Cost of Operating Diesel Vehicle
Diesel class 8 trucks average a $157,390 total cost of operating. All total cost of operating diesel trucks by class figures were triangulated since there were limited and sporadic preexisting figures published about this fuel class. Full details about the triangulations are available below. A spreadsheet containing the figures and calculations is available here.
Annual Diesel Truck Operating Costs by Class
Class 1: $86,661
Class 2: $44,700
Class 3: $35,544
Class 4: $52,500
Class 5: $47,582
Class 6: $93,204
Class 7: $99,741
Class 8: $157,390
- There is a noted wide variance in the extremes of total operating expenses in trucking, which by some reports can swing from $1.16 per mile to $3.05 per mile.
- Driver wages and benefits account for 44% of the total cost of truck ownership.
- There is a trend for truck ownership and operating costs to increase in 2019; largely due to increasing fuel prices, replacement tire expenses going up, and a trend in higher labor rates for truck maintenance.
- “Maintenance costs represent the top expense line items for companies that operate vocational fleets” (after depreciation expenses).
- The median annual trucking-related revenue for a fleet is $25.99 million and the overall average trucking revenue is $403.33 million.
- “Straight trucks” and “truck tractors” average 25,720 and 91,506 miles driven per year per truck.
- Second only to driver compensation, fuel costs are one of the highest line items when considering operating costs.
- One estimate for the total yearly cost of operating a commercial truck noted $1.38 per mile and $180,000 per year.
The operating costs listed by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) were the elements used to establish the per year operating costs of diesel trucks by class. In instances where no preexisting per year costs were published or otherwise triangulateable, the team used itemized costs to establish the total costs of operating per year by class. In some instances, the costs include fuel, truck payments, repairs/maintenance, insurance, tires, and tolls. For instances where no preexisting figures about diesel truck operating costs (e.g., fuel costs, purchase price, insurance premiums, etc.) were public and published within an online resource, the team also used the details available through the Dana Total Cost of Ownership Calculator.
Because many different sources were used to create this class-based listing of diesel truck operating costs, every effort was made to standardize the figures. However, costs related to diesel trucks by class can vary considerably and are sometimes more influenced by wages, mileage, load, and other logistics than similar counterparts. All the assumptions, parameters, and reasonings behind those parameters are detailed below.
Please note that all calculations are housed for perusal in the “Calculations” tab of the attached spreadsheet.
- Per Year Conversions — Because ATRI reasoned that “straight trucks” average 25,720 miles per year and “truck tractors” average 91,506 miles per year per truck, the team used these figures to triangulate and transpose the per mile figures into per year figures. A fleet sedan was found to average 24,840 miles per year, this figure was used for class 1 per mile to per year calculations. The ATRI 25K figure was used for class 5 and the 91K figure was used for classes 6-8. The “all trucks” calculation was based on a rough and weighted average of (91,506 (x18) plus 25,720)/19 = 88,043 average miles driven per year. This weighted average was used because there were approximately 19 more truck tractors than straight trucks represented in the ATRI report.
- Class 1 — a Chevy Colorado is noted to have a GVWR of `6,000 lbs. A report by PickupTrucks.com noted that the EPA estimated diesel fuel costs for these class 1 vehicles to be $3.22 for 25 miles (3.22/25=$0.1288 per mile for diesel fuel). While the remaining operation cost components were not public, the team did use the estimates provided by the Dana calculator for the smallest truck listed (“City Delivery”) to estimate the rest of the class 1 diesel cost components. The Dana calculator had a much higher than average driver wage per mile figure  than all other class sources; however, the source notes it is an average based on trucker salaries.
- Class 2 — An analysis that included a preexisting total cost of operating figure for a diesel Dodge Ram 2500 was used for this class. The Dodge Ram has a GVWR of 8,500-10,000 lbs placing it firmly in class 2. No other preexisting figures were available for this class nor were there available or relevant itemized components to use for a reasonable triangulation.
- Class 3 — The class 3 itemized costs were gathered using the Dana Calculator. The type of truck selected was a diesel “City Delivery” truck; the calculation used all defaults set by the Dana tool. Of note, the vehicle price was listed as $50,000. No other preexisting figures for class 3 were available. Regarding its estimates, Dana notes they are “based on industry data sources and proprietary information, actual results may vary and depend on a variety of factors including load, equipment, driver performance, distance traveled, vehicle speed, and environment.” No other preexisting figures were available for this class nor were there available or relevant itemized components to use for a reasonable triangulation.
- Class 4 — A 2018 US diesel analysis by Vincentric reviewed the cost of ownership for several diesel model class 4 vehicles (Chevrolet Express Cargo Diesel, GMC Savana Cargo Diesel G3500) determined to be the top based on cost-effectiveness. The research team used these vehicles for all other references in this class based on the Savana’s GVWR of 16,000 lbs. The Vincentric cost analysis included deprecation, fees/taxes, fuel, insurance, maintenance/repairs, opportunity costs, and 5 years of ownership. No other preexisting figures were available for this class nor were there available or relevant itemized components to use for reasonable triangulation.
- Class 5 — ATRI provided 2017 operational cost data for “straight trucks.” Based on the general description, straight truck cost details were used for class 5. In 2018, an increase of 6% was observed in the overall cost per mile. In 2019, an increase of 7.7% was observed. This increase was compounded (13.7%) and calculated into the class 5 estimate. Additionally, in order to better assess for a diesel straight truck, the research team substituted figures from the diesel-based class 6 estimate; figures substituted were those most often noted as differentiators between diesel costs and standard gasoline costs (e.g., fuel, purchase/equipment, maintenance).
- Class 6 — Estimates from an example average marginal operations costs for a dump truck company were used to estimate the costs for this class. Diesel power is assumed based on referenced content within the original article. The per-mile figures were calculated based on turning the hourly data into per mile data based on a 40-hour work week and the average truck driver is expected to travel between 2,000-3,000 miles per week (2,500miles/40 hours = 62.5 miles driven each hour by the average trucker).
- Class 7 — The per-mile operating cost of a school bus (class 7) was listed by Alleghany County Public Schools (Virginia) as $1.09. Because no other class 7 averages or estimates were published, the team assumed the school bus figure was a reasonable estimate. It is also assumed that Alleghany public schools use diesel school buses since 94% of all school buses in the United States are powered by diesel fuel.
- Class 8 — The operations costs were derived based on a comparison of Tesla’s semi total operating costs and a similar diesel truck. The Tesla semi is a class 8 vehicle. Also, because the original figure of $1.51 per mile operating costs was based on a 2017 figure, using the ATRI reports we compounded the increases (13.7%) to reflect more updated costs.
- All weight classes are based on US federal government classifications and use the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) which is the maximum operating weight a truck can carry.
- Also, note that costs per mile can include other components like lodging and meals and office-based responsibilities. Some preexisting figures have used varying elements within their own calculations.
- A ‘-‘ within the “Calculation” table denotes that the information was not necessary to calculate the total cost of operating (in these instances, the cost was preexisting in literature.