With more than 55 million travelers expected to hit the road this Thanksgiving weekend, fleets operating over the holiday weekend should be extra cautious. The estimated number of travelers is 2.3% higher than last year and marks the third-highest Thanksgiving forecast since motor club AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000.
“For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones.”
Additionally, distracted driving spikes during Thanksgiving travel. Drivers spend 9.2% driving while using their phone on Thanksgiving day—an average of two minutes and 13 seconds—according to a study by Cambridge Mobile Telematics.
Inrix, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Wednesday, Nov. 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during Thanksgiving week, with average travel times as high as 80% over normal in some metro areas. The company published lists of the highway corridors, metro areas, and times of day expected to have the most congestion this weekend.
“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at Inrix. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”
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Transportation Secretary Buttigieg cautions Thanksgiving travelers of bad weather
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke to press Monday to warn drivers to check road conditions ahead of time.
"There is some bad weather expected that could affect Thanksgiving travel,” Buttigieg said. "While we don't control the weather, we're doing everything in our power."
Thanksgiving 2023 cargo theft risk 'extremely high'
Additionally, security experts are warning motor carriers that the threat of cargo theft is "extremely high" this Thanksgiving holiday. In the last month alone, freight security company CargoNet recorded an average of 66 theft reports per week between Oct. 1 and Nov. 11, 113% more than the average number of weekly reports since January 2012.
Freight is more likely to be left unattended during the holidays, and CargoNet noted an increase in unattended truckloads since October. Theft rings have exploited this to focus on stealing appliances, beverages, ATVs, and construction equipment.
“CargoNet believes that the risk during this upcoming holiday is unlike any recent year,” the company stated in a release. “Strategic cargo theft groups over the past year have shown that they ramp up activity around major holidays because they understand logistics brokers will be under pressure and more likely to make mistakes. CargoNet is concerned recent spikes in theft of unattended, loaded conveyances, particularly in Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, and Southern California, will continue into the holiday.”
CargoNet recorded 433 new thefts since October, a 101% year-over-year increase. About 35% of reported crimes during this period used strategic theft—a type of fraud that can include impersonating a carrier or deceiving a carrier into giving criminals account information. Over half of the cases of strategic theft were out of California. Beverages, motor oils, auto parts, clothing, solar panel equipment, and nutritional supplements were the most targeted items.