ATRI’s Newest Operational Costs of Trucking Details Decreases in Industry Costs

Contact: Daniel Murray
(651) 641-6162
November 24, 2020

Arlington, VA – The American Transportation Research Institute today released the findings of its 2020 update to “An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking.”  Using detailed financial data provided directly by motor carriers of all sectors and fleet sizes, this “Ops Cost” research annually documents and analyzes detailed trucking costs from 2008 through 2019.  ATRI’s analysis provides industry stakeholders with an essential benchmarking tool, and government agencies with input on industry finances necessary for comprehensive transportation planning and infrastructure improvement analyses.

ATRI’s newest 2020 Ops Cost report documents the slowdown of freight which occurred in the second half of 2019.  The economic softening, combined with a number of independent factors including lower fuel prices, decreased the marginal cost of trucking.

The average marginal cost per mile incurred by motor carriers in 2019 decreased 9.3 percent to $1.65.  The line-item costs for almost every major line item experienced some level of decrease.  In comparison to the last freight softening, which took place in 2016, marginal costs were still 6 cents higher, indicating the persistence of generally higher costs.

Combined driver wage and benefits decreased slightly in 2019 – from 77.6 cents per mile in 2018 to 69.3 cents per mile – a counterintuitive decrease given the driver shortage.  However, bonuses for drivers universally increased, with retention bonuses showing increases of over 80 percent.  While the cost per mile for total driver compensation fell, carriers are clearly addressing the driver shortage through other mechanisms.  

ATRI’s 2020 report includes a targeted analysis on “Driving the Trucking Industry: Small Carrier Spotlight,” which compares fleets of 100 or fewer trucks to fleets with greater than 100 trucks.  

“Given the chaos and volatility of freight markets these days, it is more critical than ever that trucking fleets closely monitor their cost centers,” said Brandon Knight, Principal of Transportation for CliftonLarsonAllen LLP.  “ATRI’s Operational Costs report is an important benchmarking tool for fleets of all sizes and sectors.”

Since its original publication in 2008, ATRI has received over 20,000 requests for the Operational Costs reports.

A copy of this report is available here.

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization.  It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.

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