ST. LOUIS -- Driving is increasingly becoming a preferred mode of business travel for regional trips, according to a new business travel survey commissioned by Enterprise Rent-A-Car. In fact, more than 65% of business travelers surveyed said they've taken a short-haul driving trip -- 300 miles or less -- in the past year.

More than four out of 10 (44% of respondents) regional business travelers who drive said they're taking more driving trips than in the past. Among those taking more short-haul driving trips, the top reasons given included: saving money (78%), reduced flight choices (39%), and changes in company policies (38%).

Greenfield Online, a Web-based research provider, conducted the "Short-Haul Business Travel Survey" on behalf of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. A total of 520 business travelers, all of whom have taken at least four business trips in the past year, participated in the survey. The sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

The survey also uncovered other benefits among those getting behind the wheel: time to think (86%), feeling in control of their personal schedules (84%), building relationships with coworkers (75%), and the basic enjoyment of driving (50%).

In addition, nearly one-third (30%) of all business travelers indicated their use of rental cars for such trips has increased over the past two years or will be increasing over the next 12 months.

For example, at Richard Wolf Medical Instruments Corp., located in the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills, sales and marketing employees are encouraged to look at driving options when business trip destinations can be reached in five hours or less via a road trip.

"For regional business trips, a number of factors come into play for us," said Christa Metcalf, corporate travel manager for Wolf. "Driving offers several advantages: convenience, cost savings, schedule flexibility, avoiding airport security hassles and delays, and it's easier to transport our equipment and supplies."

Metcalf added that renting cars for short-haul business trips is a popular choice because it avoids wear and tear on personal vehicles; provides a reliable, new car; and offers convenience.

"And at 36 cents per mile for personal car reimbursement, renting often is more economical for the company as well," Metcalf said.

When driving on short-haul trips, business travelers revealed that the ideal traveling companion is no one at all (42%) or a peer (42%). Few business travelers preferred to travel with their boss (9%), a subordinate (5%), or a client or customer (1%).

The increase in businesses renting vehicles for shorter trips picked up speed about two years ago, said Rob Hibbard, vice president of rental development for Enterprise.

"It's been a significant business opportunity for us, and it's one that may continue, as many of our customers have come to enjoy the convenience, cost savings and control that driving offers on these shorter trips," Hibbard said.