes
Shallow draft vessel
Inland Water
Deep Sea Water
Deep draft vessel
Deep Sea
Pipeline
Pipeline
Pipeline
Parcel delivery, courier, or U.S. Parcel Post
Parcel delivery, courier, or U.S. Parcel Post
Parcel delivery, courier, or U.S. Parcel Post
Other mode
Other mode
Other mode
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Data Items Requested for Each Reported Shipment

1993

1997

2002 and 2007

2012

Total value
Total value
Total value
Total value
Total weight
Total weight
Total weight
Total weight
Standard Transportation Commodity Code (STCC) of the Commodity that contributed the most to the shipment's weight
Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG) code of the Commodity that contributed the most to the shipment's weight
Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG) code of the Commodity that contributed the most to the shipment's weight
Standard Classification of Transported Goods (SCTG) code of the Commodity that contributed the most to the shipment's weight
All known modes of transportation
All known modes of transportation
All known modes of transportation
All known modes of transportation
Single origin (assumed to be the mailing address unless the respondent provided a different physical location address)
Single origin (assumed to be the mailing address unless the respondent provided a different physical location address)
Single origin (assumed to be the mailing address unless the respondent provided a different physical location address)
Single origin (asked respondent to verify shipping address versus mailing address to use the appropriate shipping address as the single origin)
Destination
Destination
Destination
Destination
Containerized (Y/N)
Containerized (Y/N)
--
--
--
--
Intermodal (Y/N) (2007 only)
--
--
--
--
Temperature Control
Hazardous material (Y/N)
United Nations (UN) or North American (NA) number for hazmat shipments
United Nations (UN) or North American (NA) number for hazmat shipments
United Nations (UN) or North American (NA) number for hazmat shipments
Export (Y/N)
Export (Y/N)
Export (Y/N)
Export (Y/N)
If export: U.S. exit gateway, mode(s) of transport to the gateway, foreign city and country of destination; and mode(s) of export.
If export: U.S. exit gateway, mode(s) of transport to the gateway, foreign city and country of destination; and mode(s) of export.
If export: U.S. exit gateway, mode(s) of transport to the gateway, foreign city and country of destination; and mode(s) of export.
If export: U.S. exit gateway, mode(s) of transport to the gateway, foreign city and country of destination; and mode(s) of export.

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Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2018
 
 

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