Truckers Worry About Costs as Well as Rates: DAT Survey

 Carriers’ expenses are rising faster than their revenues. According to transportation industry analyst Donald Broughton of Avondale Partners, trucking company costs are rising twice as fast as rates.

It should come as no surprise, then, that improving revenue and cutting costs are top priorities for small fleets and owner-operators in 2013. According to the 3rd Annual DAT Carrier Benchmark Survey, a study of 514 truck fleet executives and owner-operators, many key performance indicators worsened compared to 2011.

Did Anyone Make Money?

The short answer is yes. For-hire carriers made an average of $3,892 per month per truck, before taxes. Across an average of 7.8 trucks per fleet, their total pre-tax profit was $26,559 per month, for an 18% margin. Owner-operators had an average of 1.2 power units and pre-tax profit of $3,046 monthly per truck, for a 21% margin. They achieved higher margins than the for-hire carriers on a per-truck basis, due to their lower overhead.

Other survey findings:

  • Percentage of empty miles increased to an average of 12.5% for the for-hire carriers and 15.8% for owner-operators in 2012. They were 9.6% and 10.2%, respectively, in 2011.
  • Average length of haul declined to 754 miles one-way for for-hire carriers (an 11% decrease) and 878 miles for owner-operators (a 4.6% decline). A shorter haul usually correlates to higher rates, but that was not the case in 2012.
  • Total miles per truck per month declined slightly, from 10,440 miles in 2011 to 9,734 miles for for-hire carriers in 2012 (a 6.7% decrease), and from 9,321 miles in 2011 to 8,586 miles in 2012 for owner-operators (a 7.9% decrease). For-hire carriers with multiple trucks and drivers have more flexibility to re-position assets and logged 8.3% more miles than owner-operators.
  • Rates per loaded mile dipped to $2 per mile for for-hire carriers and $1.95 per mile for owner-operators, down from $2.05 and $2.10 in 2011, respectively. According to DAT RateView, average contract rates rose just 3.8% in 2012, while spot market rates increased 0.9% nationwide.
  • Average monthly revenue per truck fell to $16,168 for for-hire carriers and $14,431 for owner-operators, a 12.3% decline and 18.4% drop, respectively, compared to 2011. This is due to a combination of the decline in total miles and the increase in miles driven empty.

Download a free copy of the 2013 DAT Carrier Benchmark Survey .