What's the average semi-truck maintenance cost per year? 3 cost-influencing factors

February 25, 2022

An owner-operator discussing his truck's maintenance needs with a technician

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

According to TruckersReport, semi-truck maintenance and repair costs can cost owner-operators upwards of $15,000 per year.

There are a number of factors that can impact how much you spend in the shop as an owner-operator. We have broken down a few of those factors to provide a better understanding what your semi-truck maintenance cost per year might look like.

3 Major factors that impact your semi-truck maintenance cost per year:

1. Preventive maintenance intervals.

    As an owner-operator, preventative maintenance will be both your most common maintenance expense and a key player in avoiding more costly repairs and breakdowns. There are a few types of preventive maintenance visits you should know about as a owner-operator truck driver:

    Dry preventive maintenance

    Most carriers and manufacturers recommend scheduling dry preventive maintenance – or “PM A” – every 10,000 to 25,000 miles.

    Dry preventive maintenance services typically include:

    • Inspection of major components.
    • Fluid refill (coolant, brake fluid, windshield fluid, etc.).
    • Grease job.
    • Tire pressure check.

    A dry preventive maintenance appointment usually takes about two-and-a-half hours, but any issues revealed during the inspection may lead to more time spent in the shop.

    Cost of dry preventive maintenance

    Prices will vary by service center, but generally speaking you can expect to spend around $80 to $100 on a dry preventive maintenance visit.

    Wet preventive maintenance

    The average interval for a wet preventive maintenance visit – or “PM B” – is about every 25,000 miles, but many newer trucks can go up to 50,000 miles between oil changes with proper care.

    Wet maintenance services typically include:

    • Oil and filter change.
    • Inspection of major components.
    • Fluid refill (coolant, brake fluid, windshield fluid, etc.).
    • Grease job.
    • Tire pressure check.

    A wet preventive maintenance appointment usually takes about three-and-a-half hours if no additional repair needs are identified during the inspection.

    Cost of wet preventive maintenance

    Prices will vary by service center, but Pilot and Flying J centers charge around $300 to $450 for a wet preventive maintenance appointment.

    DOT truck inspections

    Annual DOT inspections are required for all semi-trucks. The DOT-standard inspection takes about an hour and covers more than 50 vehicle components.

    Some general areas covered during the inspection include:

    • Brake system.
    • Steering mechanism.
    • Exhaust system and fuel system.
    • Windshield wipers.
    • Securement of cargo.
    • Frame and suspension.
    • Tires, wheels and rims.
    • Lighting and turn signals.

    Cost of truck inspections

    The cost of getting a DOT inspection depends on where you get yours done, but fees can run upwards of $200 in some areas of the U.S. Owner-operators who do business with Schneider receive a full DOT-standard truck inspection every 90 days at no cost.

    2. Unexpected repairs and breakdowns.

      No amount of preventive maintenance can guarantee you won’t run into unexpected repairs or breakdowns. Part of running a successful trucking business is being financially prepared for those instances.

      Typically, some of the most expensive truck repairs include:

      • Clutch system (averages $1,000 to replace).
      • Cooling system (averages $704 to replace).
      • Charging system (averages $676 to replace).

      Cost of unexpected repairs and breaks

      According to the Commercial Carrier Journal, the average cost of a mechanical repair for truckload carriers is $411.

      3. Tire replacements.

        According to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), commercial truck tires cost an average of 4.3 cents per mile, or 3% of an owner-operator's total operating expenses. With the average semi-truck tire priced over $250, tire expenses for an owner-operator can exceed $4,000 annually.

        According to Service Tire Truck Centers, most experts agree that semi-truck tire replacement should occur every three to six years.

        Methods to cut back on semi-truck maintenance costs

        1. Leasing a truck from a reputable company.

          Some truck leasing companies offer maintenance assistance to help owner-operators manage the cost of repairs.

          For example, SFI Trucks and Financing sends a portion of each customer's weekly truck payment to a maintenance account that they can use to pay for routine and unexpected truck maintenance, helping to prevent out-of-pocket expenses. SFI also backs its trucks with competitive warranties that include coverage on almost all repairs for new trucks and coverage for high-cost repairs for used models.

          2. Doing business with a company that offers discounts on tires and maintenance.

            Large fleets have the buying power needed to negotiate deals on parts and labor.

            Large carriers are able to secure bulk pricing on tires, sometimes even in the range of three to four cents per mile. Owner-operators can typically take advantage of fleet discounts by leasing-on with one of these carriers.

            For example, Schneider provides owner-operators with access to discounts on eligible tire brands at participating locations.