What are deadhead miles?


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

Define 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 that they are 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

Company drivers usually do not have to worry about this, but independent contractors do. According to the DAT Trendlines (as of December 16th), the national average fuel price per gallon is $3.65. 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, he is experiencing 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.

Is deadhead trucking dangerous?

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

According to Freightwaves, “a truck deadheading is 2.5 times more likely to crash.” Trucks are anchored by the weight of a load and become more dangerous with less weight. A deadhead truck weighs half as much as a fully loaded truck. With winter approaching, hazardous weather conditions come with it. For example, a truck could dangerously sway back and forth with heavy winds, making the driver lose control or, even worse, flip over. Both scenarios are dangerous, making truckers drive with more caution when their truck is half its average weight. The dangers of deadheading alone are reasons to try to avoid deadhead miles.

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 the winter months. If a driver 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 find 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

At PLS Logistics Services, we want to help you gain profit with every load you take with us. Therefore, we offer PLS PRO to all our drivers. Our load board called PLS PRO gives drivers access to thousands of trucking jobs across the United States in hopes of decreasing 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 in one easy platform. PLS PRO makes it easy for drivers to focus on generating more revenue while we take care of the rest!

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

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