Bottom Line
News You Can Use
OOIDA’s cost of ops survey allows drivers to compare their operations to other truckers

By Land Line staff

Thanks to the participation of hundreds of OOIDA members and other truckers who completed a cost of operations survey, owner-operators have another tool to help them analyze their businesses.

The ongoing survey has already collected data from more than 650 owner-operators – 94 percent of whom are OOIDA members – and therefore is considered statistically sound. The database is large enough that owner-operators can rely on its interactive functions to provide valid comparisons.

“To do that required a reasonable number of total respondents so answers to one question couldn’t be skewed by a few wild answers. Now, like a slow-cooked Thanksgiving bird, we can say, ‘Stick a fork in it; it’s done,’ ” said Michael Belzer, a researcher at the University of Michigan.

“It was always our intent to offer participants the ability to compare their responses to survey questions with the answers of all the other respondents.”

Belzer, a former trucker who is also affiliated with Wayne State University, helped the OOIDA Foundation make the interactive Cost of Operations Survey available on OOIDA’s Web site. To participate, visit the association’s Web site at and click on the “Cost of Operations Survey” link under the heading “Help Us Help You.” Enter your information in the ongoing survey and see how your business compares with other owner-operators.

The fact that 94 percent of the survey participants so far have been OOIDA members allows participants to compare their operations with that of other OOIDA members.

“In keeping with a trend we are seeing from our Member Profile Survey, more and more owner-operators are getting their own authority – 34 percent – and less are leased on to carriers – 64 percent. In the not too distant past those percentages have been 20 percent and 80 percent,” said John Siebert, the OOIDA Foundation’s project leader for the survey.

When two different surveys net similar results, it raises the confidence level of the results of both, Siebert said. For example, both the cost of operations survey and this year’s member profile survey asked how many trucks each owner-operator owns.

The Cost of Operations Survey showed an average of 1.49 trucks per owner-operator and the Member Profile Survey showed an average of 1.5 trucks per owner-operator.

“We’re real happy to see that a self-selecting cost of operations survey and the blind-selection member profile survey agree,” said Siebert, “It makes you feel like you’re on the right track.”

Since the average OOIDA owner-operator has 1.49 trucks, but most individuals have only one, that means a few own four or five or 10 trucks for the figures to average out.

In order to compare apples to apples, Siebert said the survey’s computer program uses the number of trucks to break down the statistics to a “per truck number.”

The program also calculates both the average and the median for specific questions. An average is calculated by adding everyone’s figures together and then dividing by the number of responding people.

The median is simply the number that was reported the most often out of the range of numbers reported. For example: the average number of trucks owned was 1.49, but since 1 truck was the most frequent response, the median was 1.

Both Belzer and Siebert said they were excited to see such a good response to this benchmarking survey.

“I’ve been working with the California Trucking Association to do a similar benchmarking study and it’s been like pulling hen’s teeth to get firms to see the value in responding,” said Belzer, “We’re hoping that seeing the example of the owner-operators out there will help spread the news.”

Some of the data from the survey were shared with officials in Washington, DC, at the Transportation Research Board meeting in January.

With the U.S. Census’ Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey documenting a larger number of owner-operators than ever before and the substantial proportion of owner-operators in the for-hire fleet, Siebert said this information becomes even more important in predicting the economic sustainability of the trucking industry.

“We look forward to increased participation and the continued support of concerned owner-operators who want to know where they stand in regard to their fellow professional truckers,” Siebert said.

Total miles run per truck
Gross income per mile
Fixed expenses per mile
Variable expenses per mile
Total expenses per mile
Wages you paid yourself per mile
Company profit/loss per mile