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Even among top-performing fleets, deadhead miles are a continuous problem. It’s estimated that even for these highly efficient fleets, 14.23% of all miles are empty and not generating revenue.

Empty trucks on the road are a billion-dollar problem for the freight industry. In fact, in a 2018 report, the American Transport Research Institute (ATRI) found that all registered trucking companies traveled over 9.4 billion miles in 2017 and that 20.7% of these miles were empty. That’s the equivalent of driving round trip from the earth to the sun 20 times.

When calculating operation costs per mile, this means that fleets spent $3.3 billion in 2017 driving empty trucks.

Learn more about how to find freight.

Backhauling is one way that dispatchers can eliminate this problem. But you need technology and fleet management systems that can help you strategically implement backhauling and avoid deadheading.

Maximizing Profits: What Is a Backhaul in Trucking?

As a dispatcher, you likely already know a great deal about backhauling — when a commercial carrier takes a freight load on their return trip. For example, if a driver transports freight from New York to California, they would pick up a backhaul from California to transport to New York or somewhere between the coasts.

How does backhauling affect profitability? It reduces the total unpaid mileage, or deadhead miles, your fleet takes on. It’s no secret that operating costs for commercial motor vehicles are steep — and rising fast. Miles driven without any freight can cut into a fleet’s profits, making backhauling a valuable strategy to balance operating costs and incoming profits.

You need to consider more than fuel when estimating costs per mile. To calculate the total cost, you must also factor in:

    • Vehicle lease or purchase payments
    • Repair and maintenance
    • Truck insurance premiums
    • Permits and licenses
    • Taxes and tolls
    • Driver wages and benefits

Support staff wages and benefits

In fact, in 2019, while the cost per mile for fuel alone was approximately $0.39, the total operating cost per mile was actually around $1.62.

On a larger scale, empty trucks can affect the entire supply chain. For example, in 2018 the Florida Department of Transportation reported that approximately 75% of all the trucks leaving the state are empty. This tends to increase supply chain costs; it affects carriers’ profits and increases costs for shippers as well.

In short, strategically planning your loads allows you to make the most of backhauling, improving profits, and reducing costs.

The Challenges of Backhauling in Real Life

Essentially, dispatchers are expected to work some logistical magic. When commercial motor vehicles are on the road, they should be loaded. Backhauling and utilizing your freight assets to the delivery point and back is a great idea in theory but presents a wide range of logistical challenges in real life:

Some of these challenges include the following:

    • Matching supply and demand to the specific shipping lane
    • Finding freight hauls outside of existing shipper relationships
    • Locating shipments that match the specifications and regulations for the vehicles in your small fleet

    Industry estimates show that between 25% and 50% of commercial motor vehicles on the road are empty. But finding the right freight for your fleet’s vehicles in the right locations requires a lot of planning and organization.

    With eight classes of commercial motor vehicles on the road and many vehicle regulations for carrying certain types of freight, it’s not just about finding shipments going to your fleet’s original location — it’s also about finding the right sort of freight too.

    Backhauls are essential to maximizing profits, but they can be difficult to find.

    The Xpress Technologies Intuitive Fleet Management System

    The whole concept of backhaul trucking is that after an initial load is delivered, trucks need to be loaded for the return trip. Dispatchers need to stay on their toes to make this happen. Before commercial motor vehicles are even out for the first delivery, dispatchers should already have a plan in place for shipments for the trip back.

    Xpress Technologies offers an intuitive fleet management system filled with functionalities like an integrated load board designed to help dispatchers locate and secure backhaul freight quickly and efficiently. Dispatchers can post empty trucks to the load board, which takes the information on these specific vehicles and sends the dispatcher possible recommended loads.

    With detailed information on location, classifications, freight hauling capabilities, and more, the load board offers recommendations so dispatchers don’t have to scour load boards to find the perfect loads.

    Once you find a load that meets your specifications or are contacted about your available capacity, you can confirm loads through the Xpress Technologies App. This suite of capabilities makes it an ideal system for supporting your fleet management. With these features, you can easily access the information that will help you strategize to prevent deadheading and optimize backhauling opportunities.

    Learn More about finding freight