ATRI Survey Finds Truck Operating Costs Rose 2% in 2014


The American Transportation Research Institute reported that motor-carrier operating costs rose about 2% to $1.703 per mile from $1.676, primarily due to higher equipment and driver wage costs.

Expressed in costs per hour, the amount rose to $68.09 from $67.00. Both costs are 2014 results compared with 2013.

Equipment purchase and lease costs on a per-mile basis increased about 30% to 21.5 cents from 16.3 cents, reflecting the second-best year ever for truck orders and sales.

“Due to an economic-based freight demand increase and growing repair and maintenance costs,” the report said, “carriers are moving quickly to replace older equipment.”

Wages on a per-mile basis increased about 5% to 46.2 cents per mile from 44 cents and by the same percentage to $18.46 per hour.

“It is important to note that recent increases in [lower-paid] new entrant truck drivers somewhat masks moderate increases in existing driver wages”, the survey noted.

Despite a decline in fuel prices that shaved 6.2 cents per mile off operating costs, diesel remained the largest expense for fleets at 58.3 cents per mile. That was the lowest fuel cost since 2010.

Maintenance, insurance and benefit costs are lesser expenses, accounting for 10% or less of total costs. Insurance costs rose 10%, and maintenance expense increased 7%. 

The research arm of American Trucking Associations began its survey in April and began assessing the responses about a month ago. Survey respondents operated nearly 54,000 tractors.

The survey included a mix of truckload, less than truckload and specialized carriers, with TL operators representing the majority of respondents. That matches the industry’s overall composition since truckload predominates. More than seven in 10 respondents’ fleets were less than 250 power units.

In addition to calculating fuel, wage and equipment costs, the report also analyzed costs per mile for TL, LTL and specialized operators.

Costs per mile rose 11% for specialized operators, while TL costs dipped 2 cents per mile to $1.58 and LTL dropped 1 cent to $1.83.

Operating costs were highest in the Northeast and West, and lowest in the Midwest.