ATRI’s Cost of Trucking Report Does Have Some Upsides

ATRI bad trucking report

In 2021, according to ATRI’s “Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking” report, the cost of trucking increased to its highest level ever in the 15-year history.

This was due to atypical market conditions, such as the rise in fuel costs and the pandemic’s supply chain issues. These issues only got worse in the first half of 2022 with the Ukraine and inflation crisis.

However, the report did have some upsides when it comes to trucking efficiency.

The below links are more important details on the topics we cover in this article:

Deadhead Mileage

In a tight economy, carriers and drivers need to reduce unnecessary costs, focus on preventative maintenance, and reduce any deadhead miles.

Deadhead mileage, also known as “backhaul” or “empty miles,” is one of the most important impediments to operational efficiency because these miles incur costs without generating a revenue stream.

Under the pressure of rising fuel prices, carriers achieved some of the lowest deadhead mileage in years.

  • On average, non-tanker carriers decreased deadhead miles to 14.8%
  • Tanker carriers maintained a lower deadhead mileage figure than in 2020: 44.9%
  • Private carriers decreased deadhead mileage to a five-year low of 24% in 2021

The NPTC report attributed this improved efficiency to the decline of long haul in the sector as well as the need to carry returns or dunnage.

From a driving perspective, it is more important than ever to encourage proper trip planning because a well-planned trip is profitable.

A poorly planned route can have seriously negative impacts, such as:

  • Running out of fuel
  • Over fueling before scaling
  • Inability to find food and rest stops
  • Breaking down with nowhere to go
  • Ending up in dangerous areas
  • Wasted fuel and service hours
  • Damage to your driving record
  • No proper rest area or truck stop parking for the night
  • Not knowing where repair shops are located, or other essential services


Fuel Economy

Typically, fuel is the largest operating costs in a trucking company and the average truck today can consume more than 20,000 gallons of fuel a year, costing more than $70,000.

In 2021, fuel economy continued its general trend of improvement with average truck-tractor miles per gallon (MPG) being 6.652.

Fuel economy varies based on a tractor-trailer’s total operating weight, which includes cargo as well as tractor and trailer weights. Table 17 provides average respondent MPG for each average operating weight class.

According to the American Trucking Association, drivers who practice fuel-efficient driving techniques use about 35% less fuel than those who do not.


When you accept a load you may receive a fuel heat map, and/or suggested fuel stops, to keep your costs down. Plan ahead, as a thrifty driver can save .10 per gallon or more from one state to another.

Additionally, proper truck driver route planning also includes not over-fueling before a weigh station or inspection point. You don’t want a chance of running overweight.

Plan your fuel stops ahead of time and use fuel rewards programs to save money.

Speed Governors

Speed governors contribute to fuel efficiency, and for this reason their use tends to rise with fuel prices.

In 2021, 94 percent of respondents used speed governors on some or all of their trucks, compared with just 81 percent in 2020.

Even small carriers, which often refrain from using them, joined this trend: 82 percent of fleets with 25 or fewer trucks used speed governors in 2021, whereas only 50 percent used them in 2020.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) has released a notice of intent to proceed with rulemaking to mandate speed limiters on most heavy-duty trucks, restarting a process that had been dormant for six years. 

Right now, there is no suggestion on what the speed-limiter should be set for, such as 65mph, 68 mph, or 75mph and, if a rule is submitted, we will likely not see it affect drivers until 2024-2026.

Dwell Time

The ATRI report is also measuring new efficiency metrics, such as annualized driver turnover, average dwell time at shipper facilities, and revenue per truck.

Dwell time is when drivers are waiting at shipper and receiver facilities.

Though loading or unloading freight necessarily expends time, driver detention or dwell time occurs when shippers or receivers lock up trucks outside of loading/unloading periods. In 2021, drivers rated this issue as their second-highest concern.

  • The average dwell time at facilities for all fleets was 1 hour and 54 minutes per stop
  • Refrigerated carriers – which have longer waits at shipper and receiver facilities due to the sensitive commodities they transport – had an average dwell time of 3 hours and 16 minutes.
  • LTL carriers secured a lower average dwell time of 1 hour
  • Fleets with 25 or fewer trucks experienced the highest dwell time, averaging 2 hours and 23 minutes per stop.
  • Fleets with more than 1,000 trucks had the lowest average dwell time of 1 hour and 37 minutes per stop.

While mega fleets spent 46 fewer minutes at shipper and receiver facilities than the smallest fleets, dwell time is a significant drain on operating hours for fleets of all size.

It will be interesting to watch these metrics moving forward and see if the FMCSA can find ways to reduce these wait times in the years to come.

How can I get help lowering safety risk?

Carriers being proactive will put them in a better position to mitigate risk, improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and spend more time with their drivers in an effort to manage a safe and compliant fleet.

Not only will proactive safety help your fleet with DOT compliance, but it is proven to lower insurance premiums as you will have documented ways to show a reduction in risk.

Our safety management programs are perfect for combining multiple services and can be tailored to fit your needs, whether you are a new owner operator or a seasoned trucker or business owner.

At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM), a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.

Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:

  • ELD management
  • Driver Qualification File Management
  • New driver on-boarding
  • Driver safety meetings
  • CSA score management
  • Policies and handbooks
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • and more

Learn more about our DOT Compliance Programs

Questions about DOT Compliance, Licensing, Audits, Programs, etc.?

Our DOT Specialists are here to help!

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