Friday, March 22, 2013

DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven increased 0.5% in January

by Bill McBride on 3/22/2013 05:50:00 PM

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported:

Based on preliminary reports from the State Highway Agencies, travel during January 2013 on all roads and streets in the nation changed by +0.5 percent (1.2 billion vehicle miles) resulting in estimated travel for the month at 226.9 billion vehicle-miles.

This total includes 71.6 billion vehicle-miles on rural roads and 155.3 billion vehicle-miles on urban roads and streets.
The following graph shows the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven.

Traffic was up slightly in all regions. 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 62 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 down in January compared to January 2012. In January 2013, gasoline averaged of $3.39 per gallon according to the EIA. In 2012, prices in January averaged $3.44 per gallon.   However prices spiked in February, and that will probably impact miles driven in the next monthly report.

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. 

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