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COVID-19 impact: Passenger vehicle use plummets, road freight grows

  • December 21, 2020 02:33 PM AEDT
  • Hina Chowdhary
    Director, Equities Research Hina Chowdhary
    1413 Posts

    Hina Chowdhary is the Director, Equity Research at Kalkine and has an extensive experience of about 15 years in the area of Research, which includes 5+ years in Equities Research particularly.She has earned a Master of Science degree from the renowne...

COVID-19 impact: Passenger vehicle use plummets, road freight grows


  • As per the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the average distance travelled by passenger vehicles in Australia has declined in 2020.
  • However, road freight remained on the growth trajectory and recorded a rise of over 223 billion tonne-kilometres. 
  • New South Wales continues to remain on top in terms of road kilometres travelled by all vehicles. 
Gold MTF non-AMP

Australia saw a sharp fall in the usage of passenger vehicles in 2020, courtesy coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters such as floods, bushfires, among others. The average distance travelled by passenger vehicles in Australia declined to 11,100 km from 12,600 km in 2018, the latest figures by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed. 

Image Source: MegapixlTM

Even as the use of vehicles declined in the year, the estimated number of vehicles registered surged to 19.8 million in 2020 as against 19.0 million in 2018.

Road freight grows

Amid the ongoing challenges, road freight registered a robust growth. Citing the data, Rob Walter, Director of Physical Environment Statistical Solutions, said that the road freight recorded a growth of over 223 billion tonne-kilometres. Even as the use of passenger vehicles, motorcycles and buses remained muted, the country's 4 million freight vehicles continued to cover long distances, Walter said.

READ MORE: ABS Reports A 0.3% Contraction In The Australian Economy

New South Wales leads in road kilometres travelled

With over 69 billion kilometres of travel, New South Wales continued to remain on the top in the country in terms of road kilometres travelled by all vehicles. On the other hand, the Northern Territory led in terms of average kilometres per vehicle at 12,500 across all states and territories. The Northern Territory was among the regions to have comparatively light coronavirus-induced restrictions.

The ABS has published the sub annual data in the Survey of Annual Motor Vehicle Use for the first time ever. The data provides for much detailed understanding about the negative impact of coronavirus pandemic on usage of vehicles across the states and territories. 

READ MORE: ABS data revealed surge in International trade and housing loan commitments

Walter said that the distance driven by the Australians fell to an unprecedented 26.1 per cent in the March to June period of this year as against the July to October period of 2019. Yet again, the biggest decline was witnessed in the passenger vehicles as against freight vehicles in the period under review.


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