Fleet Management

Operational Costs Rise Despite Falling Fuel Prices

September 29, 2015

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe

Rising equipment costs and driver wages led to an increase in operational costs in 2014, according to a comprehensive report from the American Transportation Research Institute.

ATRI’s report, An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking, found that the average marginal cost per mile in 2014 was $1.70 compared with $1.68 in 2013. This comes despite decreasing fuel costs in the same period of time.

Increases in truck and trailer lease and purchase payments were at the root of the cost per mile increase, especially in the specialized sector. This was largely due to increases in freight demand that required many carriers to repair or replace older equipment.

The driver shortage also played a significant role by putting upward pressure on costs as carriers spent more money on recruiting and retaining drivers.

From 2013 to 2014, fuel dropped from 38% to 34% of the share of a carrier’s average total cost, the lowest it had been since 2010. However the share of costs from equipment rose from 10% to 13%. There was a slight increase in the cost share of driver wages from 26% to 27%.

Specialized carriers had the highest cost per mile in 2014 at $1.85 due to an increase in specialized truck and trailer lease costs as well as an increase in insurance costs.

Specialized carriers also reported the highest average driver wages at 51.6 cents per mile.  Less-than-truckload carriers usually have the highest costs per mile and in 2014, those were slightly lower at $1.83. Truckload carriers had the lowest cost per mile at $1.58.

The annully updated ATRI cost analysis examines financial data provided by carriers to document and analyze trucking costs from 2008 through 2014. 

The full report with a more complete breakdown of the numbers is available via the ATRI website.


  1. 1. Big Yellower [ September 30, 2015 @ 07:52AM ]

    Why is mega carriers having operational expenses increases? LOW BALLING FREIGHT LANES and CUSTOMERS.
    When idiots at mega carriers quote very low rates to a customers. Example if freight from a client pays $3.00 a mile on all lanes they ship to. Some mega Carriers will lowball to a
    $1.28 a mile on let's say a 660 mile run .
    The problem is it will take 2-3 rigs to make the $3.00 a mile dollars back. Over all you are losing your shirt . Within a 5-10 yrs a few mega carriers will close their doors . Due to lowballing..

  2. 2. Tom Eaton [ September 30, 2015 @ 08:29AM ]

    I hate to disagree with Big Yellower, but cheap rates have nothing to do with the cost of operating a truck, only the ability to pay for it.
    What this article doesn't address is the unreliability of the new trucks due to the mandated emissions THAT DO NOT WORK!! Our company uses primarily O/Ops. Due to CARB they all had to buy CARB approved trucks. They had to destroy perfectly RELIABLE older trucks for the mandated trucks. They breakdown constantly and each time it is a minimum of $300-500 to get back on the road. Add that to the loss of revenue during the down time and there is no way these guys can put any money away for large repair bills when they come, and as anyone knows no truck lasts forever. Sorry if I got off topic, but the truck shortage will only get worse as these O/Ops go broke.... The Big Boys can not pick up their slack, and the shippers and government will be the blame!!


Comment On This Story

Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.


We offer e-newsletters that deliver targeted news and information for the entire fleet industry.


ELDs and Telematics

sponsored by
sponsor logo

Scott Sutarik from Geotab will answer your questions and challenges

View All

Sleeper Cab Power

Steve Carlson from Xantrex will answer your questions and challenges

View All