Saturday, February 23, 2013

DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven declined 2.9% in December

by Bill McBride on 2/23/2013 06:50:00 PM

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported:

Travel on all roads and streets changed by -2.9% (-7.0 billion vehicle miles) for December 2012 as compared with December 2011. Travel for the month is estimated to be 236.3 billion vehicle miles.

Cumulative Travel for 2012 changed by +0.3% (9.1 billion vehicle miles). The Cumulative estimate for the year is 2,938.5 billion vehicle miles of travel.
The following graph shows the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven.

Traffic was down in all regions, and down 4.6% in the Northeast. The rolling 12 month total is still 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 61 months - over 5 years - and still counting.

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

Vehicle Miles Driven YoYGasoline prices were up in December compared to December 2011. In December 2012, gasoline averaged of $3.38 per gallon according to the EIA. In 2011, prices in December averaged $3.33 per gallon. 

However, as I've mentioned before, gasoline prices are just part of the story.  The lack of growth in miles driven over the last 5 years is probably also due to the lingering effects of the great recession (high unemployment rate and lack of wage growth), the aging of the overall population (over 55 drivers drive fewer miles) and changing driving habits of young drivers.

With all these factors, it might take several more years before we see a new peak in miles driven. Maybe when we are all riding in self-driving electric cars!