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Scale of COVID-19 Impacts on Trucking

Scale of COVID-19 Impacts on Trucking

The findings of The American Transportation Research Institute was released for its 2021 update to “An Analysis of the Operational Cost of Trucking”. Based on detailed 2020 financial data that was provided by motor carriers from all major sectors and fleet sizes. Throughout the numerous impacts that COVID-19 has had on trucking and the economy as whole is documented by various line-item cost centers during the pandemic.

Within the 2021 Ops Cost report, the effects of lower overall traffic levels, resulting in faster truck speeds. Other aspects such as commodity and sector volatility that occurred as customers were forced to transition and dramatically adjust their spending habits.


“In the face of a COVID-19 economy, our industry tightly managed costs and operations, while delivering essential goods to market. We also led the way out of the COVID-19 recession in the latter half of the year. I expect 2021 to continue the positive trends for our industry”

Cully Frisard, COO of Frisard Companies

More than just faster truck speeds occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aspects such as dead-head miles increased to 20.6%, where others such as fuel costs declined by nearly 20-30.8% and annual operating miles decreased to 89,358 miles per truck. But even with the impacts of COVID-19, insurance costs continued to climb, increasing more than 18% to a new normal of 8.7 cents per mile. Which is the the highest in the Ops Costs report history.

During this time period, truck driver compensation was 73.7 cents per mile. The report found that though driver wages have increased from 2019 to 2020, the overall benefits benefits cost per mile has increased. The study found that safety and retention bonuses increased by 10.5% and 14.2% respectively. Reflecting the driver marketplace in early 2020 for many sectors, starting bonuses were found to have dropped by 10%.

Since its original publication in 2008, ATRI has received over 22,000 requests for the Operational Costs reports.For access to the full report please visit ATRI’s website.

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501c3 not-for-profit research organization. It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.

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