- Running a trucking business is more expensive than ever, thanks to high fuel, wage and equipment costs, the American Transportation Research Institute said in its 2023 operational costs analysis.
- For-hire carriers’ average fuel costs jumped by 53.7%, truck and trailer lease payments rose by 18.6%, and wages increased by 15.5% last year, the report said. Total average costs grew by 23.1% with fuel included, surpassing $2 per mile across all sectors for the first time since ATRI began its annual survey in 2008.
- A difficult economy is requiring carriers to closely monitor and prioritize costs to maintain financial stability, ATRI said. “Despite an adverse economic climate, the trucking industry has made strides over the previous two years — in newer equipment, more competitive driver compensation, and improved operations — that put it in a good position to meet these challenges.”
Trucking operational costs reached record high in 2022
As the U.S. economy navigated a downturn in 2022, motor carriers watched freight rates fall throughout the year.
But expenses rose in all but two categories: permits and licenses, and tolls.
The double-digit percentage increases in fuel, truck and trailer payments, repair and maintenance, and driver wages made 2022 the costliest year on record for carriers — with or without fuel included in the calculation. Costs rose 12% in 2021 without fuel included.
Fuel rose more than any other cost, increasing to 64.1 cents per mile from 41.7 cents per mile in 2021.
Driver wages reached 72.4 cents per mile, truck and trailer payments rose to 33.1 cents per mile, and repair and maintenance costs accounted for 19.6 cents per mile. Driver benefits, insurance premiums, and tire costs saw more moderate increases.
In the second straight year of record trucking costs, fleets improved operational efficiencies such as driver turnover and equipment utilization, according to ATRI, the research arm of the American Trucking Associations.
“Though operating margins fell in most fleet sizes and sectors, all sizes and sectors posted an average operating margin of 6 percent or higher in 2022,” ATRI said.
While it noted continued softness in housing, retail and manufacturing, the survey pointed out a silver lining as carriers brace for an uncertain second half of 2023.
“Falling inflation could help ease costs and promote consumer spending,” the report said.