Americans drove 11 billion fewer vehicle miles in March

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Americans drove less in March 2008, continuing a trend that began last November, according to estimates released today from the Federal Highway Administration. “That Americans are driving less underscores the challenges facing the Highway Trust Fund and its reliance on the federal gasoline excise tax,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray.

FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report, produced monthly since 1942, shows that estimated vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all U.S. public roads for March 2008 fell 4.3 percent 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.

Though 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 Department of Transportation estimated that greenhouse gas emissions fell by an estimated 9 million metric tons for the first quarter of 2008.

The estimated data show that VMT on all U.S. public roads have dropped since 2006. 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 more than 4,000 automatic traffic recorders operated round-the-clock by state highway agencies. More comprehensive data are published in FHWA’s “Highway Statistics” at the end of each year.

To review FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” reports, go to www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/tvtpage.htm. For “Highway Statistics 2006,” go to www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs06/index.htm.