Operating costs for trucking companies are on the rise again after falling slightly in 2012 according to a new study by the American Transportation Research Institute.

While operating costs fell between 2008 and 2009 and again in 2012, the average cost per mile rose from $1.65 to $1.68 in 2013. The increase in average operating costs is being mostly attributed to the driver shortage and wage increases at motor carriers looking to ensure retention of qualified drivers.

“Carriers have experience significant increases in equipment and labor costs, as well as second level items like tolls and health care benefits,” said Andrew Boyle, an ATRI Research Advisory Committee member.

After the Great Recession and a sharp decline in fuel prices resulted in decreased industry costs between 2008 and 2009, costs steadily rose through 2010 and 2011, with a slight decline in 2012.

Fuel now consistently represents the largest share of total average marginal cost for motor carriers, followed by driver wages and equipment lease or purchase payments.

The new findings were part of a 2014 update to the Operational Costs of Trucking report that ATRI originally published in 2008. The report details average costs per mile as well as costs per hour and cost breakouts by industry sector.

There were three new questions added to this year’s survey to assess emerging issues:

  • Motor carrier use of electronic logging devices (ELD) to log driver hours-of-service. The response was split almost evenly with 53% of respondents reporting some ELD use. It is assumed that this figure will increase rapidly as the industry responds to the upcoming Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ELD  mandate expected in 2016.
  • Euipment trade cycles, or the frequency of vehicle turnover. Trailers are held an average of 12.2 years, while truck-tractors are replaced on average every 6.6 years. Additionally, respondents report an average of over 795,000 miles before replacing tractors.
  • Primary commodities hauled. General freight accounted for one-quarter of responses, followed by refrigerated food (19%) and manufactured goods (9%) as the top three responses.

Since its initial publication, it is one of the most requested reports among industry stakeholders, said ATRI.

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