The volume of road traffic in Great Britain rose by 2.3% in the third quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2012, according to new figures released by the Department for Transport. The DfT suggests, however, that this relatively large increase is something of an anomaly caused primarily by the weather. “The same quarter last year saw extremely high levels of rainfall, with the summer of 2012 (June to August) being the second wettest since records began,” the Department points out. “This poor weather may have put people off making trips, and the relatively drier weather this year is likely to have contributed to the growth in road traffic.”
Car traffic rose by a relatively modest 1.9% to 60.8 billion vehicle miles in Q3 2013, the new DfT data indicates, whereas LGV (van) traffic increased rather more sharply by 5.1% to 10.8 billion vehicle miles. Interestingly, this ‘snapshot’ of traffic in a single three-month period mirrors a much longer trend in LGV traffic growth relative to car traffic growth. “Total motor vehicle traffic has grown by 20% over the last 20 years,” the DfT observes. “However, LGV traffic has increased by almost 70% over the same period. The increase in popularity of online shopping, for both food and non-food items, is likely to have contributed to this growth… Car traffic, however, has fallen slightly (0.1%), when compared to ten years ago.”
The DfT makes one brief mention of the economy, suggesting that it “is likely” to have had some impact on what it terms the “fairly flat” trend in motor vehicle traffic volumes since 2008. Looking just at the Q3 2013 data, meanwhile, it is possible that the increase of over 5% in LGV traffic compared with Q3 2012 could be a good sign that the economy has turned a corner. After all, it was surely private car trips for leisure purposes that were most likely curtailed by the bad weather last year, whereas delivery van drivers have a job to do, come rain or shine.