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August 25 -- The Census Bureau invites public comments to OMB by September 24, 2021 regarding the proposed reinstatement of the 2021 Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS).
 
The Census Bureau requests clearance of the forms that will be used to conduct the 2021 Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS). Our sponsor for this joint statistical project is the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The 2021 VIUS will collect data to measure the physical and operational characteristics of trucks from a sample of approximately 150,000 trucks. These trucks are selected from more than 190 million private and commercial trucks registered with motor vehicle departments in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Census Bureau will collect the data for the sampled trucks from the registered truck owners. We will publish physical and operational vehicle characteristics estimates for each state, the District of Columbia, and the United States. A public-use file will be released that will contain unaggregated microdata information for each truck for which data are collected. The records on the public-use file will be masked to avoid the disclosure of a sampled truck or owner.

The VIUS is the only comprehensive source of information on the physical and operational characteristics of the Nation's truck population. The VIUS provides unique, essential information for government, business, and academia. The U.S. Department of Transportation, State Departments of Transportation, and transportation consultants compliment VIUS microdata as extremely useful and flexible to meet constantly changing requests that cannot be met with predetermined tabular publications. The planned microdata file will enable them to cross-tabulate data to meet their needs.

Federal, state, and local transportation agencies use information from the VIUS for the analysis of safety issues, proposed investments in new roads and technology, truck size and weight issues, user fees, cost allocation, energy and environmental constraints, hazardous materials transport, and other aspects of the Federal-aid highway program. The Federal government uses information from the VIUS as an important part of the framework for: (1) The national investment and personal consumption expenditures component of the gross domestic product, (2) input-output tables, (3) economic development evaluation, (4) maintenance of vital statistics for prediction of future economic and transportation trends, (5) logistical requirements, (6) Metropolitan Planning Organization transportation development requirements, and (7) regulatory impact analysis.

Business and academia use information from the VIUS to assess intermodal use, conduct market studies and evaluate market strategies, assess the utility and cost of certain types of equipment, and calculate the longevity of products. VIUS information also is used to determine fuel demands and needs for fuel efficiency, to produce trade publication articles and special data arrays, and to assess the effects of deregulation on the restructuring of the transportation industries.  
 
VIUS was the principal data source on the physical and operational characteristics of the nation's truck population from 1963 through 2002 and was conducted every five years in conjunction with the Quinquennial Economic Census. The survey was discontinued prior to the 2007 survey due to budget constraints. The discontinuation of the survey left a significant void in the U.S. Department of Transportation's knowledge of the U.S. truck fleet. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics is restoring the VIUS with its partners, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy. The U.S. Census Bureau will collect VIUS under the mandatory requirements of Title 13, Sections 131 and 182, of the U.S.C. as in previous economic censuses.

Prior to 2002, the VIUS was conducted at 5-year intervals as part of the economic census. The data from this survey become progressively obsolete as the sampling frame ages. As it stands, the survey has not been conducted for nearly twenty years. Data users have been relying on the data from 2002 during this time.

Bringing VIUS back to its 5-year cycle ensures the timeliness and usefulness of the statistics we produce from it. Federal and state policy makers depend on reliable, up-to-date data to assess and evaluate all aspects of the Federal-aid highway program, energy consumption, national emergency preparedness, direct input into national accounts, input-output tables, and other measures of economic activity. The 2021 VIUS will also assess the rate of new vehicle technologies that mitigate climate change impacts and increase safety on the roadways. It is a necessity that current data from this survey be provided.

Since the last VIUS was conducted nearly 20 years ago, some of the questionnaire content required updates. In particular, questions related to vehicle technology have been modified to reflect more recent safety and fuel economy features. Modified content includes emerging technologies such as driver assistance systems, collision warning and collision intervention features, driving control, and parking assistance features. New questions were also added based on stakeholder input collected during the years since the 2002 VIUS. This new content includes topics such as towing capacity, maintenance costs, time spent idling, use of overweight permits, and mileage driven while cubed out or weighed out.

VIUS utilizes a sample of Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) for trucks registered in the 50 states and District of Columbia. The sample includes both personally-owned and commercially-owned trucks. VIUS excludes trucks owned by federal, state, and local governments; ambulances; buses; motor homes; farm tractors; unpowered trailer units; and passenger cars. The sample design for the 2021 VIUS is similar to the design for the 2002 VIUS. A stratified random sample will be selected in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The truck stratification is based on body type and gross vehicle weight (GVW) for private trucks and for commercial trucks as follows:  
1.    Commercial database pickups
2.    Commercial database vans, minivans, SUVs
3.    Commercial database straight trucks with GVW ≤ 26,000 lbs.
4.    Commercial database straight trucks with GVW > 26,000 lbs.
5.    Commercial database semi-trucks
6.    Personal database pickups
7.    Personal database vans, minivans, SUVs
8.    Personal database straight trucks with GVW ≤ 26,000 lbs.
9.    Personal database straight trucks with GVW > 26,000 lbs.
10.    Personal database semi-trucks

Data are collected via two questionnaires based on truck type, one for light trucks (pickups, SUVs, minivans) and one for heavy trucks (including truck tractors). Content differs somewhat between the two forms. Form Number(s): TC-9501 (Light Trucks) and TC-9502 (Heavy Trucks).
 
The VIUS publishes three types of estimates for many truck characteristics: number of trucks, truck miles, and average miles per truck. Characteristics include major use, truck size, annual miles categories, range of operation, truck weight, and model year. We calculate the 2021 VIUS sample sizes to ensure that any estimate of number of trucks which accounts for 10 percent of a particular truck type in the population will have a predefined accuracy.   
 
VIUS website: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/vius.html
2021 VIUS proposal to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202108-0607-001 Submit comments here. Click IC List for collection instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation.
FR notice inviting public comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/08/25/2021-18232/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for

Point of contact: Kelly Holder, VIUS Branch Chief, (301) 763-3462, Kelly.A.Holder@census.gov   
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments to OMB, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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