Transurban today said that light vehicle traffic on its roads in the US, Canada and Australia fell 36% in the past week as the COVID-19 outbreak forced more people to stay at home.
The toll road operator predicted traffic will decline a further 35%-40% this week compared a year earlier, warning that larger revenue drops will follow, in a trading update for the March quarter.
Heavy vehicle traffic also fell across its motorways, by 7% in the last week of March, as freight and deliveries continued.
Overall, traffic was down 4% for the March quarter for light vehicles and 1% for heavy vehicles.
Chief Executive Scott Charlton said the first few days of this week were showing a continuation of further declines as lockdowns tighten globally.
Traffic began to fall from the second week of March when there was a 2% drop, followed by a 17% fall in the third week when coronavirus-related shutdowns came into place.
“The most material have been in our North American assets where the governments have effectively locked down [most people],” Charlton told analysts at the briefing.
He said restrictions began ramping up in North America on 12 and 13 of March, which led to a rapid decline in traffic on its roads around Washington and Montreal, leading to a 65% decline in North America last week.
Montreal also suspended tolls on its A25 motorway as the government deemed tolls a non-essential activity. Transurban will be compensated for the loss of revenue under a contract with the government.
Traffic has fallen more gradually in Australia as restrictions have been less severe there to date. In NSW it fell 29% last week, in Victoria 43% and in Queensland 27%.
Charlton said the motorways around Washington DC – where tolls apply on lanes that are used only when roads are congested – had been badly affected.