It’s a problem as old as trucking. You don’t get paid for hauling empty trailers. Yes, it’s always been a part of the job, but that doesn’t mean an easy pill to swallow. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re hopping around the country working the spot market or a contract carrier looking for backhaul freight, it is common for deadhead miles to amount to 15% to 30% of your rolling miles annually per truck.

Especially if you’re like most small to medium-sized carriers working the spot market, you can’t avoid racking up those empty trailer miles.

Whether the market is strong and there’s capacity you just need to find or the market is loose and every load matters, cutting deadhead miles is one of the fastest ways to increase your bottom line. 

The good news is that it’s not as hard as you might think.

Let’s start with the numbers: they might be surprising.

We ran the numbers, and here are some rough estimates on how much money you’re losing on deadhead miles:

If you run your truck an average of 120,000 miles per year, you are going to have somewhere around 18,000 to 36,000 deadhead miles. 

If you are running dry vans, based on the national average spot rate of $1.88 per mile, you are missing out on $67,680 per year in revenue.

If you are running all reefer loads, based on the national average spot rate of $2.20 per mile, you are missing out on $79,200 per year in revenue. 

To add insult to injury, you waste a bunch of time getting to the next load you reluctantly agreed to take out of self-preservation so you can get to your next decent load.

It is possible (and simple) to reduce your deadhead miles.

There are three key factors that impact the number of deadhead miles you’ll run on your next couple of trips:

  1. Start with the strongest origination markets
  2. Choose the best lanes
  3. Ensure you have bargaining power with brokers 

Let’s run through these briefly:

Origination markets: Market conditions can change on a dime. Knowing the best origination markets will enable you to find plentiful freight without having to deadhead to another market and will help you plan one load ahead. As a matter of planning, you should avoid if at all possible, heading into a market without some knowledge of capacity and rate information.

Lane Optimization: Avoid the trap of running the same lanes time and time again just out of habit. Knowing the best lanes between a strong origination market and a strong destination market will help you put yourself in a better position for your next load.

Better Rate Leverage: The math is simple: $2.20 per mile for that referral load, or $1.88? Knowing the current load availability in your markets will help protect you from being taken advantage of by brokers. Not to mention help you get top dollar for the freight you are hauling.

MarketFit from Express Freight can streamline this entire process.

Until now, knowing these three factors has been largely based on gut instincts or picking up the phone and making calls around town. Express Freight Finance knows there is a better way.

Today, we’re starting to equip small to medium-sized carriers with data and market insights previously unavailable to the masses to reduce potentially unnecessary costs.

This data is addressing all of the key information you need to cut down on deadhead miles, in a simple and constantly updated dashboard. 

We do the heavy lifting, while you save money and stay smarter by the mile.

To learn more, reach out via phone or email and we’ll get you in the know.

Express Freight Finance – smarter by the mile.