Carriers spent more on driver wages, less on fuel in 2015, according to report

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Updated Nov 9, 2016
For the first time since ATRI began its annual survey of carrier costs, driver wages topped fuel spending as carriers’ most costly line item.For the first time since ATRI began its annual survey of carrier costs, driver wages topped fuel spending as carriers’ most costly line item.

Motor carriers in 2015 spent about a dime less per mile in 2015 than in 2014, according to a report released Monday by the American Transportation Research Institute.

Per ATRI’s annual Operational Costs of Trucking report, the average marginal costs per mile for the carriers surveyed by ATRI was $1.593 a mile, down 11 cents from 2014’s average of $1.703 a mile. ATRI bases its findings on surveys of motor carrier costs, conducted this year. The carriers surveyed account for more than 107,000 power units across applications and regions.

The decline in average carrier costs stems almost exclusively from cheaper per-mile fuel costs — 40.3 cents as mile in 2015, compared to 58.3 cents per mile in 2014.

The average price for a gallon of diesel fuel tumbled in 2015, starting the year at over $3.10 a gallon and ending up at just $2.24 a gallon.

For the first time since ATRI first published its annual Operational Costs report, fuel spending was not carriers’ most expensive per-mile line item. Driver wages took the crown in 2015. 

Driver wages put upward pressure on carriers’ per-mile costs, climbing to 49.9 cents a mile in 2015 from 46.2 cents a mile in 2014 and outpacing driver wages as the most costly per-mile expense incurred by carriers. Driver benefits costs also rose, moving to 13.1 cents a mile, a 2-cent increase.

Spending on insurance premiums climbed to 9.2 cents a mile from 2014’s 7.1 cents a mile. Lastly, carrier spending rose on truck purchase and lease payments, up 1.5 cents to 23 cents a mile.

Per-mile line items to see decreases in 2015, in addition to fuel, include repair and maintenance costs (down to 15.6 cents a mile from 15.8 cents); tire costs, down to 4.3 cents a mile from 2014’s 4.4 cents; and toll costs, which dropped to 2 cents a mile, down three-tenths of a cent from 2014’s average.

Per-mile averages for spending on permits and licensing was unchanged — 1.9 cents a mile.


Costs for truckload carriers fell 8 cents from 2014 to $1.50 a mile in 2015 — the lowest of the per-mile costs calculated by ATRI. Specialized carriers’ costs dropped 6 cents to $1.79 a mile. LTL carriers saw a major dip, 13 cents, to $1.60 a mile.


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