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US Vehicle Miles Traveled Dropped 3.7% in May; Largest May Drop Ever

29 July 2008

Travel on all roads and streets in the US dropped to an estimated 254.7 billion miles for May 2008—a decrease of 3.7% compared with May 2007, according to the US Federal Highway Administration (FHA). This was the seventh straight month of decline. Cumulative calendar year VMT through May 2008 is now down by 2.4% to 1,188.5 billion miles compared to the same period in 2007.

Vmtmay08
US VMT continued its decline in May 2008. Click to enlarge.

Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer VMT in May 2008 than in May 2007, according to the FHA data. This is the largest drop in VMT for any May, which typically reflects increased traffic due to Memorial Day vacations and the beginning of summer, and is the third-largest monthly drop in the 66 years such data have been recorded. Three of the largest single-month declines—each topping 9 billion miles—have occurred since December.

The ongoing decline in VMT is additional proof that the country needs new means other than the gas tax to finance the nation’s transportation infrastructure, US Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters said.

By driving less and using more fuel-efficient vehicles, Americans are showing us that the highways of tomorrow cannot be supported solely by the federal gas tax. We must embrace more sustainable funding sources for highways and bridges through more sustainable and effective ways such as congestion pricing and private activity bonds.

—Secretary Peters

July 29, 2008 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)

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I keep hearing these claims that with gas tax revenues shrinking that another source for funds needs to be found.

Here's what I don't understand: if fewer people are driving now than a year ago, than we need fewer projects to expand roadways. We'll still need to maintain what we have, but repaving 100 miles of highway lane is a whole lot cheaper than creating a new 100 miles of highway lane -- blasting, bridge altering, etc.

So, shouldn't the cost of total necessary roadway work be far less relative to what it would be if the miles-trajectory continued to climb?

stomv: what you say makes sense, but if they're underfunded to begin with, and they're already behind on the work, then their budget will look even worse now. I do have to wonder if the US fleet is getting any lighter and if that has an effect on road wear.

If we're driving less, doesn't that mean we'll need a lower highway budget?

If we're driving less, doesn't that mean we'll need a lower highway budget?

Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer VMT in May 2008 than in May 2007, according to the FHA data. This is the largest drop in VMT for any May, which typically reflects increased traffic due to Memorial Day vacations and the beginning of summer, and is the third-largest monthly drop in the 66 years such data have been recorded.

Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer VMT in May 2008 than in May 2007, according to the FHA data. This is the largest drop in VMT for any May, which typically reflects increased traffic due to Memorial Day vacations and the beginning of summer, and is the third-largest monthly drop in the 66 years such data have been recorded.

ok, what i don't understand is this:
isn't the tax a percentage of the price at the pump?
the price at the pump has gone up far more than 3.7% so wouldn't that meant that the government is actually making more money from the taxes since the total revenue per gallon has gone up more than the decrease in revenue due to lower gallons sold? I didn't crunch the numbers, it was just a thought.

Sean. The federal gas tax is fixed at $0.18 a gallon. So less gas used means less revenue for the federal government. Some (maybe most?) other government taxes (state, county, city) are a percentage of the total price. As the price of gas rises, their revenue increases.

But I'm on the same page as stomv and Icelander. Less VMT means less use of our roadways, so less maintenance and services are required. But a government agency that admits they need less money to do their job is the kind of stuff you'll only find in fairy tales.

If we're driving less, doesn't that mean we'll need a lower highway budget?
Trucks may be going slower but be loaded heavier, and the weather doesn't care about the price of fuel.
isn't the tax a percentage of the price at the pump?
Most states do not charge sales tax on fuel, and the federal tax is a flat 18.4¢/gallon.

The comments above show an easy solution for this problem: instead of having a per gallon fuel tax, we should have a percent fuel tax, so when the price of fuel rises, the tax rises too. This would counteract the reduction in revenues due to lower mileage driven and therefore less fuel sold. Perhaps we would also want some kind of floor to preserve revenue in case of a price drop, although I don't see that happening any time soon.

Eventually, lower mileage driven may result in less need for road maintenance, but as others above have suggested, we are already so far behind on maintaining our infrastructure that it will be years before we see a lower need for maintenance. A bridge that was on the verge of collapse yesterday is closer to collapse today even if the rate at which it is approaching collapse is now slightly slower.

Responding to the above:

"Trucks may be going slower but be loaded heavier,..."

As far as I know, the maximum total combined weight for tractor-trailer trucks has remained constant at 80,000 lbs. with a few states being exceptions (such as Michigan).

"Most states do not charge a sales tax on fuel, and the federal tax is a flat 18.4c/gallon."

However, every state charges excise and other taxes, ranging from as little as $0.08/gallon in Alaska (go figure), to well over $0.50/gallon in California.

The Secretary of Transportation wants to change highway funding in a way that hides the expense from the paying public. It would not be popular to raise the gas tax sufficiently to pay ALL the costs of the highway system, but that's precisely what we should do.

Higher gas taxes, phased in only if oil prices fall, would cause the VMT graph above to continue declining. The Department of Transportation, the highway construction lobby, and the auto lobby (Big 3, UAW, and the AAA) don't want to see that happen. They care neither about energy security nor global warming.

As far as I know, the maximum total combined weight for tractor-trailer trucks has remained constant at 80,000 lbs.
That is the maximum, but some trucks are lightly loaded. If fuel costs drive trucking companies to optimize for weight carried, the average truck will get heavier.

They want to change it because in the end there will be little or no gas sold. And They want to get the conversion to an new method done now rather then do several steps that each fight alot. You are a nitwit if you think they are going to convert to anything that doesnt tax electric cars and h2 cars and all cars and all trucks. Most likely its going to be very different from todays methods.

Michigan has a 6% sales tax on gasoline sales in addition to a per gallon tax. Constitutionally they are obligated to give 25% of all sales taxes to the public schools.

This is why I dont and wont get on the bus.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=c2e_1217531771

Where we used to live we had alot of crazies on the bus and from time to time they would flip out and attack people. I dont need this I dont want it and if you try and force it on me I will get very violent about it.

Icelander...Theoretically, you're right. But our roadways have been degrading, especially the bridges. Without the same maintenance, this degrading will accelerate. & altho there is less wear & tear on the roads, funding is disappearing for standard maintenance & road crews. Plus, weathering of roadbeds & bridges continues unabated. With businesses in dire straits, surely they will try to sneak around with heavier loads without getting caught, which also will accelerate road wear.

You previously heard of road complaints? That noise will just get worse, now.

P.S. Wintermane...Its still safer on buses, than in cars. Everytime I was on a bus, & we passed a vehicle accident, I always said, 'another reason to ride the bus.' Once our bus was rear-ended by a car. The car was knocked out of action. I bearly felt the accident at all on the bus.

Besides, I met a lot of good people on the bus.


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Additionally, trucks can experience accidents caused by tire failure induced by defective or worn parts, overloading of cargo or improperly inflated or mounted tires. Many accidents are also the result of a car driver's behavior or disregard for the limitations of an automobile.


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Some people may consider looking in the yellow pages for these people or maybe you see their ads on television. The best way that I have discovered to find the best auto accident attorney is by entering my information for a service to find a highly qualified lawyer in my area.


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