In March, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. According to the Auto Care Association, this was the first month since August 2019 that VMT topped 300 million miles. To give you some perspective, the distance between the earth and the moon is only 238,856 miles, according to Wikipedia.
Last year, U.S. drivers were stuck in traffic an average of 26 hours. This was a steep decline from 99 hours prior to the pandemic. Arstechnica.com reported German drivers averaged the same number as Americans last year, down from 46 the year prior. In the UK, it was 37 last year, and 115 before COVID-19. Inrix, a traffic analytics company, collected the data for their 2020 Global Traffic Scorecard. They tracked mobility in 1,000 cities around the world based on travel times. All of this was due to fewer people traveling to work, especially downtowns and central business districts.
The worst traffic was in New York City, up from 4th the year before. Drivers there spent 100 hours in traffic in 2019. In 2020, New Yorkers spent 28 percent less time stuck in traffic, traveled 28 percent fewer miles, and had 38 percent fewer crashes. Washington, D.C. had the biggest decline, where drivers spent 29 hours idling, a 77 percent decrease from pre-pandemic times. Still, they only had 26 percent fewer accidents and a 25 percent decrease in VMT.
We documented previously the rental car fiasco, one that will likely be compounded as we resume air travel. It’ll be interesting to see if rental car companies restock their fleets, or if Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services continue to grow to meet the needs of travelers.
This brings us back to the shortage of new and used cars. In Spring and Summer 2020, used car sales took off, before settling down the remainder of the year. New car sales would accelerate right now if the OEMs had the chips to get them rolling. Factory shutdowns will likely continue until chip production can be scaled to match.
Yeah, we’re back on the road again. It’s great for the garages and shops that service your vehicle, and the parts business too. Parts sales accelerated during the pandemic, and it doesn’t appear as though it will tail off even as we regain our mobility.
[Images: Mercedes-Benz, Auto Care Association]