Owner-operators’ 2016: Miles up, income down

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To compensate for cheap rates, owner-operators drove more miles in 2016. But their paychecks still dipped from 2015.To compensate for cheap rates, owner-operators drove more miles in 2016. But their paychecks still dipped from 2015.

Leased and independent owner-operators saw their incomes dip in 2016 compared to the year prior, according ATBS, the nation’s largest owner-operator business services firm.

Leased operators netted on average $59,699 and independent operators earned $60,577. In 2015, independents earned $63,375 and leased owner-operators averaged $61,167.

“Owner-operators were truly stuck in neutral in 2016,” says ATBS President and CEO Todd Amen. “They worked harder to make almost as much money.”

Despite the drop in take-home pay, owner-operators had to drive more miles to earn what they did in 2016 because rates were softer. Operators spent less on fuel per mile in 2016, which helped net income, but those savings were offset by cheaper rates, says Amen.

Flatbedders fared the best in 2016, averaging $63,959 in net income. However, that figure is well below 2015’s $70,464.

Reefer haulers fared the worst, averaging $52,274 in 2016. Van haulers earned $60,424 in 2016, according to ATBS figures.

In 2015, reefer haulers took home $52,782, and van haulers netted $60,557.

Owner-operators’ miles driven rose slightly in 2016 to an average of 99,318 for independents and 110,740 for leased operators.

Gross revenue fell, however, to $140,697 for independents and $142,545 for leased owner-operators. Revenue in 2015 was $145,109 for independents, $147,666 for leased owner-operators.

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