Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven increased 1.3% in December

by Bill McBride on 2/21/2012 11:57:00 AM

Note: Vehicle miles have moved sideways for over four years. And gasoline consumption has declined slightly over the same period. For a discussion of the causes, see NDD's post at the Bonddad blog this morning: Why the decline in gasoline demand doesn't mean a recession -- yet. Among other points, NDD writes: "It appears that gasoline conservation is a top priority of consumers." and he provides a list (with data): Ridership of mass transit is up, online retail purchases have increased, automakers are selling more fuel efficient cars, teen driving is down, and more.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported:

• Travel on all roads and streets changed by +1.3% (3.2 billion vehicle miles) for December 2011 as compared with December 2010.

• Cumulative Travel for 2011 changed by -1.2% (-35.7 billion vehicle miles).
The following graph shows the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven.

Even with a small year-over-year increase in December, the rolling 12 month total is mostly moving sideways.

Vehicle Miles Click on graph for larger image.

In the early '80s, miles driven (rolling 12 months) stayed below the previous peak for 39 months.

Currently miles driven has been below the previous peak for 49 months - and still counting!

The second graph shows the year-over-year change from the same month in the previous year.

Vehicle Miles Driven YoY This is the first year-over-year increase in miles driven since February 2011.

With the recent increases in gasoline prices, we might see year-over-year declines again in January or February. But this doesn't mean a recession - instead, as NDD notes, it appears that behavior is changing, and also that the fleet is becoming more efficient ... and, of course, growth is still sluggish and holding back driving too.

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