BETHESDA, Md. — With millions of Americans staying and working at home due to business and school closures, the volume of traffic on U.S. roads dropped 38% in mid/late March versus February, a new study shows.
National traffic volume for consumers, local fleets and long-haul trucks dropped 38% during the week of March 21-27, relative to Feb. 22-28, according to transportation data provider INRIX Inc.
Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is tied to the health of the automotive aftermarket industry — the more miles driven, the more maintenance, repair and parts replacement vehicles require, according to the Auto Care Association (ACA),which created an analysis report based on the INRIX data.
Based on anonymous speed/location data reported in real-time from all road types for more than 100 million trips per day in the U.S., INRIX reported that, relative to typical daily travel on Feb. 22, the week of March 21 saw further reductions in vehicular travel than the previous week, including:
- Personal vehicle travel fell 42% versus 20%;
- Local fleet travel dropped 14% versus 5%;
- Long-haul truck travel dipped 3% after edging up 2% the previous week; and
- Overall miles traveled decreased 38% versus 18%.
Metropolitan areas experienced the highest VMT reductions for March 27 (relative to Feb. 22), including Detroit (down 62%), San Francisco (down 54%), Seattle (down 52%) and New York City (down 48%).
Mike Chung, ACA director of market intelligence, said it is hard to predict how long the decrease in VMT will persist, particularly in the face of lower gas prices, the upcoming summer driving season and aversion to flying amid social distancing.
"What we have seen historically, though, is that aftermarket spend is sustained as automobile owners keep their vehicles longer. This may be even more pronounced given temporary shutdowns of motor vehicle factories," the ACA report said.