The cost of health insurance is poised to take another double-digit jump in 2003, which will add to the financial strain on trucking companies.

According to a survey of 2,000 health plans by Hewitt Associates, a consulting company, employer health insurance costs are projected to rise 15.4% next year, after rising 13.7% this year alone. That follows average health insurance price hikes of 8% in 2000 and 11% in 2001, according to industry data.

Hewitt Associates estimates that the average cost of providing healthcare will rise to $6,295 annually per employee in 2003, up from $5,456 this year.

For trucking companies, those increases will affect the wages and benefits column in their operating budgets the number two operating expense for most fleets, right behind fuel and right before tires.