FreightWaves estimates the total cost of operating a truck at about $210,000 annually (or about $1.76 per mile) based on the average truck driver driving 120,000 miles per year (400 miles per day, 6 days a week, 50 weeks per year). Assuming a driver can obtain $2 per mile (including fuel), this would mean that the average carrier drops $30,000 to the bottom line (or an 88% operating ratio). There are many other operating costs associated with operating a truck such as brokerage commissions, factoring, and several others, which skew the operating ratio above 90% on average.

Major Operating Costs per Mile

The major operating costs per mile are presented below, in descending order, as well as the percentage of overall operating costs that each expense bucket comprises. For the estimate of each expense’s operating cost per mile, the latest figures from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) are used and adjusted where necessary (e.g. diesel).

#1: Driver Salary

The single biggest cost of operating a truck is a driver’s salary ($0.60 per mile) and a driver’s benefits ($0.18), or $0.78 per mile for a carrier to hire each driver (44% of total operating costs). This means that the average driver makes about $70,000 per year if he or she drives 120,000 miles per year.

#2: Fuel

The second largest cost to operate a truck is fuel at about $0.37 per mile (21% of total operating costs). Assuming a driver drives 120,000 miles per year, averages 6.5 miles per gallon, and pays the current diesel retail cost per gallon of $2.43, this means a driver spends about $45,000 annually on fuel.

#3: Trailer Financing

The third largest cost of operating a truck is the truck and trailer purchase financing or leasing cost, which averages $0.27 per mile (or 15% of total operating costs). At $0.27 per mile for financing, this means the average carrier spends about $32,000 each year on a truck and trailer. This equates to only about 20% of the total purchase price of buying a new truck and trailer.

#4: Repairs and Maintenance

The fourth largest cost of operating a truck is repairs and maintenance at $0.17 per mile (or 9% of total operating costs), and tires (either new tires or retreading, costing about $0.03-$0.04 per mile (or 2% of total operating costs). 

#5: Truck Insurance

The fifth largest cost of operating a truck is insurance at about $0.10 per mile (or 5% of total operating costs). Insurance expenses as a line item have been increasing dramatically in recent years due to the rising incidence and cost of nuclear verdicts.

#6: Permits, Licenses, and Tolls

Finally, the sixth-largest costs of operating a truck are required permits and licenses and tolls, which each cost about $0.03-$0.04 per mile (or 2% of total operating costs each and 4% combined). 

The cost of operating a truck has been gradually increasing for the last decade, with the primary variance around an overall upward trajectory due to diesel prices, which then gets passed on as fuel surcharges (at least for larger carriers).

INFOGRAPHIC: Cost of Operating a Truck

operating a truck