By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

National gasoline sales increased by 2.8 percent in 2015 compared to 2014, the largest year-over-year increase since 2002, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

This is the third consecutive year of gasoline sales growth, which is linked to the improving economy, ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black said.

“The economy grew at 2.4 percent in 2015—which means businesses are shipping more goods to both consumers and retailers and buying more diesel fuel for their trucks,” Black said. “Unemployment was also down in 2015, reaching 5.3 percent.  As more Americans get back to work, some of those individuals will commute by car and increase the demand for motor fuel.”

Consumption grew by 2.9 percent to 3.9 percent in four of nation’s five geographic regions. Gasoline sales declined 0.1 percent in the Northeast. Overall, 40 states and Washington, D.C. experienced sales growth.

“The increase in fuel sales will help support additional revenues to the federal Highway Trust Fund,” Black said. “That’s good news. The bad news, however, is that this still will not solve the fund’s long-term structural revenue deficit.”

The HTF’s average annual deficit is projected at $18 billion by the time the FAST Act expires in 2020.