Could 2015 be the most heavily traveled year in history?

DOT says data shows the year is on track to break records

Posted January 29, 2016

New data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that U.S. driving reached 2.88 trillion miles by the end of November, making it likely that U.S. drivers will make 2015 the most heavily traveled year in history.

The new data, published in FHWA’s latest “Traffic Volume Trends” report — a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel — show that more than 253 billion miles were driven in November alone, according to the DOT this reaffirms the growing demands challenging the nation’s roads. The agency says the recently enacted “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act will help with the roadways by investing $305 billion in America’s surface transportation infrastructure — including $226 billion for roads and bridges — over the next five years.

The November 2015 report also includes seasonally-adjusted data, which is conducted by USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics as a way to even out seasonal variation in travel and enable vehicle miles travelled (VMT) comparisons with any other month in any year.

The seasonally-adjusted vehicle miles traveled for November 2015 were 264 billion miles, a 3.4 percent increase in VMT — compared to the previous November but a slight (.1 percent) increase compared with seasonally adjusted October 2015 figures. The estimates include passenger vehicle, bus, and truck travel.

In November, U.S. drivers increased total mileage among all five regions of the United States. Traffic in the West — a 13-state region including Alaska and Hawaii — led the nation with 59 billion unadjusted VMT. With only 35.2 billion unadjusted VMT, the Northeast — a nine-state area stretching from Pennsylvania to Maine — had the least.

At 8.9 percent, Hawaii led the nation with the largest unadjusted single-state traffic percent increase compared to the same month a year earlier, followed by Idaho at 7.7 percent and Florida at 7 percent. At 3.9 percent, Washington, D.C., had the largest unadjusted traffic decrease for the month.

According to the DOT, the new figures confirm the trends identified in “Beyond Traffic,” a USDOT report issued last year, 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. The agency also says that increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless changes are made in the near-term.


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