Tracking Cars and Trucks on Utah Roads

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 By SHEILA WANG • Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN - Utah added another 500,000 cars and trucks since 2005, as high-polluting vehicles gain in popularity, data shows.

An analysis of Utah’s vehicle registration records spanning more than one decade reveals the growing patterns among passenger cars, light trucks and heavy trucks statewide and compares counties. A series of interactive graphics below illustrate how vehicles have grown in total numbers and numbers per household in Utah; which counties have the most cars and trucks; and how the popularity of high-polluting, older vehicles have changed across the state.

You can also jump to the bottom for a searchable database to find out the vehicle registration records for your county of any year.

Vehicles Grow in Number and Age

As of 2017, Utah has more than 2.3 million cars and trucks registered in the state, up by one-fourth from 2005, the graphic above shows. It indicates that in 2011 — five years after the great recession — Utah’s vehicle registration started picking up speed. Between 2011 and 2017, Utah experienced a substantial increase in vehicle registration statewide. Meanwhile, the number of trucks and cars per household jumped up from 2.26 to 2.38 after declining for three consecutive years.

As Utahns register more vehicles, older cars and trucks have started to gain popularity in recent years. The chart shows increasingly more people across the state have registered older vehicles model year 1970 and older.

These at least 40-year-old cars, SUVs and pickup trucks, whether a vintage or a classic vehicle, produce much more pollution as their post-1970 counterparts, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "Compared to 1970 vehicle models, new cars, SUVs and pickup trucks are roughly 99 percent cleaner for common pollutants," the EPA says.

In 1970, Congress passed the Clean Air Act to gradually reduce air pollution and its effects on the health of Americans. The Act required a massive reduction in common motor vehicle emissions and continued to push for cleaner motor vehicles ever since. The mobile emissions, including hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particle emissions, account for more than half of the pollutants in America's air.

Here in Utah, emission tests are only required for eligible vehicles in five counties: Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Weber and Cache, according to the UT DMV. However, older cars and trucks are generally exempt from emission testing in these counties. In Weber County, vehicles model year 1967 and older are exempt from testing.

Most Popular Auto Makes and Models

The graphic above shows the most popular automotive makes and models in Utah in 2017. It indicates Ford leads the state as the No.1 auto brand in 2017 with more than 300,000 Ford vehicles registered, followed by Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda and Dodge.

The bar chart on the upper right shows Ford F150 is the most popular auto model in the state. It is noteworthy to mention all the top five auto models are light trucks.

The trend lines illustrate the growth of passenger cars and light trucks from 2005 to 2017. It shows a sharp increase in the number of light trucks since 2013 when the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles (UT DMV) switched to a new vehicle classification method. For example, crossovers have been classified as passenger cars before 2013, but as light trucks afterward. It could help explain the notable growth of light trucks between 2013 and 2014. 

Half the State Favors Light Trucks over Cars

Many light trucks such as vans, pickups and sport utility vehicles pollute more than the average passenger car, as the former meet less stringent emission and fuel economy standards, according to, part of of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

In 2017, 14 out of 29 counties in Utah had more light trucks than passenger cars, mostly in the less populous area such as Beaver, Garfield and Piute, the chart above shows. Among the 14 counties, Uintah registered 5,000 more light trucks than passenger cars.

In large counties like Salt Lake, Davis and Weber, there are more passenger cars than light trucks.

The three maps look at the numbers of cars, light trucks and heavy trucks per household in the past decade (household data by county in 2017 is unavailable). In 2016, the passenger cars tended to be more concentrated in the northwest and central Utah, while the trucks were more popular in the northeast and southern Utah.

Daggett had the highest number of light trucks and passenger cars per household, where each household registered more than two passenger cars and at least four light trucks on average. Duchesne registered the highest number of heavy trucks per household, with more than three heavy-duty trucks in every 10 households.

Varied Interests in Older Vehicles

As the state experiences growing popularity in older cars and trucks over the years, some counties have shown more interests than others.

In 2016, the map above shows the populous counties such as Salt Lake, Weber and Davis tended to have more vehicles model year 1970 and older.

As the older vehicles tended to emit much more pollution than their modern counterparts, they are generally exempt from the emission test requirements when being registered in Utah, according to the UT DMV.

In Salt Lake County where an emission test is required for vehicle registration, there are some 6,000 vehicles that are nearly half a century old. However, the ones made in 1967 and before are exempt from such requirements.

In 2017, the oldest vehicle in the state is a quadracycle model year 1901 registered in Wasatch. In Weber County, the oldest vehicle currently is a 1912 Ford Model T passenger car. In Davis, a 1910 Staver Roadster is the oldest.

For more information on vehicle registration in your county, feel free to use the searchable database below in Utah from 2005 and 2017.  

Contact Reporter Sheila Wang at 801-625-4252 or Follow her on Facebook @JournalistSheilaW or on Twitter @SheilaWang7.

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