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FHWA 37-15
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Contact: Doug Hecox
Tel: 202-366-0660

Driving Topped 262 Billion Miles In March, New Data Show

U.S. Drivers Set New Record with Miles Traveled

WASHINGTON – New estimates released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that Americans drove 261.7 billion vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) in March of this year, which is the most ever driven in March. Throughout the first quarter of the year, the nation drove 720.1 billion VMT – the highest for any year’s first quarter. The increase in travel on America’s roads underscores the need for greater investment in transportation infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced a plan to help build and maintain America’s roads with a $478 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal, the GROW AMERICA Act. The plan would increase state funding levels to $317 billion; an increase of about 29 percent over current levels, and makes critical investments in infrastructure needed to promote long-term economic growth, enhance safety and efficiency, and support jobs for the 21st century.

The 720.1 billion VMT driven on U.S. roads in the first quarter of the year beats the previous record of 705.7 billion set in 2006, and doubles the 345.5 billion VMT of the first quarter of 1982.

The new data were released in FHWA’s latest “Traffic Volume Trends” report, a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel, which demonstrates an overall trend of an increase in traffic:

  • Over the first three months of 2015, U.S. driving increased over the same period in 2014 by 3.9 percent, or nearly 35 billion VMT.

  • Americans drove 3.9 percent more miles in March 2015, the highest percentage increase for any February since 2004, making it the nation’s 13th consecutive month of increased VMT growth.

The March 2015 report also includes seasonally-adjusted data from the USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which enable VMT comparisons with February and any other month in any other year. Analysis of seasonally-adjusted VMT is an alternative to analysis of unadjusted VMT, which traditionally uses comparisons of a month to the same month in previous years to determine trends.

  • The seasonally-adjusted vehicle miles traveled for March 2015 were 258.9 billion miles, a 3.4 percent increase – or 8.5 billion more VMT – compared to March 2014 and a 1.8 percent increase – or 4.7 billion more VMT – compared with February 2015. The estimates include passenger vehicle, bus and truck travel.

  • Traffic in the West, a bloc of 13 states including Alaska and Hawaii, climbed to 58.4 billion unadjusted VMT, a gain of 5.3 percent over the previous March and the 18th consecutive month of increased traffic for the region. The South Atlantic, a region of seven states and Washington, D.C., rose sharply by 5 percent over the previous March to 57 billion VMT.

  • At 9.5 percent, Montana led the nation with the largest unadjusted single-state traffic percent increase compared to the same month a year earlier, followed closely by South Dakota at 9.0 percent and Hawaii at 8.2 percent.

  • At 1.6 percent fewer VMT, Rhode Island roads saw 9 million unadjusted VMT less in March 2015 than the previous March, a decline of 1.6 percent. Only two other states, Connecticut and Massachusetts, showed declining travel in the same period.

The new figures reaffirm the trends identified in “Beyond Traffic,” a report issued earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which projects a 43 percent increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045.  The report examines the trends and choices facing America’s transportation infrastructure over the next three decades, including a rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and a transportation system that is facing more frequent extreme weather events.  Increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless changes are made in the near-term.   

To review the VMT data in FHWA's "Traffic Volume Trends" reports, which are based on information collected from more than 4,800 continuous count stations nationwide, visit https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/tvtpage.htm.

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Page posted on May 20, 2015
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