Average marginal cost per mile for trucking drops to $1.65, ATRI report shows

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The latest Ops Cost report from the American Transportation Research Institute shows the slowdown of freight that occurred in the second half of 2019.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) this week released the findings of its 2020 update to “An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking” (Ops Cost). This newest report documents the slowdown of freight that occurred in the second half of 2019. The economic softening, combined with a number of independent factors — including lower fuel prices — decreased the marginal cost of trucking.

The average marginal cost per mile incurred by motor carriers in 2019 decreased 9.3% to $1.65. The line-item costs for almost every major line item experienced some level of decrease. In comparison to the last freight softening, which took place in 2016, marginal costs were still 6 cents higher, indicating the persistence of generally higher costs, the report shows.

Combined driver wage and benefits decreased in 2019 — from 77.6 cents per mile in 2018 to 69.3 cents per mile in 2019 — a counterintuitive decrease, given the driver shortage. However, bonuses for drivers universally increased, with retention bonuses showing increases of more than 80%. While the cost per mile for total driver compensation fell, carriers are clearly addressing the driver shortage through other mechanisms, ATRI stated in a press release.

ATRI’s 2020 report includes a targeted analysis on “Driving the Trucking Industry: Small Carrier Spotlight,” which compares fleets of 100 or fewer trucks to fleets with more than 100 trucks.

“Given the chaos and volatility of freight markets these days, it is more critical than ever that trucking fleets closely monitor their cost centers,” said Brandon Knight, principal of transportation for CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. “ATRI’s Operational Costs report is an important benchmarking tool for fleets of all sizes and sectors.”

Using detailed financial data provided directly by motor carriers of all sectors and fleet sizes, ATRI’s Ops Cost research annually documents and analyzes detailed trucking costs from 2008 through 2019. For a free copy of the current report, click here.

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