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Report: U.S. Driving Pool Has Reached Saturation Level

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — New insights on future transportation trends are now available in Driver Demographics: The American Population's Effect on Vehicle Travel and Fuel Demand, the latest report from NACS' The Fuels Institute. This report analyzes historical demographic data as it relates to driving behavior and vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

"Our newly released Driver Demographics report is an impressive assessment of trends leading up to today and indicating potential developments in the transportation market," stated John Eichberger, executive director of The Fuels Institute. "To understand what is happening in the market today and what could happen tomorrow, it is essential that we better understand how we got here."

Transportation demand has stabilized after a century of continuous growth, suggesting that the U.S. driving pool has reached a level of saturation, according to the report. Historically, the number of drivers grew rapidly until 1980, and has since plateaued at approximately two-thirds of the general population.

The report suggests that the most influential factor in U.S. vehicle-miles-traveled growth throughout the 20th century was women entering the "driving society," but this growth factor has plateaued since the 1990s as every woman who wants a driver's license now has one.

Driver Demographics also closely examines other factors that can influence VMT, such as age and income. The report found that growth in driving by Baby Boomers may offset a decline in driving by Millennials, but that all age groups stand near natural saturation limits of driver licensing and driving distance.

"A number of reports have indicated that the Millennial generation does not have the same love affair with the automobile as preceding generations," Eichberger said. "This report seems to confirm that, but the finding that older generations are increasing their driver rates and distances traveled is something most analyses have not considered. This has important implications for businesses that are affected by the personal transportation market.

Other report findings include that the widening income inequality in the United States is leading to travel-demand saturation among the affluent, while limiting the travel demand among middle-income or low-income drivers. Additionally, total transportation demand has been stable for 10 years and will likely be stable for the foreseeable future, contrast to the previous 100 years when it grew continuously.

Population growth alone remains the primary influencing factor for future VMT growth.

The full report is available at

NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, founded The Fuels Institute in 2013 as a nonprofit, research-oriented think tank.

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