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How to calculate cost per mile as an owner-operator truck driver

February 10, 2021

A man in a flannel shirt checks his phone while sitting at a desk that holds a laptop, coffee mug and various pens.

Part of being an owner-operator and running a successful business is knowing how to calculate cost per mile. An easy way to determine your cost per mile is creating a trucking expenses spreadsheet.

You can use the spreadsheet to keep track of your operating expenses, which are split into both fixed costs and variable costs. Next, each type of cost is divided by how many miles you drive each month and added to the other to get your total cost per mile.

How to calculate cost per mile in 4 steps

Step 1: Determine your fixed costs.

When putting together your trucking expenses spreadsheet to calculate your cost per mile, start by creating a column for all your fixed costs. Fixed costs are expenses that do not change from month to month regardless of how many miles you drive or how many loads you transport.

If you have expenses you pay on a yearly basis, divide the total number by 12 and add it to each month’s fixed costs total.

See below for an example of what a fixed costs column could look like:

Fixed costs

Monthly amount

Truck payment

$3,000

Insurance total (occupational accident insurance + unladen/non-trucking bobtail insurance + physical damage insurance + etc.)

$400

License plates (including IRP certification)

$140

Permits (things like a pre-pass)

$25

Total fixed costs

$3,565

Step 2: Determine your variable costs.

Next, add a column to your spreadsheet for variable costs. Variable costs are expenses that change each month based on how much you drive and how many loads you transport.

It would not make sense for any of your variable costs to be yearly expenses, so no need to divide any numbers by 12.

See below for an example of what a variable costs column could look like:

Variable costs

Monthly amount

Fuel

$5,000

Food

$350

Freight-related costs (freight brokers, dispatching services, load board fees, etc.)

$2,000

Truck maintenance (repairs, tires, etc.)

$1,200

Any other miscellaneous expenses

$200

Total variable costs

$8,750

Step 3: Determine how many miles you drove.

Go back and figure out exactly how many miles you drove last month. This should include compensated miles AND miles that were not compensated (deadhead miles).

For sake of this example, we are going to say you drove a total of 10,000 miles last month.

The sample spreadsheet now looks like this:

Fixed costs:

Fixed costs

Monthly amount

Truck payment

$3,000

Insurance total (occupational accident insurance + unladen/non-trucking bobtail insurance + physical damage insurance + etc.)

$400

License plates (and IRP certification)

$140

Permits (things like a pre-pass)

$25

Total fixed costs

$3,565

Total miles driven

10,000

Variable costs:

Variable costs

Monthly amount

Fuel

$5,000

Food

$350

Freight costs (freight broker, dispatching service, load board fees, etc.)

$2,000

Semi-truck maintenance (repairs, tires, etc.)

$1,200

Any other miscellaneous expenses

$200

Total variable costs

$8,750

Total miles driven

10,000

Step 4: Calculate cost per mile.

Now you can calculate your cost per mile for each variable costs and fixed costs. To do this, divide your variable costs by your total miles driven and your fixed costs by your total miles driven.

The sample spreadsheet now looks like this:

Fixed costs:

Fixed costs

Monthly amount

Truck payment

$3,000

Insurance total (occupational accident insurance + unladen/non-trucking bobtail insurance + physical damage insurance + etc.)

$400

License plates (and IRP certification)

$140

Permits (things like a pre-pass)

$25

Total fixed costs

$3,565

Total miles driven

10,000

Fixed costs per mile

$0.36

Variable costs:

Variable costs

Monthly amount

Fuel

$5,000

Food

$350

Freight costs (freight broker, dispatching service, load board fees, etc.)

$2,000

Truck maintenance (repairs, tires, etc.)

$1,200

Any other miscellaneous expenses

$200

Total variable costs

$8,750

Total miles driven

10,000

Variable costs per mile

$0.88

Now you can add the sample fixed costs per mile and the sample variable costs per mile to get the total cost per mile:

Fixed costs per mile

$0.36

Variable costs per mile

$0.88

Total cost per mile

$1.24

There you have it. In our example, the cost per mile last month was $1.24.

Why it's important to know your cost per mile

There are two main reasons why figuring out your cost per mile is important.

The first is that it tells you how much revenue you need to bring in per mile in order to make a profit. If your cost per mile really was $1.24, a rate per mile of $1.24 would mean you’re breaking even. Every cent above $1.24 would be considered profit.

Second, creating a trucking expenses spreadsheet to determine your cost per mile helps you see exactly what your expenses are as an owner-operator. It’ll help you find ways to save money, which can ultimately help you grow your trucking business.