What is the Real Cost of Truck Driving?

Over seven million Americans have jobs tied to the trucking industry, and with truck driving being the most popular job in 29 states, you might be wondering how much a tractor trailer costs. So, what is the cost of truck driving? A new truck and trailer can cost over $150,000, and the average annual cost to keep a commercial truck in a fleet is $180,000, according to the Truckers Report. That’s an average of $1.38 for every mile.

Some truck drivers own their own trucks or small fleets, but most commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers operate tractor trailers owned by their employers, truck driving companies. Even if your company is paying for the expenses, it’s important to understand how much a truck costs and the real cost of truck driving in total.

Cost of Operating a Commercial Truck Per Mile

Tractor Trailers Increase the Cost of Truck Driving

The infographic above by the Truckers Report outlines some of the yearly expenses that keep a truck running.

Fuel Costs for Trucks

The largest yearly expense for tractor trailers is diesel fuel, which makes up 39% of annual operating costs. Truck companies can spend over $70,000 on fuel each year per truck. To give a comparison, Atlas Van Lines estimates that filling up a truck is the equivalent of 18 mid-size car tanks of gas.

Truck Driver Salaries

Truck drivers get paid well for their work, and most drivers are paid for each mile they drive. Although pay is based on experience, location, and employer, on average drivers make between $0.28 and $0.40 per mile. Longtime CMV drivers can make even more. Drivers’ salaries are the second largest operating cost for trucking companies, about 26% of total expenses. The American Transportation Research Institute notes that the biggest increases in tractor trailer costs are for driver salaries and benefits. So, one of the big costs of truck driving is making sure drivers earn a comfortable wage. 

Truck Leases and Payments

While a new cab and trailer can cost over $150,000, lease and payment options bring down the cost of truck driving to around 17% of the total yearly expenses of a commercial truck.

Repairs and Maintenance Costs for Tractor Trailers

Companies have to make sure their trucks are in great condition to rack up thousands of miles. It’s possible to spend $15,000 each year fixing and updating air lines/hoses, alternators, wiring, and brakes. 

Commercial Truck Insurance

Insurance is required to operate a truck. There are many different types of insurance policies for commercial trucks, and for good coverage, it can cost over $6,500 per year. To compare prices from several different plans, use this truck insurance calculator.

Retreading Truck Tires

With so much use, tractor trailer tires require retreading, and that has to be factored into the annual cost of a truck. Tire expenses can add up to $4,000 a year, or even more if a company needs to replace some tires completely.

Permits, Licenses, and Tolls

An additional $3,600 per year can be spent on the permits and licenses required for the industry and tolls for travel to and from specific locations. These are expenses one might not expect to have to factor into the cost of a truck.

Other Costs of Truck Driving

There are also other costs that are necessary to operate a truck from a business standpoint, including the expenses of finding loads to transport, commissions paid to dispatchers, and fees charged by freight-matching services.

And the Truckers Report estimates that the average commercial truck driver spends over $600/year on coffee at truck stops while on the job.

Start a New Career in Truck Driving

If you’re ready to start a new career in truck driving, give TDI a call and we can talk about our three-week intensive program designed to prepare you for your commercial driver’s license test so you can get on the road faster.

There are additional expenses that are harder to quantify on a per mile basis, such as the expense of finding loads, either by paying commission or salary to a dispatcher, or using freight matching services. Other expenses, such as freight factoring services that help trucking companies receive faster payment on invoicing, are only used by some trucking companies.

Trucking Infographics by TruckersReport


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