‘Empty Highways’ – About 61 Million Americans Have Stopped Commuting In Post-Covid World 

A new survey from ValuePenguin.com, commissioned by LendingTree, found 61 million Americans have stopped commuting to work due to the virus-induced recession. The reduction of motor vehicles on highways will result in deep economic scarring across the entire economy. 

The coronavirus has upended nearly every aspect of life in the United States, and Americans’ driving behavior and commutes are no exception. ValuePenguin surveyed drivers to see how their habits have changed. We found a large number of drivers are no longer commuting to the office, whether because they are working from home or have lost employment due to COVID-19. -ValuePenguin

The survey found three in 10 respondents with motor vehicles are no longer making the daily commute to work in a post-COVID-19 world: 

About three in 10 consumers with a motor vehicle said they no longer have a commute due to COVID-19, either because they’re working from home (19%) or they temporarily or permanently lost their jobs (10%).

On the other hand, 26% are back to their daily commute as of August, including essential workers (17%) and those whose employers reopened their offices (9%). (The remainder don’t have commutes either because they worked from home prior to the pandemic, or they were not working prior to the pandemic.) -ValuePenguin

Millions of motor vehicles are missing from America’s highways since March. About 38% of respondents said traffic in their respective metro areas remains subdued, and 36% said traffic was reduced but trending back to pre-pandemic levels. 

For more color on empty streets and highways, TomTom high-frequency traffic congestion data of New York City shows traffic levels remain subdued. 

The decline in travel has resulted in respondents making fewer trips to the gas pump. Almost a third said they’re driving every day, compared to 50% of drivers pre-pandemic. The number of respondents who fill up their tanks every week dropped by 26% in August versus before the pandemic.

While declining fuel consumption and oversupplied markets have subdued gasoline and diesel prices, a reduction in travel has resulted in a quarter of respondents to make cost-cutting changes to their auto insurance. 

About 14% switched to another provider that was offering better deals, 12% reduced the amount of coverage since they are driving less and 3% took one of their household’s vehicles off the policy because their family is using fewer cars. –ValuePenguin

The survey’s results of a reduction in commuting were echoed in a recent KPMG International report:

The effects of COVID-19 will be felt for years. The response to the virus has accelerated powerful behavioral changes that will continue to shape how Americans use automobiles. We believe the changes in commuting and e-commerce are here to stay and that the combined effect of reduced commuting and shopping journeys could be as much as 270 billion fewer vehicle miles traveled (VMT) each year in the US. -KPMG

The permanent loss of vehicles on highways will have a tremendous impact across the entire economy and is suggestive that a “V-shaped” recovery is not in the cards for this year or next.

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