Freight movement and the implications of future growth in freight due to global trends in trade is a significant transportation issue to local, regional, and state transportation planning agencies. The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) conducted by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau is the primary public data source on commodity movements in the U.S. To date, the CFS has been conducted five times, in 1993, 1997, and 2002. However, each time the CFS has been conducted the sample size has been reduced by half; from 200,000 shipments in 1993, to 100,000 in 1997, to 50,000 in 2002.
Recently the Transportation Research Board sponsored a 2-day conference on the topic of the CFS in Boston. Several of the specific objectives of the conference were to:
- Provide a more comprehensive understanding of the users and uses of the CFS data, in the areas of policy development and transportation planning at the federal, state and local levels;
- Obtain feedback and input from the conference participants on the uses of CFS data and its perceived strengths and weaknesses;
- Explore how data from other data sources could be used to calibrate and supplement the CFS.
Key conclusion among researchers and users who presented during sessions highlighting state and local uses of the CFS were:
Based on prior research paper submissions to the TRB, there appears to exist a wide body of researchers and practitioners that have experience using CFS data in a variety of formats. This project catalogued previous studies and research efforts that have used CFS data, and documented how the CFS was enhanced to meet those users needs. It also developed a “how to guide” for future users of the CFS. This CFS “users guide” discusses the best practices for CFS data enhancements for various categories of planning projects.
The final report is available here.