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Trucking Costs Continue to Grow

The total marginal cost of trucking grew by 12.7% in 2021 to $1.855 per mile, the highest on record, according to the American Transportation Research Institute, which released the findings of its 2022 Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking.

“The financial health of trucking remained strong throughout 2021 despite spiking costs, with an average operating margin in most sectors at 10%,” ATRI reported

It says the “Ops Costs” report provides detailed breakdowns of numerous line-item costs by fleet size and sector, allowing for tailored benchmarking. The trucking industry experienced many new, atypical market conditions in 2021 and ATRI says the effects are revealed in the data.

Leading contributors to the increase in costs were fuel (35.4% higher than in 2020), repairs and maintenance (18.2% higher), and driver wages (10.8% higher). On a cost-per-hour basis, the total costs increased to $74.65.

Overall, fleets with 100 or fewer trucks spent 4.9 cents more per mile than fleets with more than 100 trucks – closing the 2020 gap with larger fleets by 70%. While larger fleets spent less than smaller fleets did on insurance premiums per mile, the advantage was offset by higher out-of-pocket incident costs per mile for large fleets.

In response to the truck driver shortage, fleets raised total driver compensation by $0.809 per mile, which was 10% higher than in 2020.

Faced with challenges throughout the supply chain, carriers emphasized greater efficiency. Empty or “deadhead” mileage decreased to 14.8%, and average truck fuel economy rose to 6.65 miles per gallon. The report includes new efficiency metrics like annualized driver turnover, average dwell time at shipper facilities, and revenue per truck.

“As the report hints, the coming year holds opportunity for continued growth in our industry,” observed Ozark Motor Lines Chief Financial Officer Jason Higginbotham.

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