ATRI’s Newest Operational Costs Research Documents Costliest Year Ever in Trucking

Contact: Alex Leslie (651) 641-6162
August 10, 2022

Atlanta, Georgia – The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) today released the findings of its 2022 update to An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking. A record number of motor carriers contributed their 2021 financial data for this year’s research. The “Ops Costs” report provides detailed breakdowns of numerous line-item costs by fleet size and sector, allowing for tailored benchmarking.

The total marginal cost of trucking grew by 12.7 percent in 2021 to $1.855 per mile, the highest on record. Leading contributors to this increase were fuel (35.4% higher than in 2020), repair and maintenance (18.2% higher than in 2020), and driver wages (10.8% higher than in 2020). On a cost-per-hour basis, costs increased to $74.65.

The trucking industry experienced many new, atypical market conditions in 2021 and their effects can clearly be seen in the Ops Costs data. 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 percent. While larger fleets spent less than smaller fleets 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, total driver compensation at $0.809 per mile was 10 percent higher than in 2020.

Faced with challenges throughout the supply chain, carriers emphasized greater efficiency. Empty or “deadhead” mileage decreased to 14.8 percent, and average truck fuel economy increased to 6.65 miles per gallon. This year’s report includes several new efficiency metrics, such as annualized driver turnover, average dwell time at shipper facilities, and revenue per truck. The financial health of trucking remained strong throughout 2021 despite spiking costs, with an average operating margin in most sectors at 10 percent.

“The last couple years have created great uncertainties in trucking, but ATRI’s newest Operational Costs report provides critical data and insights into the trends and anomalies that emerged in 2021. As the report hints, the coming year holds opportunity for continued growth in our industry,” said Ozark Motor Lines Chief Financial Officer Jason Higginbotham.

Since its original publication 15 years ago, ATRI has received over 27,000 requests for the Operational Costs reports. A full copy of the report is available through 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.