Freight rates: Trucking rates per mile 2023
Find out what current trucking rates and get a refresher on the industry terms.
If you own a trucking business, then you’re probably always on the go. But as most small business owners know, there are times where you need to stop and make sure that your business is bringing in the revenue it should be.
Our research indicates that figuring out the best trucking rates per mile is the key to making sure that your business remains profitable, but it can also be a complex process as rates are constantly changing.
Before getting into the details on trucking rates per mile 2023, it’s important to understand what goes into determining freight truck rates.
In this guide, you’ll find out what current trucking rates per mile are and get a refresher on the industry terms to remember as you navigate truck rates.
How to figure out truck freight rates
Like other trades jobs, there is a lot that goes into determining the best trucking rate per mile for your business.
Our findings show that not only do you have to constantly monitor your fuel spend as well as supply and demand, but you also have to take into account your fixed costs.
But let’s start with the basics for truck rates per mile.
A truck freight rate is a price a shipper or broker will pay you, the carrier, to haul a load. The concept is simple, but our research indicates that trucking rates per mile can vary significantly depending on the time of year and current fuel prices.
Which can make knowing the national average trucking cost per mile feel like a black box.
Trucking freight rates are calculated on a per mile basis. Therefore, the most important number when it comes to calculating truck rates is the number of miles between your starting point and the destination.
Based on our observations, having the average rate per mile for trucking and accurate information about trucking freight rates is essential to properly pricing trips and negotiating rates with your customers.
Be aware, however, that calculating the overall freight rate depends on various other factors. Below, you’ll find what you need to consider when calculating trucking rates.
Factor #1: Distance of travel
Whether you’re transporting locally or looking at over the road trucking rates, the distance between destinations is an important part of determining trucking rates per mile.
You want to ensure that you have the right mileage from the beginning to avoid any surprises along the way and get the correct per mile trucking rates.
Double-check that your driver will not be required to make any long detours because of road closures. Otherwise, you risk job profitability, timing and changes to the rate per mile for truck drivers.
Factor #2: The weight of the shipment
After the distance, our findings show that the weight of the shipment is one of the most significant factors for the cost of trucking per mile. It is important to manage the overall weight load for your fleet to control costs and determine your per mile rate for trucking.
To be successful at this, you’ll need to consider variables like heavy haul rates per mile, FTL trucking rates, number of passengers, etc.
Otherwise, you stand to incorrectly answer “What is the average freight cost per mile?”.
When it comes to your average per mile rate for freight, it’s best to be on the safe side and start with a higher rates per mile for trucking to allow your customer to negotiate while still ensuring revenue for your business.
With this approach, your average haulage cost per mile is sure to bring a profit to your business.
Factor #3: Shipment density
The shipment density is another factor that will determine how much room a shipment will take up in your truck and, in turn, your trucking per mile rates.
Drawing from our experience, once you know the weight of the shipment, calculating the shipment density is simple. All you have to do is divide the cargo weight by its cubic feet.
Factor #4: Freight classification
A question that often goes unanswered is “What is the average freight rate per mile?”.
And the question makes sense based on our observations given the number of important industry standards to keep up with for freight classification.
The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) has defined 18 classes of shipments that affect freight rates per mile.
Freight classification is determined by factors such as:
- Product density.
- Product value.
- Handling needs.
Having a thorough knowledge of how to use these factors to calculate trucking rates per mile will ensure that your business remains competitive and profitable.
Heavy haul trucking rates
Our findings show that most trucking companies charge customers per mile based on factors like:
- Fuel expenses to make the trip
- Truck repair and maintenance expenses
- Automotive insurance for trucks
- Toll and highway fare
You need to strike a good balance when setting your rates – setting a low rate may cause you to lose money, while setting a high rate may turn customers away toward cheaper companies.
A good rule of thumb to stay competitive rate-wise is to keep an eye on both national and local trucking rates. And based on our observations, providing a fair rate with excellent service is the key to getting (and retaining) more customers.
Flatbed truck rates per mile
At the time of writing, the national average flatbed truck rates are $3.14 per mile. However, this is just a national average, which means your area may have higher or lower rates.
To set a fair price for your flatbed truck services, you need to consider things like:
- The trailer type you need to carry a load
- The load-to-truck ratio – how many loads are available vs how many trucks you have
- The cargo weight
- The destination – is it within your usual lane or not?
- Additional services like loading and unloading, oversized loads, and warehouse storage
Through our practical knowledge, setting a fair per-mile rate means you can pay truckers a fair wage, keep the clients happy, and still a profit.
Although these are the main takeaways on how to calculate trucking rates, you want to ensure that you have the basic industry knowledge to determine other factors that may influence your truck rates.
Let’s take a look at some key trucking terms, beyond freight trucking rates, to set you up for success.
The terms in trucking you need to know
Keeping up to date with all of the basic trucking terms is an important factor in knowing how to calculate trucking rates and freight cost per mile.
First things first, there are several types of freight trucks, and they are each ideal to haul different cargo. Your freight type will determine your trucking rates per mile as freight costs per mile steeply influence your fuel spend.
Different types of freight trucks include:
- Flatbed freight truck: This is a truck with a flat open trailer attached to the back of the truck with no sides or roof. It’s great for loads that are too wide for a truck. Plus, it makes loading and unloading a breeze. Given the many types of goods this vehicle can offer, our investigation demonstrated that the average flatbed freight rate per mile is often at a premium price point.
- Refrigerated freight truck (reefer truck): These trucks contain equipment with a refrigeration unit that transports goods that need proper temperature control. After putting it to the test, reefer freight rates are higher than that of other trucks since they use more fuel — so factor that into your freight prices per mile.
- Dry van: This is what most people picture when they think of freight trucks. They have a non-temperature-controlled sealed trailer attached to them and are a good benchmark for the average cost per mile for truckload freight.
Here are some other industry terms that play a factor in the national trucking rate per mile and that will help you understand what is the going rate for freight per mile is.
The consignor is the party that is shipping the product you’re transporting. They are also known as the seller and are your customer.
The consignor can be:
- A factory.
- A distribution center.
- Anyone who has entered a contract to ship goods.
The ownership of the products stays with the consignor until the consignee pays them in full. Still, our investigation demonstrated that that doesn’t necessarily mean that the liability stays with them.
A consignee is a recipient of the products being shipped. You can think of them as the buyer, and they can be an individual or a company.
The consignee must be physically present to accept the shipment from the consignor unless specifically stated otherwise in the bill of lading.
Your role in the shipping process will be that of the carrier. The carrier is the party in charge of delivering the products to their destination.
As a carrier, you’re responsible for receiving the bill of lading and safely transporting items to the consignee.
Bill of lading (BOL)
The consignor sends the goods to you, the freight carrier, for shipping it to the consignee. However, the ownership of the freight doesn’t legally change until the recipient of the goods signs the bill of lading (BOL).
A BOL is a document required in the shipping process that involves all parties: the consignor, consignee, and carrier. The consignor and consignee each get a copy of the BOL, and then there is usually a third copy for the bank.
The BOL includes relevant details necessary to ship the product and invoice the transaction correctly once it is completed.
It includes the following information:
- Contact information for the consignor and consignee.
- Specifications and quantities of the products.
- Special handling instructions.
- Rate freight and total amount.
- Terms of payment.
Free on board point (FOB)
Free on board (FOB), also known as freight on board, is a term used to indicate whether the buyer or the seller is liable for goods that are lost, damaged, or destroyed during shipping.
The FOB shipping point indicates that the title and responsibility of goods transfer from the seller to the buyer when the goods are placed on your delivery vehicle.
On the other hand, a FOB destination means that the seller is responsible for the goods until the goods are delivered to the buyer.
Loss and damage
As a carrier, you may have to deal with loss or damage claims from time to time.
A damage claim involves visible damage to either the goods or the storage container that the goods are in. The damage should be noted on the bill of lading or another delivery document.
A loss claim is when a shipment is not delivered or when it shows that it was delivered, but the recipient hasn’t received it. This can be due to typography errors in the bill of lading causing, the shipment to go to the wrong address.
Full truckload shipping (FTL)
Full truckload shipping (FTL) applies to a shipment that takes up an entire trailer. This is a key price variable as it affects the cost of freight per mile.
When it comes to FTL freight rates factors, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the smallest truck in your fleet or the largest as FTL applies as long as you use up your entire space. Typically, FTL freight will exceed 15,000 pounds.
The full truck load cost per mile typically costs a higher rate per mile since your truck is at full capacity.
Less than truckload (LTL)
A less than truckload shipment (LTL) doesn’t take up an entire trailer but may need to move between vehicles during the shipping process. For this reason, LTL rates per mile aren’t always standard across jobs and will affect your average ltl cost per mile.
That’s why you’ll need to charge your customers a different rate than the average truckload rate per mile if you’re at less than a truckload.
Trucking rates per mile for LTL will vary depending on how far your company will be taking the shipment.
Load rates for trucks
Load rates or freight rates are what you charge for a truck to deliver cargo from one place to another.
Load rates are typically paid per mile and can be influenced by factors such as:
- Fuel costs.
- Maintenance expenses.
- Cargo weight.
Additional services like warehouse storage, loading and unloading, as well as automotive insurance may be included in calculating a customer’s load rates.
Our findings show that load rates also vary depending on the type of cargo being carried because different cargo may need different types of trucks to transport.
Drayage is a term that involves shipping goods at a short distance via ground freight. Basically, it is the process of moving a large container to your truck.
Based on our firsthand experience, this may be an extra cost that you have to consider when giving your customer an estimate of the total cost of your services.
Pallets are portable platforms used to package items for freight shipping. Pallets come in different sizes, but the most common size that you’ll find is the standard 40 x 48 size to ship items.
Pallets not only make loading and unloading items easier, but they also allow you to maximize space in your truck. This may reduce your total cost and allow you to provide more competitive trucking rates per mile.
Stop keeping unit (SKU)
A SKU (Stock keeping unit) is a service identification code. They’re usually displayed alphanumerically or as a barcode.
SKUs help track products in inventory as they contain all factors required to identify an item, such as:
A hundredweight, also known as a CWT, is a unit of measurement. In North America, a hundredweight refers to 100 pounds, whereas the British consider a hundredweight to be 112 pounds.
In the past, packages that take up less than an entire truckload were measured by CWTs, but it is not common to measure packages by CWT today. Measuring by pounds or kilograms is now the standard.
What is the going rate for trucking per mile?
In order to continue to offer competitive trucking rates per mile, you need to know how much do trucking companies charge per mile. Cost per mile is influenced by factors such as:
- Fuel costs.
- Auto repair and maintenance costs.
- Truck insurance.
Financing is also a cost that may influence the cost per mile. The cost of financing trucks and trailers ranges from 0% to 30% of revenue.
As of July 2021, trucking rates per mile remain steady. Here are the current rates for the most popular freight truck types:
- Overall average van rates vary from $2.30 – 2.86 per mile.
- Reefer rates are averaging $3.19 per mile, with the lowest rates being the Northeast at $2.47 per mile.
- Average flatbed rates average at $3.14 per mile.
Fuel prices have been steadily increasing over the past year and a huge variable in knowing how to calculate transportation rates.
The national diesel price was sitting at $3.34 per gallon with a $0.05 increase from June 2021 to July 2021. However, in 2023 prices have increased greatly with high rates of fluctuation when it comes to price and supply availability.
Average rate per mile for owner-operators
In contrast to company drivers, owner-operators are truckers who own or lease their own trucks. These people usually work with a trucking company to get back-office support and find trucking jobs.
Owner-operators generally earn about 70 to 80 percent of the loads they take. For example, if flatbed truck transport is $3.14 per mile, the owner-operator can earn up to $2.51 per mile. If they’re out on the road often, they may earn up to $156,000 annually.
Where does the rest of your per-mile rate go? The remaining 20 to 30 percent goes to your trucking company. An owner-operator at a trucking company benefits from access to cargo jobs, in-house mechanics, and gas station location optimization.
Being an owner-operator is a great way to earn more money, but it also means you’re going to be dealing with the stress and finances largely on your own.
For example, you’ll have to shoulder truck maintenance, health insurance, and other business expenses.
If you’re not prepared to take on the added risk and costs, becoming a company trucker is always a viable option.
Trucking rates per mile 2023 FAQs:
Here are the top questions truckers have in 2023:
- Do trucking companies pay for empty miles?
- What is a good rate per mile for trucking companies to charge?
- What is the going rate for trucking per mile?
- Why are trucking rates so low?
- How much do owner-operators make per mile?
- How much does a freight broker charge per load?
Do trucking companies pay for empty miles?
Empty miles, also known as non-revenue or deadhead miles, are miles garnered by the truck when it isn’t earning any revenue.
Based on our observations, this happens when there’s a load to the destination but no load back. Empty miles range from 33 – 40% of total miles driven, making them very wasteful for your trucking business.
To avoid empty miles, try to minimize any unnecessary movement of goods and improve your scheduling so that your trucks are carrying a load as often as possible.
What is a good rate per mile for trucking companies to charge?
After putting it to the test, it is difficult to determine an average rate for trucking rates per mile, but if you keep up with industry news, you’ll always have a good idea of average trucking rates.
To answer your question on what is the going rate per mile for trucking — current trucking rates per mile 2023 averages are:
- Van rates are at $2.76 per mile.
- Reefer rates are $3.19 per mile.
- Flatbed rates are at $3.14 per mile.
Keep in mind that these are just average per mile trucking rated, and your business may profit from a different rate. Based on our observations, providing the lowest rates may not be enough to bring your revenue, but a rate that’s too high may price you out of the competition.
The same goes for how much you offer your drivers. As per our expertise, you need to know what is the average rate per mile for truck drivers in your area so you can be fair as well as competitive when it comes to wages.
What is the going rate for trucking per mile?
The average going rates for trucking per mile are:
- Average van rates: Between $2.30 and $2.86 per mile on average.
- Reefer truck rates: $3.19 per mile on average.
- Flatbed truck rates: $3.14 per mile on average.
Many things influence trucking freight rates. Some key factors include:
- Distance to destination, including any detours, if applicable.
- Shipment weight, with heavier loads fetching higher per-mile rates.
- Shipment density, which influences how much space you need in the truck.
- Freight class, a measure of transportability set by the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC).
- Shipping deadline.
- Additional charges like loading and unloading as well as warehouse storage fees.
Why are trucking rates so low?
Our findings show that recent trucking rates are low because of a larger supply compared to the available demand.
When the pandemic began, people needed more things shipped, and the for-hire trucking market soared. Trucking companies started large recruiting drives, and many people decided to start trucking businesses of their own.
But now that the volume of shipments is falling to pre-pandemic levels, there are simply too many truckers and not enough demand for shipments by truck. As the laws of supply and demand dictate, an abundance of supply means that prices are going to fall.
However, that’s not the only thing that’s thrown a wrench in the trucking industry. Recent global developments, such as the war in Ukraine raising fuel prices and a COVID resurgence in China’s export centers causing commodity prices to rise, have made it harder for truckers to make a profit.
That said, the decreased demand for consumer goods doesn’t mean it’s all bad for truckers. While consumer goods shipments are down, 70-80% of freight consists of manufactured goods, and manufacturing companies are still willing to pay for truck deliveries.
How much do owner-operators make per mile?
Owner-operators generally make 70 to 80% of their load per mile.
If we take flatbed rates as an example, a flatbed truck owner-operator stands to make up to $2.51 per mile out of the $3.14 per mile average rate.
The rest of the money goes to the trucking company to pay for benefits such as:
- Dispatch support.
- In-house mechanics.
- Fuel cards.
This is in contrast to company drivers who may only get 38 to 52 cents per mile with the same load. However, the larger cut that owner-operators get comes with extra risks.
Although they get benefits from their trucking company, owner-operators are still independent contractors who need to do everything themselves.
While owner-operators stand to gain more money, they also need to set aside more cash for life and automotive insurance, fuel and maintenance, and taxes.
Because of this, owner-operators are more likely to be experienced truckers. Typically those who have worked as company drivers for several years and wanted more freedom and the chance to make their own decisions.
How much does a freight broker charge per load?
Freight brokers usually charge around 25-35% of the load.
A freight broker is a middleman between a shipper and the carrier. They take the shipment from the customer and contact a carrier fleet to take the shipment to its destination.
Shippers like working with freight brokers because the broker deals with everything related to the carriers, becoming the single point of contact for updates. On the other side, carriers also like working with freight brokers because they can optimize routes and give the truckers multiple shipments to reduce deadhead miles.
Why trucking rates are important
Your number one goal is to have a profitable trucking business, and keeping up with average trucking rates per mile is the best way to ensure that your business continues to grow. The key to this is having the right cost per mile trucking, so you win jobs and turn a profit.
Hopefully, you’ve learned everything from what is the average rate per mile for hauling freight to standard truck shipping rates per mile in this article.
To recap, the truck rates you use for your business can be influenced by the:
- Distance between the starting point and the destination.
- Shipment weight and density.
- Type of freight truck being driven.
- Current fuel prices.
By becoming an expert on what is the average trucking rate per mile and keeping up with industry trends, you’ll be able to offer competitive prices and attract more customers, meaning more revenue.
Image credit: Zetong Li via Unsplash