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Nationwide Shipment of Goods Reaches $13.8 Trillion, Census Bureau Reports

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Nationwide Shipment of Goods Reaches $13.8 Trillion, Census Bureau Reports

Press Release Number CB14-225

Trucks Carried Most of the Load, Hauling 73.1 percent

The total value of U.S. shipments reached $13.8 trillion in 2012, an increase of $2.2 trillion since the previous Commodity Flow Survey was conducted in 2007, according to the latest estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. While the total value increased 18.5 percent over that five-year span, the nationwide shipment of goods declined by 1.2 billion tons to 11.3 billion tons or about 9.9 percent.      

For the first time, the 2012 Commodity Flow Survey included information on temperature- controlled shipments. Mixed-freight items that include food for grocery and convenience stores as well as supplies for restaurants and food chains accounted for 187.7 million tons of temperature-controlled shipments valued at $529.3 billion.

The Commodity Flow Survey is conducted every five years as part of the Census Bureau’s economic census. The survey, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, is the primary source of national, state and selected metropolitan areas statistics on domestic freight shipments. It provides information on the origin and destination, value, weight, mode of transportation, distance and ton-miles of commodities shipped.

“The Commodity Flow Survey provides business owners, private researchers and analysts with statistics 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,” said Kimberly Moore, chief of the Economic Reimbursable Surveys Division.

The Commodity Flow Survey provides estimates for the nation, 50 states and the District of Columbia, and selected metropolitan areas.

Additional highlights:

  • The South region shipped $5.4 trillion, or 42 percent, of U.S. shipments of goods in 2012. The Midwest followed with $3.7 trillion in shipments value.
  • Manufacturing establishments shipped 4.2 billion tons of commodities worth $5.7 trillion in 2012. Wholesale establishments shipped 3.8 billion tons of commodities worth $6.1 trillion.
  • Trucks hauled approximately 73.1 percent, or $10.1 trillion, of the total value of commodities shipped in 2012. These shipments accounted for 71.3 percent, or 8.1 billion tons, of the total tonnage.
  • An estimated 55.9 percent of all tonnage traveled less than 50 miles in 2012.
  • For-hire truck shipments — freight carried by truck for a fee — traveled an average of 508 miles, while private truck shipments averaged 58 miles.
  • Hazardous material shipments accounted for more than $2.3 trillion and weighed more than 2.6 billion tons.

About the Commodity Flow Survey

Commodity Flow Survey statistics are used by policymakers and transportation planners in various federal, state and local agencies for assessing the demand for transportation facilities and services, energy use and safety risk and environmental concerns. The Commodity Flow Survey was initiated in 1993. Since 1997, the survey has been conducted every five years as part of the Census Bureau’s economic census. A sample of approximately 100,000 establishments is selected based on geographic location and industry.


The Commodity Flow Survey does not include establishments classified in forestry, fishing, utilities, construction, transportation, and most retail and services industries. Farms and government-owned entities (except government-owned liquor wholesalers) were also excluded. Foreign-based businesses importing to the United States are also excluded from the survey sample; however, in theory, domestic portions of imported shipments can be captured in the survey once arriving at a U.S. based establishment (assuming it is an eligible shipping establishment included in the survey).

Statistics are based on data from the 2007 and 2012 Commodity Flow Surveys and include data only for businesses with paid employees.  All dollar values are expressed in current dollars for the period shown, i.e., they are not adjusted for inflation and do not reflect changes in prices. For more information about the survey (including information on comparability, confidentiality protection, sampling error, nonsampling error and definitions), see the Commodity Flow Survey website.

All comparisons made in this release have been tested and found to be statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence level, unless otherwise noted. Please consult the tables for measures of sampling variability.




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