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Sunday, October 21, 2012

DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven increased 1.2% in August

by Calculated Risk on 10/21/2012 12:21:00 PM

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported Friday:

Travel on all roads and streets changed by 1.2% (3.0 billion vehicle miles) for August 2012 as compared with August 2011. Travel for the month is estimated to be 262.4 billion vehicle miles.

Cumulative Travel for 2012 changed by 0.9% (17.8 billion vehicle miles).
The following graph shows the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven.

The rolling 12 month total is still 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 57 months - 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 August compared to August 2011. In August 2012, gasoline averaged of $3.78 per gallon according to the EIA. Last year, prices in August averaged $3.70 per gallon - but even with the increase in gasoline prices, miles driven increased year-over-year in August.

Just looking at gasoline prices suggest miles driven will be down in September - especially with the very high prices in California. Nationally gasoline prices averaged $3.91 in September, up sharply from $3.67 a year ago.

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.

Vehicle Miles by AgeThis graph from the Federal Highway Administration is based on the National Household Travel Survey shows the miles driven by certain age groups over time. The key is a large group is moving into the older age brackets, so their miles driven will decline - a large group is moving the from the "54 to 58" age group into the higher age groups.

I also suspect miles driven has been falling for lower age groups over the last few years, and the next survey will probably show that decline.

With all these factors, it may be years before we see a new peak in miles driven.

Summary for Week Ending Oct 19th
Schedule for Week of Oct 21st