The U.S. Department of Transportation reported total vehicle miles traveled for March, outlining one of the main end uses of crude oil in the U.S.—highway transportation.

U.S. vehicles traveled an estimated 268.7 billion miles in March, or 8.67 billion miles per day. This represents slight growth from this point last year, when vehicles traveled 8.62 billion miles per day. Miles traveled increased by 0.52% year-over-year in March, but at a slower pace than usual.

This is part of an overall deceleration in vehicle miles traveled, as growth in vehicle miles traveled is decreasing.

Americans consistently drove longer distances in 2015 and 2016, with an average year-over-year growth of 2.24% in the two years.

Vehicle Miles Traveled Hit the Brakes

Source: EnerCom Analytics

Growth rate slowing

However, this changed in 2017, when growth began to slow. This trend has continued into 2018, and February saw the first year-over-year decrease in miles traveled in four years. In the first three months of 2018 vehicle miles traveled have risen by only 0.29%, far below the 2.7% growth seen in 2016.

The growth in March was highly concentrated in the south, as the West and North Central regions were flat YOY. The South Gulf, by contrast, was up 1.3%, while the South Atlantic grew by 0.9%.

Vehicle Miles Traveled Hit the Brakes

Source: DOT

Miles traveled is an important factor in demand for oil, but simply predicting oil demand from travel data is not easy. Increased vehicle efficiency has played a large part in changing the relationship between miles traveled and oil demand.

Legal Notice