How To Avoid Deadhead Trucking

Val Tkachuck
Val Tkachuck
April 26, 2024
How To Avoid Deadhead Trucking: Answers, Insights, and Tips

In the car hauling business, every mile counts. Whether you're a fleet owner, manager, dispatcher, or driver, you know that driving an empty truck — commonly referred to as "deadheading" — is not just inefficient but unreasonably costly, too. But you don’t have to necessarily endure such expenses. What is deadhead in trucking and how to avoid it most efficiently? 

This article will help you understand the gist of the deadhead trucking term, its implications, and how you can minimize or eliminate it to boost your business’s bottom line.

What Does Deadhead Mean in Trucking?

Deadhead trucking describes the empty miles a truck travels, usually after dropping off a load and traveling to pick up the next one. This situation is not great, with deadhead miles meaning tons of fuel burnt in vain and miles put on your truck without any revenue to show for it. It’s a common scenario in the trucking industry but one that businesses strive to minimize as much as possible. 

One of the most pressing questions from the business management perspective is how exactly one should compensate drivers for such out-of-route miles. 

Do drivers get paid for deadhead miles?

The answer varies depending on the company’s deadhead mileage policy and the driver’s contract. Some companies pay for deadhead miles at a reduced rate, recognizing that drivers are still incurring fuel and maintenance costs.

Do drivers get paid for deadhead miles?

However, not all companies compensate deadhead truck performance to the fullest, which can spawn dissatisfaction and increase operational costs. It’s crucial for drivers to know their company’s policy on this matter.

Why is Deadheading Dangerous?

Apart from the obvious financial drain, deadheading can pose several other risks, including:

  • More expenses: Traveling empty means you’re not making money on those miles. The costs add up quickly, affecting your bottom line.
  • Safety concerns: An empty trailer handles differently than a loaded one, especially in poor driving conditions. It can be less stable and more susceptible to high winds or slippery roads.
  • Wear and tear: More miles mean more wear and tear on the vehicle, which leads to higher maintenance costs and shorter intervals between repairs.

How Can You Minimize or Eliminate Deadhead Trucking?

Minimizing deadhead is an efficient way to maintain profitability in the trucking industry.

How Can You Minimize or Eliminate Deadhead Trucking?

Here’s what you can do exactly to minimize empty miles and related expenses:

Freight matching services

Leverage platforms that can match your empty trucks with nearby loads. These services can help you find loads that may not be on your regular radar but fit well with your fleet’s routes and schedules. This way, a trucker may keep stocked up with loads even after the main load has been dropped. 

Flexible scheduling

Sometimes, adjusting delivery times can open up more opportunities for backhauls. Being flexible with scheduling can mean the difference between driving empty and finding a profitable load. This is why, again, it’s important to stay in tune with other available freighters’ schedules. 

Optimal routing

Use advanced routing software like Haulk TMS to plan the shortest or most fuel-efficient route between jobs. For instance, Haulk TMS can also help find convenient backhaul opportunities in real time, reducing the likelihood of traveling empty and helping navigate deadhead-free schedules. 

Make sure to regularly review and adjust routes. Regular assessment of your routes and operations can uncover inefficiencies and opportunities to combine trips and cut down on empty miles.

Building relationships with freighters

To sync things up and maintain cost-efficient hauling, develop relationships with freighters who can provide regular backhauls or loop routes. Consistent business coming from trusted partners not only reduces deadhead but also grants more predictable revenue.

Doubling down on technology

Consider investing in technology solutions and integrating tools that help optimize load orders and reduce empty miles. A dedicated transportation management system (TMS), like the mentioned Haulk, features tools for historical data analysis and a convenient choice of the best-fitting loads and routes.

Educating your team

Lastly, make sure that all team members, especially dispatchers and drivers, understand the costs associated with deadhead miles and are trained to miminize them using available tools and strategies.


Insightful, dynamic planning is essential to battling expensive deadhead transportation. By understanding the factors that contribute to deadhead miles and using strategies to reduce them, you get to cut operational costs and boost overall shipping efficiency in a major way. 

Our TMS solution offers an organized approach to managing your orders, loads, routes, etc., in one place, easily integratable with your existing business.

You can check out a trial period to see how it can transform your fleet operations. And don’t let deadhead miles drag down your profitability — take action today and see the difference it makes.

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