The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released the findings of its 2020 update to “An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking.” Using detailed financial data provided directly by motor carriers of all sectors and fleet sizes, this “Ops Cost” research annually documents and analyzes detailed trucking costs from 2008 through 2019. ATRI’s analysis provides industry stakeholders with an essential benchmarking tool and government agencies with input on industry finances necessary for comprehensive transportation planning and infrastructure improvement analyses.
ATRI’s newest 2020 Ops Cost report documents the slowdown of freight which occurred in the second half of 2019. The economic softening, combined with several 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 percent 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.
Combined driver wage and benefits decreased slightly in 2019, from 77.6 cents per mile in 2018 to 69.3 cents per mile, a counterintuitive decrease given the driver shortage. However, bonuses for drivers universally increased, with retention bonuses showing increases of over 80 percent. While the cost per mile for total driver compensation fell, carriers are clearly addressing the driver shortage through other mechanisms.
A major metric to monitor in the coming decade will be the use of alternative fuel vehicles. In 2019, about 15 percent of the respondents indicated that their fleets used some form of alternative fuel. A 2-percentage point increase over 2018. Compressed natural gas (CNG) continued to have the highest rate of adoption among Ops Costs carriers in 2019, with 8.8 percent of carriers having at least one truck that utilizes CNG. Liquid natural gas (LNG) had the second highest percentage of adoption among carriers, with 6.3 percent of carriers reporting at least one truck that utilizes LNG. Interestingly, 5 percent of carriers indicated that they had at least one battery-powered truck.
To download the full report click here.