The findings from two recent studies by Dr. Michael Sivak at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute together suggest that the US now has—per person, per driver, and per household—fewer light-duty vehicles and that they are driven less than a decade ago.
In a study published in June (earlier post), Sivak noted that the rates of vehicles per person, per licensed driver, and per household reached their maxima prior to the onset of the current economic downturn. As a result, Sivak concluded in that study, it is likely that the declines in these rates prior to 2008 reflect other societal changes that influence the need for vehicles (such as, increases in telecommuting and in the use of public transportation). Therefore, the recent maxima in these rates have better chances of being long-term peaks as well, he suggested.
In the newer study, “Has Motorization In The U.S. Peaked? Part 2: Use Of Light-Duty Vehicles”, Sivak examined recent trends in distances driven by light-duty vehicles in the US fleet for the period from 1984 through 2011.
This focus on light-duty vehicles is in contrast to several other recent studies that analyzed distances driven by all vehicles (including medium and heavy trucks, buses, and motorcycles).
Sivak found that the distances driven per person; per licensed driver; per household; and per registered vehicle all reached their maxima in 2004—four years prior to the beginning of the current economic downturn—and decreased by 5% to 9% by 2011.
Because the reductions in the driving rates were not the result of short-term, economic changes, Sivak suggested, the 2004 maxima in the distance-driven rates have a reasonable chance of being long-term peaks as well. One exception could be the rate per registered vehicle. Should the numbers of vehicles per person, per driver, and per household continue to fall, it is possible that the distance driven per vehicle would eventually start to increase; thus this rate has a better chance in the future of surpassing the 2004 maximum.
The combined evidence from this and the previous study indicates that—per person, per driver, and per household—we now have fewer light-duty vehicles and we drive each of them less than a decade ago. The best estimates of the current annual distance-driven rates by light-duty vehicles are as follows: 8,500 miles per person; 12,500 miles per licensed driver; 22,100 miles per household; and 11,300 miles per registered vehicle.—“Has Motorization In The U.S. Peaked?”