Eliminating Deadhead Miles in Trucking

Freight efficiency has always been a focus of trucking. While the fuel economy of the average heavy-duty truck has improved almost 20% since the early 1980s, the percentage of miles that carriers drive empty

hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years. Referred to as “deadhead” miles, the industry average has long hovered at around 35%.


Deadhead miles means waste.  A heavy-duty truck traveling down the road empty means those operating costs will have to be built into rates where possible. Also, with the renewed concerns about global warming, those wasted miles are contributing considerable carbon emissions into the environment, adding to global warming.

The Economic and Environmental Costs of Deadhead Miles

Inflating rates to cover the expense of deadheading means pushing up freight expenses for shippers and consumers. Owner-operators have to adjust their rates upward or face the reality of paying deadhead costs out-of-pocket. While company drivers typically get paid for deadhead mileage and some trucking companies will pay for deadhead mileage after the first 100 miles, in the end, it is the consumer who ultimately picks up the bill.


Environmental costs of deadheading are a real concern. Running trucks down the highway while empty translates into lots of carbon dioxide emissions spewed into the atmosphere. It is estimated that as much as 10% of the 440 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually associated with U.S. medium-and heavy-duty freight hauling is attributed to deadhead mileage. That’s equal to one-month of Canada’s annual carbon emissions!

Ways to Reduce Deadhead Miles

Technology is now available that offers real-time load matching opportunities pushed straight to a driver’s smartphone. This is particularly good for owner-operators. Applications, such as GoLoad, provide this service by combining the power of the mobile cloud and GPS technology to streamline and add value to drivers’ routes. These apps can even be integrated with ELDs and HOS.


Logistics platforms are available for shippers and carriers, providing real-time tracking and notifications that eliminate deadhead miles. Using GPS technology, logistics platforms can send carriers local jobs instantly, eliminating time usually spent at load boards. When carriers can find loads via location instead of traveling back with an empty trailer, shippers receive better rates, drivers don’t have to waste time, extra trips are eliminated and the entire process is streamlined.

As a driver recruiting, leasing and outsourcing firm for the trucking industry since 2001, DriverSource works with an assortment of third party logistics services, carriers, and private fleets. We use and support any application of new technology among our workforce and with our customers that will reduce wastes associated with deadheading in the industry.


Bill D for DriverSource