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Category: Transportation and Logistics

Supply Chain News: What does it Cost to Operate a Truck in the US?


Annual Study from ATRI Found Carrier Cost to Operate Rose 12.7% in 2021

Aug. 23, 2022

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) is fresh out with its annual study on what it costs a carrier to run a truck. The new report is based on 2021 carrier data, so it's a little dated, especially with rising diesel costs since the start of the year, but as always provides an interesting snapshot.

Surpply Chain Digest Says...


The cost to operate a “”for hire” carrier truck rose 12.7% in 2021, much more than the 8.3% increase for private fleets.

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ATRI issues this analysis every year starting with 2008. It is based on survey data from carriers and private fleets of all size. However, the survey population has a much higher percentage of LTL truckers vs full truckload than does the overall US trucking industry.

On average, trucks were driven just under 80,000 miles in the year, down 11% from 2020, indicating the strong participation of carriers with short hauls. But that decline is part of a longer term trend, as seen in the graphic below from the report.

The average truck-tractor age was 5.7 years old – the highest in over a decade.

Data collection began in March 2022 and concluded in June.

And to no surprise, even with relatively low fuel costs last year, the report notes that “Amid a variety of supply chain challenges, parts shortages and rising inflation, 2021 had the highest trucking industry costs on record."

Only 7% of respondents used some form of alternative fuel in at least one truck in 2021. Of all alternative fuel types, compressed natural gas (CNG) has the highest adoption rate, with 5.9% of respondents having at least one CNG-fueled truck.

But the level of alternative fuel adoption remains limited – and concentrated. Almost all fleets that use alternative fuels in do so only in a very small number of trucks, the report says. However, 96% of all sampled trucks using alternative fuels belong to just three fleet respondents.


In terms of costs of operation, in 2021 those increased $1.855 per mile, up from $1.646 in 2020. Translated into a cost per hour, the cost was $74.65 last year.

(See More Below)





The cost to operate a “”for hire” carrier truck rose 12.7% in 2021, much more than the 8.3% increase for private fleets. What drove that delta? Maintenance costs rose 18.2% for carriers, but fell 6.9% for provide fleets. Insurance costs for carrier fell just 1.1%, versus a 27.3% drop for private fleets. Fuel costs also increased quite a bit more for carriers than fleets. Why this was the case in all these areas is not clear.

The chart below from the report shows the percent by key categories of total operating costs by year since 2013. As can be seen, driver wages and benefits represented 44% of operating cost in 2021 – same as in 2020.


But fuel costs increased from 19% to 22% of the total.

One last data point from the report: large carriers pay higher wages than small carriers, but not that much. The survey found the highest pay in carriers with 251-1000 trucks, with pay per mile of 78 cents. Compare that to an average of 62 cents for carriers with less than 26 tractors.

The full report from ATRI can be found here: An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking 2022

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