Road Tripping: Road Warriors Rack Up Miles Across The Globe

Deepak Seth

As the global economy continues to grow, air travel reigns king as the preferred means of transportation for business travelers. However, road warriors are still out there en masse. According to new global data released by SAP Concur, our road-warrior customers logged a record 5.65 billion miles in 2017 – up 17% from 2016. On an average weekday, we estimate nearly 13 million travelers will hit the road in search of sealing a deal, making an in-person customer call, or maybe even making a new connection.

By analyzing our 2016 and 2017 Concur Expense data, we found that U.S. businesses spent more than $1.95 billion on mileage reimbursement in 2017. The U.K. followed with $222 million, Canada with $104 million, and China with $39 million (all in U.S. dollars).

The traveler trends correlating with this spend are even more interesting. Some notable regional and global takeaways include:

  • The most significant growth in mileage globally was among small-business travelers, which increased 22% in Q4 2017 from 2016.
  • Mileage had the highest impact on the healthcare industry. In the U.S., healthcare workers drive 1,700 miles each year on average – the highest among all industries – and claim 20% more mileage expenses as compared to other industries.
  • In the U.S. and Canada combined, the average road warrior drove 1,483 miles last year – which is like driving from New York City to Denver – and expensed $736 in mileage refunds annually.
  • Road warriors in APAC and EMEA tend to drive more than those in the Americas. On average, EMEA drivers were reimbursed 1,978 miles annually, and in APAC drivers logged 1,966 miles annually.
  • On average, road warriors in EMEA are driving longer distances per trip, with the median miles per transaction coming in at 56, with those in the Americas (U.S. and Canada) at 44 and APAC at 36.
  • In EMEA, the highest annual miles per driver are in the U.K., with the average mileage nearly 2,500 miles annually. That’s nearly 1,000 miles higher than drivers in the U.S, and more than three times that of drivers in France and Germany, which average closer to 700-800 miles.
  • In APAC, India and China are also high with nearly 3,000 miles per driver annually.

Peak travel times

Mileage data peaks on Wednesdays, when 14.2 million drivers are on the road each day. On average, road warriors rack up the most mileage in September, October, and November. We attribute the uptick to end-of-year sales goals, industry events, and the last full month of business days before the holiday season.

The fall months also happens to be the busiest time of year for air travel. According to SAP Concur data released in 2017, Wednesday and Thursday the week before Thanksgiving are historically the busiest days for business travel, with 58% more corporate travelers traveling these days than the average weekday.

Small business outpaces enterprises

Our data show that both small-business and enterprise drivers are hitting the road en masse. However, on average, small-business drivers are steadily outpacing those who work for enterprise-sized companies. From 2016 to 2017, small-business mileage was up 22% and enterprise mileage was up 12%. Small-business drivers claimed 30% more miles and 26% more mileage costs than enterprise drivers in 2017. Small-business drivers also averaged 1,943 miles per year as compared to enterprise who averaged 1,483 miles.

Healthcare is winning the mileage race

In the healthcare field, mileage expenses represent nine percent of the global industry’s total mileage spend – nearly three times more than the next-highest industry, energy and natural resources. The healthcare industry includes hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, and biotech organizations, where sales teams frequently travel to meet with prospects and drive, on average, 52 miles each trip. Healthcare drivers rack up trips at a faster pace than any other industry, averaging 10 more transactions per traveler. Globally, the healthcare industry drove 488 million miles in 2017. That’s nearly 20,000 times around the earth!

Looking across the economy, discrete manufacturing (which includes aerospace, technology, and industrial manufacturing companies) racks up more overall miles than any other industry. In 2017, the discrete manufacturing industry traveled 1.63 billion miles, followed by the consumer industry with 1.2 billion miles.

Road warrior tips

As any seasoned road warrior knows, a good road trip is fueled by plenty of snacks and a solid collection of playlists, podcasts, and audiobooks. If you’re traveling for business, SAP Concur offers these helpful tips to drive smarter.

  • Save time and money on parking with apps like Spot Hero, ParkWhiz, and WallyPark that let you compare parking rates and reserve spaces ahead of time. These apps even sync directly with Concur Expense, making receipt and expense management a breeze.
  • Join rewards programs to take advantage of gas savings, hotel perks, and more. Not only can this save your company money, but you can also gain perks like hotel upgrades for future personal travel.
  • Keep important contact information handy. When the unexpected arises, it’s valuable to have your corporate booking tool and travel manager’s contact information stored in your phone. In a pinch – for example, a meeting that unexpectedly turns into an overnight trip or a fender-bender requiring insurance claims – you’ll be able to quickly make arrangements.
  • Plan ahead. Use your favorite mapping apps to determine roadblocks, heavy traffic spots, and the inevitable construction. Regardless of the distance traveled, mapping your routes away from construction and expected delays BEFORE you hit the road will save you time and frustration.

To inform these findings, SAP Concur analyzed business traveler mileage data within Concur Expense spanning January 2016 through December 2017. The dataset included expense entries from Americas, EMEA, and APAC. SAP Concur “road warriors” are defined as drivers who have expensed at least one mile of travel in 2016 and 2017.

This article originally appeared in the SAP Concur newsroom and is republished by permission.

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Deepak Seth

About Deepak Seth

Deepak Seth is the senior director of mobile product and strategy at SAP Concur, where he defines the global strategy, product roadmap, and delivery of all mobile product offerings. He has over 25 years of experience in leading the development of highly successful consumer and enterprise software and services.