With rates dropping, per-mile operating costs hit record high in 2023

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Jul 10, 2024
ATRI report cover

Operating expenses for trucking companies increased in 2023, according to the results of a new study released today.

The American Transportation Research Institute's 2024 Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking found the overall marginal costs of operating a truck hit $2.270 per mile in 2023, a new record high. While the increase was only 0.8 percent over the previous year, when surcharge-protected fuel costs are excluded, marginal costs rose 6.6 percent to $1.716 per mile, according to the study.

ATRI's annual report analyzes line-item costs, operating efficiencies, and revenue benchmarks by fleet sector and size.

Overall, 2023 expenses rose moderately across most categories, with average costs across line-items increasing at less than half the rates experienced during 2021 and 2022, according to the study. It found:

  • Truck and trailer payments grew by 8.8 percent to $0.360 per mile
  • Driver wages grew by 7.6 percent to $0.779 per mile
  • Repair and maintenance costs grew by 3.1 percent to $0.202 per mile
  • Insurance premiums grew by 12.5 percent to $0.099 per mile after two years of negligible change

ATRI said the soft 2023 freight market -- which continues in 2024 -- posed many challenges for operational efficiency. Deadhead mileage rose to an average of 16.3 percent for all non-tank operations, and driver turnover rose by five percentage points in the truckload sector.

These pressures combined with low freight rates strained profitability across the industry, said ATRI in a statement announcing the release of its study. Average operating margins were 6 percent or lower in all fleet sizes and sectors other than LTL. The truckload and specialized sectors experienced drops in per-mile or per-truck revenue, and most saw “other costs” – expenses outside of the core marginal line-items – increase as a share of total revenue.

The full report is available on ATRI’s website here