“Want some gridlock with that turkey?”

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"This [economic] improvement, along with a strong desire to spend time with friends and family, is expected to propel a significant increase in Thanksgiving travel this year." –AAA Regional President Brad Roeber

Here’s an early warning for the freight industry: AAA is projecting that the number of Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday this year will increase 11.4% from 2009, with approximately 42.2 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home.

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Trips by automobile are expected to remain the dominant mode of transportation for Thanksgiving holiday travel, too, with 94% of travelers – some 39.7 million people! – expected to hit the road this year. By contrast, passenger airlines are only expected to account for 4% of overall Thanksgiving travel with 1.62 million holiday flyers, an increase of 3.5% from last year's 1.57 million flyers.

That all basically adds up to one thing for truckers over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period this year (defined as Wednesday, November 24 to Sunday, November 28) – a lot more crowded roads than usual.

[And it also offers me the opportunity to share a clip from one of my favorite movies, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, starring the late great John Candy. I STILL laugh out loud at this scene ….]

The forecasted double-digit increase in Thanksgiving holiday travel would signify an important upturn in travel volume for the holiday after a year of negligible growth in 2009 (0.2%) and two years after a historic 25.2% decline in travel in 2008, AAA said.

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But while the forecast for an 11.4% increase in Thanksgiving travel is significant, the increase in the number of travelers by 4.3 million is less than half of the volume lost from 2007 through 2009. Moreover, this year's expected 42.2 million travelers remain almost 30% below the 2005 peak of 58.6 million travelers.

That’s not necessarily a bad thong, from the trucking point of view, meaning the roads won’t be as badly clogged as in the past. But oh if the weather turns foul … hoo boy, it could still make things messy in all sorts of ways out on the asphalt.

Finally, based on a AAA survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans this Thanksgiving holiday is expected to be 816 miles, virtually the same as one year ago (815 miles), meaning much of the traffic volume should be on the interstates as opposed to the local roads.

Let’s just hope this projected spike in traffic volume doesn’t create too much roadway congestion next week.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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