TRANSPORT SURVEY TO MEASURE TRADE FLOW

TRANSPORT SURVEY TO MEASURE TRADE FLOW

The U.S. Transportation Department, outlining its statistical strategy in a report issued Thursday, says it hopes to conduct a survey of importers and exporters that would clarify the domestic movements of internationally traded goods.

The Clinton administration has proposed a $31 million budget for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, up from $25 million. The new discussion paper couldn't be implemented without additional funding.''BTS would sample import and export documents and conduct a follow-up survey to obtain information on the modes of transportation used, and the weight and correct geography of shipments,'' says the study, titled ''Transportation Statistics Beyond Istea: Critical Gaps and Strategic Responses.''

Istea is the acronym for the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, the legislation under which the bureau was originally created.

Collecting the domestic details on international shipments is envisioned as a continuous program with a small sample of companies. Most respondents would receive the questionnaire only once, after which they would be replaced in the program by other importers and exporters.

The report also mentions in passing that the Census Bureau program providing port-level details on the value of waterborne imports and exports will soon be transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers. No changes are planned in how the information is received or processed. The transportation data wish list includes statistics from air cargo waybills.

''BTS would sample shipping documents to measure the origin, destination, weight and value of goods moving by air, and identify the commodity (where possible). Coverage would include the fast-growing air courier industry,'' the report says. A similar program sampling railroad waybills already exists, done by the Transportation Department but funded by the Federal Railway Administration and the Surface Transportation Board.

According to Rolf R. Schmitt, associate director for transportation studies at BTS, it might be possible to fund an air waybill program using money from the federal Aviation Trust Fund.

Also discussed in the paper is the possibility of obtaining automated statistical data from ''intelligent transportation systems,'' as computer-based control systems become increasingly important in ground transportation modes.

The Transportation Department plans to put the full text of the 21-page statistical strategy paper on the Internet, at http://www.bts.gov/needs.