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Average owner-op net income topped $60K in 2015, ATBS reports

April 20, 2016
Falling fuel prices drive down variable costs, boost truckers' bottom line

The average net income for owner-operators was $61,167 in 2015, according to data collected and analyzed by financial consulting firm ATBS. This is the first time that owner-operators have earned an annual average income of $60,000 or higher, and ATBS suggests the increase in income is positive news for both truckers and carriers, who have recently seen a shortage of available drivers.

“Breaking the $60,000 income barrier should help attract more people to the career of truck driving,” says Todd Amen, President and CEO of ATBS.

Changes to drivers’ cost structure were the greatest contributor to the increase in net income. While fixed costs actually increased by 0.9%, variable costs were down by a whopping 26%, ATBS reported.

Specifically, the cost of diesel fuel dropped dramatically last year, and lower fuel costs had a tremendous impact on drivers’ variable costs. Fuel per mile costs were down 32.7% compared to 2014.

“While fuel costs are largely hedged in trucking through the fuel surcharge, a rapidly falling fuel price can certainly be helpful to the bottom line, as it was in 2015,” says Amen.

But despite driving more miles in 2015 and with lower variable costs, drivers saw a lower total revenue in 2015 over the previous year. Revenue per mile was down 9.9%, gross revenue was down 8.4%, while total miles driven was up 1.8%. This lower revenue is primarily a function of fuel surcharge reductions, Amen notes.

For 2016, Amen anticipates the trend in owner-operator income will remain flat. Factors that may challenge growing net income for drivers are a slow freight market and the beginning implementations of ELDs.

Amen also recommends that owner-operators work with a financial consulting firm such as ATBS to further increase their profits. On average, ATBS clients earn a 40% higher net income than their industry peers, the company says.

Each year, ATBS conducts an analysis of data collected from its owner-operator clients. ATBS provides consulting, accounting, and bookkeeping services to over 20,000 independent contractors. From these services, ATBS has been able to analyze financial trends in the trucking industry since 2003.

Earlier this month, ATBS shared the results of the study with its trucking carrier partners. To watch a recording of this presentation, click here. A separate conference call will be held to discuss the results of this study with Owner-Operator truck drivers on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. PDT/1:00 p.m. EDT. To attend this conference call, register here.

About the Author

Kevin Jones 1 | Editor

Kevin Jones has an odd fascination with the supply chain. As editor of American Trucker, he focuses on the critical role owner-ops and small fleets play in the economy, locally and globally. And he likes big trucks.

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