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The Cost of Owning a Trucking Business

Written by Nick Webster

Published on Feb. 9, 2024, 2:55 a.m.


Running a transportation company can be a rewarding venture despite the cost of owning a trucking business. The industry plays a crucial role in the global economy, moving billions of tons of goods annually. Click here to discover how to start a trucking company correctly. However, it's not without its challenges, the most significant of which is understanding and managing the costs involved. This article will delve into the various costs of owning a trucking business, providing a detailed guide for aspiring and current trucking business owners.

What Are the Costs Involved of Owning a Trucking Business?

The costs of running a trucking business can be broadly categorized into startup costs and operating costs.

Startup Costs

Startup costs are the initial investments you need to establish your trucking business. These include:

  • Trucks and Equipment: Trucks are arguably the most substantial startup cost. The price varies widely depending on whether you opt for new or used trucks, the model, and its specifications. Additionally, you'll need to invest in equipment like trailers, safety gear, and on-board technology.
  • Operating Authority: Obtaining your Motor Carrier (MC) and Department of Transportation (DOT) numbers is a regulatory requirement. The FMCSA charges a filing fee for an MC number.
  • Insurance: Initial insurance costs can be significant, with the premium depending on factors like the types of goods you'll be transporting, your drivers' experience, and your trucks' value.
  • Business Registration and Licensing: Costs here include business incorporation, obtaining necessary licenses, and paying relevant registration fees. Find out more. Contact us to get an IFTA sticker & IFTA license from us today.

Operating Costs

Operating costs are ongoing expenses necessary to run your trucking business. These include:

  • Fuel: Fuel is one of a trucking business's most significant recurring expenses. Its cost can fluctuate, making it crucial to factor this variability into your budget.
  • Maintenance and Repairs: Regular preventive maintenance can help prevent costly breakdowns. However, you should also budget for unexpected repairs.
  • Insurance: Annual insurance premiums are a substantial part of your operating costs. These can vary based on your claims history, the number of trucks, and coverage levels.
  • Driver Wages: If you employ drivers, their wages will be a significant part of your budget. You must consider not just the base pay, but also benefits, bonuses, and workers' compensation insurance.
  • Taxes and Regulatory Fees: These include Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) taxes, and Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) fees.
  • Tolls and Weigh Stations: Costs incurred at tolls and weigh stations can add up, particularly for long-haul trucking companies.
  • Office Expenses: These are costs related to the administration of your business, such as office space, utilities, office supplies, and administrative staff salaries.
  • Marketing and Advertising: To attract customers, you'll need to invest in marketing and advertising, including creating a website, digital marketing, and traditional advertising.

Operating expenses, Vehicle maintenance, Fuel costs, Insurance premiums, Depreciation.

Breaking Down the Costs

Now that we have an overview of the costs involved, let's break them down further:

  • Trucks and Equipment: know about Driver Qualification Files. The cost of a new semi-truck can range from $130,000 to $180,000, depending on the make and model. Used trucks can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000. Besides the truck, equipment such as trailers, GPS units, safety equipment, and on-board communication systems can add several thousands of dollars to your startup cost.
  • Operating Authority: The FMCSA charges a filing fee for an MC number. The DOT number application, however, is free. Remember, though, that these numbers have to be renewed periodically.
  • Insurance: The average annual cost of commercial truck insurance ranges from $600 to $10,000 per truck, depending on various factors. Liability insurance, the most expensive type, can cost between $5,000 and $7,000 per truck annually.
  • Business Registration and Licensing: The cost of forming an LLC can range from $50 to $500, depending on the state. Additional licenses and permits' costs can vary based on location and the nature of your operations.
  • Fuel: Fuel costs can vary widely depending on the fluctuating price of diesel. On average, a truck might consume around $70,000 worth of fuel annually.
  • Maintenance and Repairs: The average maintenance and repair costs can range between $15,000 and $20,000 per truck annually. This includes preventive maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations, and unexpected repairs.
  • Driver Wages: As per data available until September 2021, the median annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $45,260. However, wages can vary based on experience, location, and the nature of the routes.
  • Taxes and Regulatory Fees: The Heavy Vehicle Use Tax can range from $100 to $550 per truck annually. IFTA taxes depend on fuel usage and mileage, while UCR fees can range from $59 to over $60,000, depending on the size of your fleet.
  • Tolls and Weigh Stations: The cost of tolls can vary widely depending on your routes. Similarly, weigh station fees depend on the states you're operating in and your truck's weight.
  • Office Expenses: Office expenses can vary based on whether you lease or own an office, the number of administrative staff you employ, and other factors.
  • Marketing and Advertising: These costs can be highly variable depending on your strategies. For example, building a website can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, while digital advertising costs depend on your campaign's scale and duration.

Taxes and permits, Financing options, Driver wages, Administrative overhead, Equipment upgrades.

What Is a Tax ID Number?

A Tax ID Number, also known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN), is a unique nine-digit number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify and track businesses. It's required for all business entities that will be filing taxes with the IRS, including sole proprietorships, corporations, partnerships, nonprofit organizations, and trusts.

The Tax ID Number is also used to open bank accounts or apply for credit in a business name. Do you know How to Obtain your MC. A Tax ID Number can be obtained through the IRS website or by submitting Form SS-4 to the agency. Once registered, it should remain unchanged unless ownership of the business has changed hands.

What Is a DOT Number?

A DOT number is a unique identifier assigned to a business by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). Know about DOT Clearinghouse Enforcement. The number is used in all commercial motor vehicle operations, and is required for companies that transport hazardous materials or operate interstate.

The DOT number includes information such as the company’s name, address, type of cargo transported, and other pertinent data. It also helps ensure that only qualified carriers with properly maintained vehicles transport goods across state lines. Companies must apply to obtain their DOT number, which can be found on the motor carrier’s identification card or cab card. By having this information available, federal agencies can quickly determine if a company meets safety standards and regulations when it comes to transporting goods.

What Is an MC Number?

An MC number (also known as a Motor Carrier Number) is a unique seven-digit identification number issued by the FMCSA to commercial motor carriers operating in interstate commerce. The MC number is used to identify companies that transport cargo and passengers across state lines, thus allowing them to comply with federal regulations and laws.

It also enables the FMCSA to monitor safety records, compliance reviews, roadside inspections, crash investigations and hazardous materials safety permit applications. The MC number can be found on your company's U.S. Department of Transportation registration form or on the US DOT website.

What Is the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax?

The Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT) is a tax the federal government imposes on certain vehicles used for transportation over public highways. Do you want to know about DOT-compliant drugs? The HVUT applies to heavier vehicles with a taxable gross weight of more than 55,000 pounds. If you are an owner or lessee of such a vehicle, you must register it and file Form 2290, IRS, with the Internal Revenue Service each year.

A key purpose of the HVUT is to fund highway infrastructure and construction projects across the country. Know about Texas DOT Number. To calculate the taxes due, use either your gross weight or unloaded weight multiplied by the applicable rate according to your vehicle's taxable gross weight. You may also be eligible for certain credits if you meet specific criteria.

What Are Some Tips for Hiring Drivers at a Trucking Company?

  • Conduct a thorough background check on all applicants, including drug tests and license verifications.
  • Train drivers in defensive driving techniques to minimize the risk of accidents.
  • Develop adequate safety protocols for employees to follow on their routes.
  • Monitor driver performance and provide feedback when needed.
  • Leverage technology such as GPS tracking systems to optimize routes and ensure efficient deliveries.
  • Offer competitive compensation packages to attract top talent.
  • Employ incentives such as bonuses or fuel cards for meeting delivery deadlines or staying accident-free over a certain period of time.
  • Provide ongoing training and support for drivers to stay updated with industry regulations and laws.


Starting and running a trucking business can be lucrative, but it's not without costs. Know about the DOT Authority Package. Understanding these costs—both startup and operating—is crucial to effectively budgeting and ensuring your business's financial health.

Remember, though, that these costs can vary based on numerous factors, so it's always best to do your own research and consult a business financial advisor to get a precise estimate.

Ultimately, it's not just about managing costs, but about running an efficient, compliant, and profitable operation. So, take the time to understand the cost landscape, make informed decisions, and steer your trucking business to success.

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