Was 2021 the Costliest Year in Trucking History?

By: ClassADrivers.com

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Inflation, fuel costs, supply chain issues. What vexes the world also gives problems to the trucking industry. It should come as no surprise that these global and national issues also caused rising costs for both trucking companies and owner-operators.

Was 2021 the costliest year in trucking history though? Well… history is a long time, but it was the costliest year since the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) began tracking operational costs 15 years ago.

The ATRI recently released a 2022 mid-year update to its report An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking that confirmed that 2021 was indeed the costliest year of the past 15.

The Good News

There was some good news for the audience of Class A Drivers, particularly the company drivers out there. One of the leading causes of rising costs for the trucking industry was actually driver wages.

Driver wages in 2021 were 10.8% higher than in 2020. As we have discussed in our articles, many companies have been raising wages and offering new benefits to attract truck drivers, and it’s good to get some concrete numbers.

Another positive news to come out of the report is that trucking companies became more efficient, due to logistical issues in the supply chain.

According to the ATRI’s report, empty or “deadhead” mileage decreased, and the average fuel economy increased to 6.65 miles per gallon.

The Bad News

Of course, the ATRI report wasn’t all good, especially when discussing costs that hit both trucking companies and owner-operators.

The major cost is one that all truck drivers knew before reading the article. Fuel costs in 2021 were a whopping 35.4% higher in 2020. The diesel crisis is hurting not only carriers but also average consumers, and this impact made trucking much more costly in 2021.

Another top cost is unfortunately repair and maintenance, which was 18.2% higher in 2021 than the previous year. A number of factors from wages needing to keep up with inflation to raw materials could be the culprit here.


The trucking industry is still the backbone of the American economy. Owner-operators certainly felt the pinch with rising fuel costs, but some new and experienced company drivers may have done well with rising wages and increased benefits.