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FHWA Home / Policy & Governmental Affairs / Highway Statistics 2003 - FHWA

Highway Statistics 2003 - FHWA

Section II



The annual vehicle registration date varies among the States. Although many States continue to register specific vehicle types on a calendar year basis, all States use some form of the "staggered" system to register motor vehicles. The "staggered" system permits a distribution of the renewal workload throughout all months. Most States allow pre-registration or permit "grace periods" to better distribute the annual registration workload.

In order to present vehicle registration data uniformly for all States, the information is shown as nearly as possible on a calendar-year basis. Insofar as possible, the registrations reported exclude transfers and re-registrations and any other factors that could otherwise result in duplication in the vehicle counts.

Registration practices for commercial vehicles differ greatly among the States. Some States register a tractor-semitrailer combination as a single unit; others register the tractor and the semitrailer separately. Regardless of how they were registered, only the power units have been included in the truck count in table MV-1. Some States register buses with trucks or automobiles; many States do not report house and light utility trailers separately from commercial trailers or semitrailers; and some States do not require registration of car or light utility trailers. In some instances, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has supplemented the data supplied by the States with information obtained from other sources.

Motor-vehicle registrations are reported by major vehicle classes: automobiles, buses, trucks, and motorcycles. The truck category includes light trucks to the extent they can be identified and separated from automobiles. Data on trucks, buses, trailers, and semitrailers are given in tables MV-9, MV-10, and MV-11, respectively. Although the detail of motor-vehicle data has improved in recent years, it is not yet possible to obtain from all States separate data on single-unit trucks and combinations. Some States provide data for light trucks and truck tractors, but for many States, the FHWA estimates this information using other data sources, such as the Truck Inventory and Use Survey conducted by the Bureau of the Census. The table MV-9 light truck category includes pickups, vans (full-size and mini), utility-type vehicles, as well as other vehicles (panel trucks and delivery vans generally of 10,000 pounds or less gross vehicle weight). Registrations of publicly owned motor vehicles are reported in table MV-7.


Taxes and fees connected with State motor-vehicle registrations and special taxes on motor carriers are given in table MV-2, and the disposition of these taxes is given in table MV-3. These tables can be found in the highway finance section. The diversity of taxes and fees collected has made it necessary to group them into broad general classes, the most important being registration fees. The amounts shown are those collected solely as highway-user revenues and do not include any amounts, such as personal property levies, that are derived from taxes other than those related to motor-vehicle ownership and operation. (Although portions of these revenues are later used in some States for nonhighway purposes, it is the source rather than the expenditure of the revenues that has determined their inclusion here.) Motor-vehicle registration fee schedules (table MV-103) and administrative provisions governing the disposition of State motor-vehicle and motor-carrier receipts (table MV-106) appear in a separate FHWA publication entitled Highway Taxes and Fees, How They Are Collected and Distributed. A comprehensive comparison of taxes and fees among the States for 14 selected vehicles can be found in the separate FHWA publication entitled Road-User and Property Taxes on Selected Vehicles.


All State reported data are analyzed by FHWA for completeness, reasonableness, consistency, and compliance with data reporting instructions contained in A Guide to Reporting Highway Statistics. State reported data is adjusted if necessary to eliminate mistakes and to improve data uniformity among the States. The analysis and adjustment process is accomplished in cooperation with the States supplying the data.

In some instances, corrections or revisions have been made in previously published data; consequently the figures shown in Highway Statistics Summary to 1995 supersede those in Highway Statistics Summaries, 1945, 1955, 1965, 1975, and 1985, as well as the annual issues of Highway Statistics.

In addition, FHWA and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) use different registration data sources and different vehicle definitions. FHWA requests that it be provided data specifically identifying the various types of passenger carrying highway vehicles. For example, the State reported data is to specify if passenger vans have been reported as passenger vehicles or light trucks. While a State may report minivans, station wagons on truck chassis, and utility-type vehicles as passenger cars to FHWA these vehicles are considered as trucks in both FHWA and NHTSA data series.

The FHWA data include all vehicles which have been registered at any time throughout the calendar year. Data include vehicles which were retired during the year and vehicles that were registered in more than one State. In some States, it is also possible that contrary to the FHWA reporting instructions, vehicles which have been registered twice in the same State may be reported as two vehicles. The NHTSA data include only those vehicles which are registered as of July 1 of the given year. Therefore, they do not include vehicles registered in the last half of the calendar year or vehicles that may only be registered for a part of a year such as those for farm use.

Page last modified on November 7, 2014
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