Chart of the Day: Per capita VMT (commercial trucks vs. personal vehicles)

I’ve written about declining vehicle miles travelled (VMT) before over at my blog, but this recent post at caught my eye because it disaggregated the data (looking a four states as case studies) between commercial and personal traffic.  These data make it seem that commercial trucking (think about frac sand mining or is the only reason why VMT is staying as high as it is today…


VMT and commercial trucks

If this trend is true across the country, what kinds of policy implications might it have for transportation planning?

An increasing focus on trucking routes, and even less concern about arterials and residential average daily traffic (ADT) counts?

Or, as the blog post authors suggest, “VMT or mileage taxes, which can be set at different levels for different vehicle types, could easily be adapted to address 21st century realities.” is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

6 Responses to Chart of the Day: Per capita VMT (commercial trucks vs. personal vehicles)

  1. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini September 9, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    “If this trend is true across the country..”

    I remembered seeing this a year ago. Of course, this it total VMT, not per-capita, and re-classification of urban/rural areas might muck it up a bit. I’m curious if the flat (rather than dropping) urban VMT holds true in MSP.

    • Froggie September 9, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      In a couple counties, but not all. Haven’t looked at 2013 numbers yet, but through 2012 there were still several counties in/near the metro that had yet to hit peak-VMT at a county level.

      Will be a subject of future Charts-of-the-Day…

  2. Jaron McNamara September 9, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    I wonder how much roadway capacity could be gained by reinvesting in rail lines to move some of the shipping back onto railcars instead of trucks? Considering coal is now getting transported by truck in some cases*, I imagine there has got to be a lot of freight that could be moved back onto the rails if there was more capacity. This would be better in my opinion than adding more lanes of pavement.


    • Froggie September 9, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      That would likely require tighter regulation of the railroads…the opposite of the trend over the past 30 years.

      Which has resulted in situations like this:

      Regarding the Upper Midwest (in another related article I read this morning but can’t find right now), it appears the railroads are more interested in cashing in on the lucrative energy industry (thanks, Bakken) than in expanding their networks to handle more freight. I see what’s been going on this year with fertilizer and grain shipment delays as foot-dragging by the railroads.

    • Monte Castleman September 9, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

      I remember the old Burnsville Menards actually had a rail spur and Menards would advertise trainload sales.

      There are several factors working against this. Railroads want to run unit trains of commodities, not a random boxcar of stuff a factory is shipping or receiving a couple of times a month. Factories want just in time delivery, not huge warehouses. Railroads don’t want to invest in minor spurs. If your shipping widgets form Acme Corp to Zmax inc both of them need to have rail spurs. A lot of track mileage has been abandoned, and just ask the SWLRT people how hard it is to put tracks back even if the ROW still exists. I get the idea that trucks already avoid the urban freeways and rush hour to the extend practical.

      Even though total VMT remains flat rather than dropping like it is on a per capita basis, maybe we can plan for current traffic rather than future. The old Stillwater Bridge obviously can’t handle the existing traffic and is an obvious gap in the metro freeway / expressway system, but they’re planning to expand the WInona bridge to 4 lanes partly on the basis of traffic they expect decades in the future. In my opinion the best option there would have been to build a new two lane bridge without a multi-use trail, convert the existing bridge to a trail, and then build another bridge when, if ever, there’s an actual need for more lanes, and in the mean time use the money for finishing US 14 or building interchanges on 52.


  1. Chart of the Day: Future VMT Scenarios | - September 10, 2014

    […] you saw yesterday’s chart that disaggregated the falling vehicle miles travelled (VMT) according to type of vehicle, […]

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