Monday, May 21, 2012

DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven increased 0.9% in March

by Bill McBride on 5/21/2012 02:34:00 PM

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported:

Travel on all roads and streets changed by +0.9% (2.3 billion vehicle miles) for March 2012 as compared with March 2011. Travel for the month is estimated to be 251.4 billion vehicle miles.
The following graph shows the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven.

Even with the year-over-year increase in March, 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 52 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 fourth consecutive month with a year-over-year increase in miles driven.

Even though gasoline prices were up sharply earlier this year, prices also increased quickly last year in March and April - so we might not see a year-over-year decline in miles driven in the coming months.

The lack of growth in miles driven over the last 4+ years is probably due to a combination of factors: the great recession and the lingering effects, the high price of gasoline - and the aging of the overall population.

As I noted last month, HS Dent has a graph of gasoline demand by age (see page 13 of Age of Consumer demand curves based on Census Bureau data) - and this data shows that gasoline demand peaks around age 50 and then starts to decline. So the flattening of miles driven is probably, at least partially, another impact from the aging of the baby boomers (ht Brian).

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