What are deadhead miles?


Truck drivers earn money in the trucking industry when a truck is loaded and driven to its destination. This is because the more cargo you haul, the more you make. However, when a truck is empty and driving on the road, these are considered deadhead miles. Deadhead miles are what truck drivers try to avoid the most.   

Defining Deadhead Miles   

If you’re new to the trucking industry, there are many terms you should understand, and deadhead miles are one of them. Deadhead miles, also known as “empty miles,” is the distance a truck drives with an empty load. For example, a truck goes from Point A to Point B with a full truckload, unloads the cargo, and returns to Point A. All the miles on the way back with an empty truckload are deadhead. An empty truckload for drivers means running their equipment without actively getting paid for it or utilizing the chance to move more loads. So, avoiding empty miles sounds like a good plan. But unfortunately, these miles cannot be unavoidable if there is no load to pick up.   

Cost of Driving Deadhead Miles   

As an incentive, drivers might receive pay for deadhead mileage because they do not want to travel out of a particular area for pickups. However, companies are not required to reimburse independent contractors or an owner-operator for the miles spent without a load. As a result, deadhead miles are unprofitable for many reasons. Below are a few costs that come along with deadhead miles.   

Diesel Fuel Cost  

Company drivers usually do not have to worry about this, but independent contractors do. So, with some drivers not reimbursed for deadhead miles, the driver would be paying for their fuel out of pocket, making that route unprofitable.   

Equipment Wear and Tear   

Anytime a driver drives his truck, they experience normal wear and tear from the road and weather. However, if you drive deadhead miles, there is no income to offset the damage price.   

Time and Efficiency   

Time is money, and if you are driving with an empty load, you are spending time not earning money.   

The Dangers of Deadhead Trucking  

Driving with an empty load can be dangerous, and truck drivers need to be cautious when doing so. In addition, challenging weather conditions already lead to numerous roadway challenges for trucks. Drivers must be aware of their safety from black ice to high winds.   

According to Freightwaves, “a truck deadheading is 2.5 times more likely to crash.” A load’s weight anchors trucks and becomes more dangerous with less weight. A deadhead truck weighs half as much as a fully loaded truck.   

Weather Causes Chaos   

Severe weather significantly affects travel and safety on the roads. Bridges, more specifically, can cause deadhead drivers a great deal of distress due to the swirling winds. Many deadhead drivers avoid bridges during bad weather due to the lack of weight to hold their trailers down in the high winds. Additionally, drivers take extra precautions during hurricane season due to carrying less weight.   

While drivers do their best to avoid severe weather, it is sometimes unavoidable and causes traffic delays.   

Deadhead Safety Tips  

Truck driving safety courses teach drivers to maneuver in high winds and other road safety lessons. However, navigating through severe weather is quite different, so deadhead drivers need to be incredibly cautious when facing extreme weather. Below are some safety tips.  

  • Know your truck, especially the sail area  
  • Secure doors and loose items.  
  • Travel at reduced speeds to reduce wind force.  
  • Always be up to date on the most recent weather forecasts and travel reports   
  • Be mindful of your surroundings. Look for shaking road signs and grass blowing horizontally.  
  • When uncertain, slow down or pull over to stay safe.  


How to Avoid Deadhead Miles   

Even though deadhead miles are sometimes unavoidable, there are a few things drivers can look for when choosing loads. First, when planning their loads, a driver might want to look for loads that require return material. Having material inside the truck can help keep it weighted, which is good when high winds and snow become a significant factor during winter. If drivers cannot return a load with the same broker, they should check with other brokers in the area, avoiding more extended deadhead mile periods.   

Another way drivers can avoid deadhead miles is by exploring load boards. Load boards are convenient online boards that connect shippers and carriers. Truck drivers can find available loads on their route or other loads in the direction they are heading next. Load boards make it very convenient for truck drivers to avoid extended periods of deadhead miles.   

Decrease Unwanted Deadhead Miles with PLS Logistics Services.   

At PLS Logistics Services, we want to help you gain profit with every load you take with us. Therefore, we offer PLS PRO, our transportation management system (TMS), to all our drivers. PLS PRO gives drivers access to thousands of trucking jobs across the United States to decrease unwanted deadhead miles. PLS PRO is accessible on smartphones and tablets, allowing you to view trucking jobs on the go! It will enable drivers to customize their load searches and view routes and load rates on one platform. PLS PRO makes it easy for drivers to focus on generating more revenue while we care for the rest!   

Contact us to learn more about PLS Logistics Services and how we can help you today!   




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