Vehicle Trips Decline 20% in Two Decades

Online shopping, telecommuting and other net-related trends may be behind decrease: DOE

WASHINGTON -- Vehicle trips are falling, and there may be a tech-connected reason behind the trend.

A recent analysis of government surveys by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Vehicle Technologies Office found that the average number of vehicle trips made by a U.S. household in a year fell 20% from 1995 to 2017. 

The agency crunched data from several years of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Travel Survey. In 1995, there was a peak of 2,321 vehicle trips made per household that year. Trips steadily fell in three subsequent survey years to reach 1,865 trips in 2017. The DOT defines a vehicle trip as “one start and end movement from location to location in a single privately operated vehicle regardless of the number of persons in the vehicle.”

This 2017 figure represents an average of five one-way household trips per day in 2017, which is 10% lower than in the previous survey year of 2009 and 20% lower than in 1995.

How are trips changing? The DOE analysis found that there were fewer trips per household in 2017 for work, shopping, errands and social and recreational activities. Errand-related trips saw the biggest decline, down more than 30% between the 1995 and 2017 surveys. Shopping trips had the next biggest drop, down more than 25%. And work-related trips fell more than 18%.

“The rise in internet shopping, telecommuting and social networking via the internet may be a factor in the decline, as total trips per household has been declining since 1995,” the DOE analysis concluded.


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