COVID-19, natural disasters disrupt 2019/20 vehicle use

Media Release

The distance travelled by passenger vehicles, motor cycles and buses fell markedly during the natural disasters and COVID-19 pandemic experienced across Australia in 2019/20, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released today.

Rob Walter, Director of Physical Environment Statistical Solutions said: “During the periods of floods, bushfires and COVID-19, passenger vehicle usage across Australia decreased markedly in 2020. The average distance travelled by Australian passenger vehicles in 2020 was 11,100 km, down from 12,600km in 2018", he said.

Although the distance travelled by Australia’s passenger vehicles fell this year, the estimated number of vehicles registered rose from 19.0 million in 2018 to 19.8 million in 2020.

Road freight rolls on

Despite the social and economic challenges that Australians faced this year, road freight remained strong.

 “The road freight continued to grow to more than 223 billion tonne-kilometres with Australia’s 4 million freight vehicles continuing to criss-cross our nation’s highways, even when the rest of us couldn’t.”

NSW has the nation’s most-travelled roads

At the state and territory level, New South Wales continues to lead the nation in road kilometres travelled by all vehicles, with over 69 billion kilometres of travel undertaken.

The Northern Territory, with its long distances and relatively light COVID-19 restrictions led the states and territories for average kilometres per vehicle at 12,500.

Measuring the COVID-19 fall

For the first time, the ABS is publishing sub-annual data in the Survey of Annual Motor Vehicle Use, allowing a more detailed understanding of how COVID-19 has affected vehicle usage.

“When we compare the July to October period of 2019 with the March to June period of 2020, we see an unprecedented 26.1 per cent fall in the distance driven by Australians."

“Again, the most pronounced falls were seen in passenger vehicles as opposed to freight vehicles.”

Media notes

  • Tonne-kilometres is the aggregation of the number of tonnes moved multiplied by the distance travelled in kilometres for each individual vehicle carrying freight. Tonne-kilometres are calculated using the laden distance travelled for work purposes and average load weight as reported by the respondent.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
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