Home Trucking FAQs The Real Cost of Operating a Truck

The Real Cost of Operating a Truck

When it comes to determining the amount of money it costs to operate a tractor trailer, most people think about the amount of money it costs to fuel the truck. However, this cost is only one aspect of the real cost associated with keeping the truck on the road legally. It has been shown that the average annual cost of operating a tractor trailer for one year is approximately $180,000 per year or $1.38 per mile, depending on the number of miles the truck drives in one year.

The cost of fuel is the number one largest cost associated with driving a tractor trailer. On average, a standard passenger vehicle uses 500 gallons of unleaded fuel per year. A tractor trailer uses up to 20,500 gallons of diesel fuel in the same time period. This translates into a huge expense that must be borne by the owner of that truck.

The second largest expense is the driver’s salary. In general, the owner of a tractor trailer should expect to spend approximately 26% of the total operating costs in drivers’ salary, or $0.36 per mile. In most cases, the driver of a tractor trailer will expect to be paid per mile driven while loaded. This excludes the time drivers spend in loading docks loading or unloading freight, though many will expect some sort of compensation for performing these tasks if the driver is expected to assist with loading or unloading.

Next, owners have to figure in the cost of maintaining the cab and trailer. The cost of this maintenance has been calculated to be 17% of the overall cost of ownership of a tractor trailer, or $30,000 annually. In terms of a per mile cost, this averages out to be approximately $0.24 per mile, based on the number of miles driven yearly.

The next cost category is comprised of repairs and maintenance of the engine and other mechanical components. Issues with airlines, hoses, alternators, wiring, brakes and other engine repairs fall into this category and comprise 10% of the overall cost of operating a tractor trailer. This translates into approximately $10,000 per year or $0.12 per mile.

Insurance is another cost associated with trucking. It has been estimated that 4% of the overall cost to run a tractor trailer is attributable to insurance costs. There are multiple insurance policies required to adequately protect the owner of the truck against liability and will average out to be approximately $6500 per year or $0.05 per mile.

Even though the average cost of a tractor trailer tire is pennies on the dollar in terms of the return on your investment, replacing one will set you back about $250 a piece. This cost can end up substantial if you find yourself replacing more than one or two at a time. To cover these costs, it is wise to budget about 3% of your operating budget to cover tires, or $4,000 per year. This will translate to $0.03 per mile driven.

Lastly, the department of transportation will require that you obtain special permits to operate your tractor trailer and you should expect to have to pay tolls and other miscellaneous costs during the year. This is the smallest segment of your operating budget and should be expected to set you back approximately $0.02 per mile.

As you can see, owning and operating your own tractor trailer can be significantly expensive. However, knowing the true cost of owning a truck will help you manage finances more effectively should you choose to purchase a truck of your own.  Infographic couresty The Truckers Report.