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Five highlights from the Department for Transport's annual statistics 2016

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In December, the Department for Transport published its annual compendium of statistics, covering everything from the number of cars on our roads to the number of people passing through our airports. Despite this being the ‘2016’ edition, some of its figures were for 2015, while others went all the way up to the third quarter of 2016 – depending on when the data-gathering was done.

In any case, as this report was published in the run-up to Christmas, it went largely overlooked, although we think it contains much of interest to fleet professionals. To save you reading the whole thing, here are our five highlights:

1. We’re travelling further than ever

In 2015, we clocked up a collective 493 billion miles in Great Britain – by road, rail and air (domestic flights only). That’s the most ever in a single year, surpassing the previous record of 492 billion miles in 2007, before the recession hit. As the graph below shows, the vast majority of all this travelling takes place on the road: for every 100 miles we travel, 89 are by road, 10 by rail and one by air.

2. Freight is still feeling the recession’s effects

Of course, transport isn’t just about moving people – it’s about moving goods too. 1.8 billion tonnes of freight were carried by road, rail or water in 2015 – again, the vast majority of it (90%) by road. That number represents a welcome 8% increase on the year before, but is still 15% below the 2.1 billion tonnes that were hauled each year prior to the recession.

3. There are now 37.4 million vehicles on Britain’s roads...

We regularly report on the number of new vehicles registered in the UK – a record 2.7 million cars and 376,000 vans in 2016, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders. But what do those new vehicles mean for the total numbers on our roads? The DfT’s statistics hold the answer, reporting as they do the total number of vehicles licensed for use on the road at the end of each quarter. By the end of 2016’s third quarter (July to September), a record 37.4 million vehicles were licensed in Great Britain. 30.9 million of them were cars, and 3.8 million were vans.

4. …and 87,366 of them are ULEVs

One of the sharpest trends of recent years has been the rise of ultra-low emission vehicles: those that emit less than 75 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. At the end of Q3 2016, there were 87,366 ULEVs on Britain’s roads. That number has increased by a massive 435% in just three years. However, that still means just 0.2% of all Britain’s vehicles are ultra-low emission ones.

5. Even traditionally-fuelled cars are greener than ever

The rise of ultra-low emission vehicles isn’t the only way our roads are getting greener. Petrol and diesel cars are becoming ever more economical too. The average new petrol car in 2015 could get 52.1 miles to the gallon – up from 37.5 mpg a decade earlier. The average diesel car has improved from 45.4 mpg to 61.7 in the same period. That not only means lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, but also lower costs for motorists at the pump.

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