Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

What a difference a decade makes

| September 13, 2012

Old-timers like to talk about how trucking has changed in their lifetimes. Those of you who’ve been in the business for even 10 years know that a lot has changed.

Carrier executives last week got a rough comparison of how a trucker’s world has changed when they heard a presentation from Todd Amen, head of Denver-based owner-operator financial services provide ATBS. He spoke at the Truckload Carriers Association Independent Contractors Division Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Among the changes Amen noted (2002 vs. 2012):

Average miles driven: 139,000; 112,000.
Home time: once every three to five weeks; twice a week.
Miles per gallon: 5; 8.
Fuel cost: $1.42; $3.92
Gross revenue: $127,000; $162,000
Average pay per mile: 85 cents; 94 cents

So long haul isn’t so long anymore. The huge drop to 112,000 miles a year – almost 20 percent – makes possible the much higher frequency of drivers getting home to their families.

Seeing fuel prices practically triple in 10 years is amazing, and more so considering it’s been even higher long before 2012. Surcharges have absorbed most of the pain for those able to get 100 percent, though even the delay in surcharge adjustments week to week can mean some slight loss over time.

The change in engine efficiency is equally dramatic, even though many operators are not yet at 8 mpg. Since most fuel surcharges are based on 6 mpg, anyone getting above 6 mpg is making money on a 100 percent surcharge.

One final change is that when the typical old-timer ran out of money, he just ran more miles, Amen said. Today, many owner-operators know their costs per mile and manage their operations accordingly. With diminishing miles, volatile fuel costs and rapidly rising truck costs, it’s hard to make it without those basic business skills.