How to Reduce Deadhead Miles for Owner-Operators

In the trucking industry, owner-operators play an important role in the flow of goods and services across the country. However, owner-operators often face issues when dealing with deadhead miles. Deadhead miles are when a trailer is being driven empty, which can impact the driver’s profitability and efficiency.

Understanding Deadhead Miles

Deadhead Miles – or what is known as “empty miles” is where a driver is driving an empty trailer. These miles can happen when an owner-operator finishes a delivery but does not have a return load. Sometimes, deadhead miles are unavoidable in the trucking industry because of load availability, demands, and logistics. However, managing and reducing deadhead miles is important in maintaining and maximizing profits and sustainability.

How Deadhead Miles Affect Owner-Operators

Dealing with deadhead miles can directly affect owner-operators. When a truck runs empty, drivers are not making any revenue, and costs such as maintenance and fuel continue without profit. This can reduce income and lower profit margins. As deadhead miles continue to rack up, they can make it hard for a driver to cover expenses and make a substantial income. In addition to the cost of deadhead miles, there are safety concerns. Deadheading can be treacherous, and an empty trailer can be harder to control in certain situations, especially in weather conditions with high winds.

How to Minimize Deadhead Miles

Every driver should look at ways to reduce their deadhead miles. The fewer miles while traveling empty can increase your overall profit, reduce unnecessary wear and tear on a truck, and increase safety for all drivers on the road.

  • Planning and Load Management: Proper route planning and load management are important. Using software and technology can help predict potential return loads, reducing the likelihood of empty backhauls. Match available freight with your truck’s capacity and location to reduce deadhead miles.
  • Freight Networks and Load Boards: You can find available loads for return trips by signing up for freight networks and online load boards. You can use these platforms to discover relevant freight and reduce deadhead miles since they provide real-time information on freight needing transport.
  • Relationship Building: Establish relationships with shippers, brokers, and other trucking firms. Reputation for reliability and efficiency can result in repeat business and more steady loads, lowering deadhead miles.
  • Diversity: Enhance the variety of services you offer to move different goods. Considering that other businesses have additional shipping requirements and deadlines, this flexibility may boost your chances of locating return freight.
  • Backhaul Techniques: Provide backhaul loads at a discounted rate. While this may cause a decrease in immediate revenue, it can increase the demand for your services from shippers looking for affordable transportation options.
  • Accept Multi-Stops: When possible, accept multi-stop loads. These can reduce deadhead miles by making one trip to several delivery locations.
  • Temporary Storage: If you can’t find a return load right away, consider having temporary storage nearby where you’re delivering. This allows you to find the right backhaul without going far distances while empty.
  • Constant Market Monitoring: Keep an eye on business trends, changes in supply and demand, and peak shipping times. Knowing market trends will allow you to foresee load availability and plan your trips correctly.

Owner-operators encounter many obstacles from deadhead miles, but their impact can be reduced with careful planning and creative thinking. Owner-operators can turn empty miles into profitable possibilities using technology, networking, and strategic planning. Reducing deadhead miles is important in enhancing productivity, profitability, and overall success in an industry where every mile matters.