Photo via ATRI

Photo via ATRI

The American Transportation Research Institute released the 2016 update to its report, An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking, showing the impact falling fuel prices and a soft economy have had on the trucking industry.

Using financial data provided directly by motor carriers throughout the country, this research documents and analyzes trucking costs from 2008 through 2015, giving trucking industry stakeholders a high-level benchmarking tool and government agencies a baseline for transportation infrastructure improvement analyses.

The average marginal cost per mile in 2015 was $1.59, a 6% decrease from the $1.70 found in 2014. This decline in average marginal cost per mile is attributed mostly to the steady fall in fuel prices experienced throughout 2015, but also identifies the late-2015 economic softening that continued into 2016. 

For the first time since ATRI started collecting the industry's operational costs data, driver costs now represent a higher percentage of overall costs than fuel does. In 2015 fuel costs averaged 40.3 cents per mile, while driver wages and benefits cost fleets an average of 63 cents.

"ATRI's 'ops cost' research is an excellent barometer of the state of the nation's economy, as it documented the softening in 2015 but also indicates that costs will be on the rise in 2016," said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations and a member of the ATRI research advisory committee. 

The report found that the average fleet age increased to 8.7 years in 2015 compared to 7.4 years in 2014, while the average miles driven per truck decreased in the same period of time. These point to a larger trend of carriers holding onto equipment for longer and logging fewer miles per year. In private fleets, the trend was reversed: the average Class 8 tractor age fell from 7.4 years to 6.7 years.

New to this year's report is additional information on fleet-wide fuel economy and operating speeds and the relationship between speed limiter use and fuel economy.  Over 85% of surveyed fleets reported using speed limiters, with the majority of those fleets using it on all trucks. Fleets that used speed limiters also showed a better average fuel economy than those without – 6.4 mpg to 6.0 mpg respectively.

In addition to average costs per mile, ATRI's report documents average costs per hour, cost breakouts by industry sector, and operating cost comparisons of U.S. regions. To obtain a copy of the report, go to