An estimated 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving — a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes, according to AAA’s annual Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast.
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, November 23 to Sunday, November 27. The Wednesday to Sunday period is consistent with previous years. Noteworthy, this year is expected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since the membership organization started tracking it in 2000.
Here’s what commercial drivers need to know. Like last year, most travelers will drive to their family feasts. Nearly 49 million people are expected to hit the nation’s highways and byways during the holiday period. Even so, while Thanksgiving road trips have increased slightly — up 0.4% from 2021 — car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels.
INRIX, a leading provider of data and analytics into how people move, offers some valuable insights on the anticipated busiest corridors as well as best and worst times to travel.
The data indicates severe congestion in several U.S. metro areas, with some drivers experiencing more than double normal delays. For example, highways in and around Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles will be the busiest.
For example, on Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta traffic on I-85 South between Clairmont Road to MLK Jr. Drive is expected to increase 105% over typical traffic peak congestion. In New York during the same afternoon, traffic on both I-278 South and I-495 to 6th Ave is anticipated to increase 158% over the typical congestion scenario. And, on Wednesday between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. in Los Angeles, the I-5 South corridor (Colorado Street to Florence Avenue) will experience an estimated 144% increase over typical traffic peak congestion.
To avoid the most hectic drive times, INRIX recommends traveling early in the morning on Wednesday or before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and avoiding travel between 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. For fleet drivers working during the holiday weekend, those parameters may not be an option. However, it’s good for your drivers to be informed as to the prime times and places to expect congestion, so they prepare to stay calm, focused, and practice their best defensive driving skills.