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Per-mile cost of trucking hit all-time historic high in 2023

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The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) says that the per-mile cost of trucking hit an all-time high last year.

On June 25, the ATRI released an annual report analyzing the operational costs of trucking last year.

The report found that amid the freight recession of 2023, carriers saw the overall marginal costs of operating a truck hit $2.270 per mile, marking an all-time high.

“While this marked a new record high cost, it increased by only 0.8 percent over 2022’s total. Fuel prices, declining by 8.8 cents per mile, experienced the greatest change. While most other line-items increased moderately in cost, insurance premiums and truck and trailer payments grew at higher rates,” researchers said.

In 2023, carriers spent $0.779 on driver wages per-mile. Driver benefits added $0.188 per-mile, amounting to $0.967 in total per-mile compensation.

The ATRI said that the “soft 2023 freight market” hurt the operational efficiency of carriers, increasing deadhead mileage and driver turnover.

“These pressures combined with low freight rates strained profitability across the industry. Average operating margins were 6 percent or lower in all fleet sizes and sectors other than LTL. The truckload and specialized sectors experienced drops in per-mile or per-truck revenue, and most saw “other costs” – expenses outside of the core marginal line-items – increase as a share of total revenue,” ATRI researchers said.

Looking ahead, the ATRI said that while “economic conditions do not point to any substantial improvement in freight markets in the foreseeable future … fleets of all sizes who can maintain operational efficiencies and seize cost savings as they emerge will endure this economic environment with success.”

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