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US Vehicle Miles Travelled Dropping

Moving 12-month total of US VMT through March 2008. Click to enlarge.

Americans drove less in March 2008, continuing a trend that began in November 2007, according to estimates recently published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The FHWA’s Traffic Volume Trends report, produced monthly since 1942, shows that estimated vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all US public roads for March 2008 fell 4.3% as compared with March 2007 travel. This is the first time estimated March travel on public roads fell since 1979. At 11 billion miles less in March 2008 than in the previous March, this is the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history.

Although February 2008 showed a modest 1 billion mile increase over February 2007, cumulative VMT has fallen by 17.3 billion miles since November 2006. Total VMT in the United States for 2006, the most recent year for which such data are available, topped 3 trillion miles.

Additionally, the US Department of Transportation estimated that greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector fell by an estimated 9 million metric tons for the first quarter of 2008.

The estimated data show that VMT on all US public roads have dropped since 2006. The FHWA’s Traffic Monitoring Analysis System (TMAS) computes VMT for all types of motor vehicles (motorcycles, cars, buses and trucks) on the nation’s public roads. These data are collected through over 4,000 automatic traffic recorders operated round-the-clock by state highway agencies. More comprehensive data are published in the FHWA’s Highway Statistics at the end of each year.

Vmturban   Vmtrural
Travel on US Urban highways by month. Click to enlarge.   Travel on US Rural highways by month. Click to enlarge.




Instead of going out alot of people are loging on.. mmo games are soaring..

People wont even blink about using gas lawn equipment. At worst the typical home owner is only going to use 2-3 gallons of gas to mow their lawns.

I hope you mean per year, and not per cut! I have a house on a half acre with a fair amount of grass. I use less than 3 gallons for the entire growing season (late Apr to early Nov). For me to use a push mower, gas would have to be about $200/gal. I might buy an electric at less than that, but it would probably have to be corded given the amount of grass I have.


I use a corded electrical (duh) lawnmower, and I'm quite happy with it. It does take more turns because the cutting width is less, but the absence of noise and fumes make up for it. With my Ipod shuffle at medium volume, I can barely register the sound of the mower :-)

But then again, I only have about 3500 sq ft of lawn. Anyway, I highly recommend using an electrical mower.


ACtually, I see the miles travelled going back up again by 2011, but this time most people will be driving B-segment vehicles in the Honda Fit category and C-segment vehicles in the Ford Focus category, all powered by advanced gasoline engines with variable-valve timing and possibly direct fuel injection to reduce fuel consumption without losing power.


I guess, this is because the first travel reduction is on long trips, where vehicles are pretty efficient.
you remove lots of mileage than consumes little fuel compared to city driving.


We use a landscaping service... im far too clumsy to be allowed to use a lawnmower near living or breakable or flamable or.. im not allowed to use anything that can explode within 500 feet of anything...

John L.

@Gerald Shields:

I've owned a cordless electric lawnmower for six years, and I absolutely love it. No struggling with pulling the starter cord, no stomach-churning gasoline smell, and it's much quieter too.

Three years ago I got my solar PV system, and now I cut my grass using sunshine.

I'm hoping to engineer a similar arrangement with my Prius in the near future. I can't quite afford a PHEV conversion at the moment, but it's coming.

Having said all that, you would need a pretty big lawn to justify switching to an electric mover on economic terms alone.

The main problem with gas-powered mowers is not how much gasoline they use -- it's relatively little -- but in how inefficiently they use it, and how much pollution they generate. The exhaust is much dirtier than car exhaust. Alas, we don't pay for the pollution we generate, we pay for the gas.


Lots of major trucking companies are setting the governors on their rigs to 67MPH or so, and they're setting them even lower on the smaller rigs used for urban hauling. That's why trucks pass other trucks so slowly. Now, you can set your cruise to match their speed and draft them.


"US Vehicle Miles Travelled Dropping"

Gee, I wonder why?



Swen...When gas was going up last year, people didn't cut their vehicle travel miles. Even up to January of this year, Americans only cut their travel distance one third of one percent. So the economics-to-be figured they could just keep raising the price of fuel...lo!

If many more people had driven 35, 42, 45, & 75MPG vehicles like I did for 35 years(& insisted on good mass transit), Americans wouldn't be paying $4 & $5 per gallon now, would have used that gas effectively to save even more money, people's lung, heart & stroke problems would be lessened, & we would be more ready to usher in the era of Electric Vehicles.


Patrick's right on it; $4 a gallon gas hits lower income drivers first. Subtract them from traffic and you'll have higher income drivers and their larger vehicles going faster on roads that are now less busy.

A small - but perhaps significant - percentage of gasoline goes to non-highway use throughout the summer, so I wouldn't expect gas consumed and miles driven to be joined at the hip. I still see boats, motorhomes, ATVs and motorcycles being fueled up in line at Costco.


This is not good news. It is very bad news.

While driving was down 4.3% in March from last year, gasoline consumption was down less than 2%.

We aren't using less fuel, we're just getting less done with it.

Here is the gasoline consumption for March 2008/2007:


Gas consumption has since recovered. Following March, it has been relatively flat compared to last year. January to week of June 13th total consumption is down less than 1%.

Part may be due to rural driving suffering more than urban, but that doesn't explain such a large diffence in fuel efficiency. The miles we are not driving would need to be several time more efficient than normal to explain the difference.

One reason is probably bad information. We've know for quite a while that faster acceleration is more efficient than slow acceleration, but people still believe the opposite.

There are other possible reasons; Giffen Behavior and less efficient fuel mixtures. People may be driving less during off-peak hours and more during peak ours. They don't have the money or energy to do luxury off-peak driving, but must drive more during high traffic times to earn enough money to get by.


During the economic slow down, communities may also be neglecting good traffic management too (e.g. not timing traffic lights properly).

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