ATRI’s Latest Operational Costs Report Documents the Scale of COVID-19 Impacts on Trucking


Contact: Dan Murray

(651) 641-6162

November 23, 2021

Arlington, Virginia – The American Transportation Research Institute today released the findings of its 2021 update to An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking. The new “Ops Costs” research is based on detailed 2020 financial data provided directly by motor carriers of all sectors and fleet sizes. The various line-item cost centers clearly document the numerous impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic had on trucking and the economy in general.

The 2021 Ops Costs report documents the effect that faster truck speeds, due to low overall traffic levels, had on multiple line-items, as well as the sector and commodity volatility that occurred as consumers were forced to dramatically change spending habits.

In addition to faster truck speeds, COVID-19 impacts were considerable: dead-head miles increased to 20.6 percent, annual operating miles decreased to 89,358 miles per truck, and fuel costs declined by nearly 20 percent to 30.8 cents per mile. Independent of COVID-19 impacts, insurance costs continued their climb, rising more than 18 percent to 8.7 cents per mile – the highest in the Ops Costs report history.

While truck driver wages increased from 2019 to 2020, benefits costs per mile decreased. Overall truck driver compensation was 73.7 cents per mile. Separately, safety and retention bonuses increased by 10.5 percent and 14.2 percent respectively, but starting bonuses dropped by 10 percent – reflecting the soft driver marketplace in early 2020 for many sectors.

Overall, the average marginal cost per mile incurred by motor carriers in 2020 decreased 5 cents per mile to $1.64. When the per-mile costs are converted to hourly costs, the report found that total hourly costs dropped slightly to $66.87.

“In the face of a COVID-19 economy, our industry tightly managed costs and operations, while delivering essential goods to market. We also led the way out of the COVID-19 recession in the latter half of the year. I expect 2021 to continue the positive trends for our industry, said Cully Frisard, COO of Frisard Companies.”

Since its original publication in 2008, ATRI has received over 22,000 requests for the Operational Costs reports.
For access to the full report please visit ATRI’s website here.

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501c3 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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