Operating costs were up across the board in 2018, as fuel costs rose and fleets increased driver wages and benefits to take advantage of what was a banner year for trucking. - HDT File Image

Operating costs were up across the board in 2018, as fuel costs rose and fleets increased driver wages and benefits to take advantage of what was a banner year for trucking.

HDT File Image

Operating costs were up across the board last year, costing fleets an average of $71.78 per hour to run freight, according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s latest Operational Costs of Trucking report.

The 2019 update to ATRI’s report looked at trucking industry operating costs during 2018 which saw a robust economic environment for carriers and drivers. While times were good for fleets overall, the economic boom also put upward pressure on nearly every line-item cost center experienced by carriers, according to ATRI.

ATRI found that a good economy, difficulties in finding and keeping drivers,  and increased fuel and insurance prices all contributed to year-over-year cost increases. The average marginal cost per mile, which includes costs due to fuel, equipment, maintenance, insurance, permits, licenses, tires, tolls and driver wages and benefits, increased 7.7% in 2018 to $1.82 per mile.

Costs went up in every category except tires, and fuel costs saw the largest increase at 17.7%. Not far behind fuel cost increases, were insurance costs at 12%. Driver wages and benefits continued to make up the largest portion of operating costs and 2018 was a year of substantial driver pay increases industry wide.

Driver wages and benefits increased 7.0% and 4.7% respectively as a strategic response to the severe driver shortage that existed in 2018, according to ATRI. On an hourly basis, average costs due to driver wages increased from $21.97 to $23.50 in a single year. Benefits increased from $6.78 to $7.10 per hour. Wages and benefits represented 43% of all marginal costs in 2018.

Repair and maintenance costs increased 24% since 2012 to 17.1 cents per mile on average.

These numbers represent an average of the trucking industry, however ATRI’s report also analyzes costs by sector which can have varying costs due to the type of activity. Specialized carriers have the highest cost per mile at $2.02, with additional factors such as HazMat and OS/OW permit costs, complex maintenance requirements and higher driver compensation contributing to increased costs.

Truckload carriers have the lowest operating cost per mile at $1.71, despite a 14.8% increase from the previous year, mostly attributed to driver pay increases.

A copy of the full report is available from ATRI at TruckingResearch.org.

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