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Urgently: Traffic could reach 130% normal levels by July

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This week saw some positive news for auto body shops trying to recover from a volume decline during COVID-19 coronavirus-related shutdowns and precautions.

Roadside assistance platform Urgently on Wednesday said its modeling predicts traffic would reach 130 percent of historical volumes in the middle of next month. As miles driven is a key variable controlling crash frequency and shop volume, this bodes well for collision repairers.

Urgently estimated traffic reached pre-pandemic levels on June 7 — “one week earlier than previously forecast.”

INRIX’s new weekly COVID-19 traffic analysis on Monday landed in the same ballpark.

The transportation data firm estimated American traffic on Friday stood at 99.3 percent the baseline Friday: Feb. 28, 2020. INRIX is treating the “pre-COVID” week of Feb. 22-28 as a control for its research.

“29 states now have personal travel exceeding the Control Week, up from 22 in Week 13,” INRIX wrote.

It also said 93 out of 98 metropolitan areas saw traffic increase over the prior week, and 25 of 98 “have now fully ‘recovered,’ up from twelve areas in Week 13,” compared to the control February week.

Obviously, February is a less pleasant time to drive around or vacation than June for much of the country. Like Urgently, INRIX didn’t think traffic was necessarily back to a typical June.

“According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average daily national vehicle miles traveled in June 2019 was 16.5% higher than the daily average in February 2019,” INRIX wrote. “The 3% reduction in nationwide personal travel actually understates the true change in expected travel. To simplify, for every 97 miles traveled in the US last week, we could have expected 116.5 miles if not for the virus.  Thus, the 3% reduction translates into a roughly 17% reduction, seasonally adjusted. This calculation is included for illustrative purposes and to remind readers that, depending upon when the indices shown in this Synopsis return to ‘normal’ compared to the Control Week, they may or may not indicate full recovery on a seasonally adjusted basis.”

A May 22 Urgently online study of 531 Americans age 18-60+ might offer hope of still more car travel gains in the future.

More than 27 percent of respondents planned to use their own car more as lockdowns lift and the economy restarts — and 22.8 percent expect to use less public transportation.

It found a majority of consumers felt personal and rented cars and “Micromobility” devices like bikes and scooters were safe from a health perspective. But less than 40 percent trusted taxis or ride-share vehicles, and less than 25 percent trusted public transportation.

The poll also found 33.5 percent of drivers plan to travel for a summer vacation or holiday weekend, with 60.8 percent taking their own cars and another 13.6 percent either renting a car or ride-hailing. 21.6 percent planned to fly. More than 35 percent plan to travel at least 500 miles.

“All indications are that we will see a substantial increase in vehicular travel as the US economy opens, and beyond,” Urgently CEO Chris Spanos said in a statement. “As the number of miles driven increases, Urgently is well positioned to anticipate and respond to the needs of our current and future partners and their customers.”

And in COVID-19 recovery signs from the slightly more distant past, FinishMaster parent company Uni-Select announced that it experienced a better April and May than expected.

The company on Monday reported “sales for April and May … better than the internal forecast set in late March in response to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.”

Fellow publicly-traded company LKQ also announced this month that its second-quarter results through May have been better than expected considering COVID-19.

More information:

“Urgently Predicts Higher Than Normal Automobile Usage as Economy Reopens”

Urgently, June 24, 2020

“INRIX U.S. National Traffic Volume Synopsis Issue #14 (June 13 – June 19, 2020)”

INRIX, June 22, 2020


An empty Las Vegas street is seen April 19, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (4kodiak/iStock)

Results from a May 22, 2020, Urgently online study of 531 Americans age 18-60+ are shown. (Provided by Urgently)

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