Deadhead trucking: 3 tips to avoid it

As a professional trucking business, you’re only making money when your vehicles are carrying cargo from point A to point B. When your trucks are driving without cargo between loads, that’s called deadheading - and it has significant costs for your business. Here’s why driving dead head miles can be financially damaging, and how you can avoid deadheading in your business. 

What is deadhead trucking? 

Deadhead trucking is the practice of driving a truck with an empty trailer or flatbed. There are a variety of reasons why drivers might need to deadhead. This most often happens when drivers need to drive home for the night or when they are driving between loads.  Deadheading is often confused with bobtailing, but the two are actually different practices. Bobtailing is the practice of driving a truck without its trailer attached, while deadhead drivers still have the trailer on. 

Why driving deadhead is bad for trucking companies

Driving a deadhead truck is an inefficient practice that costs drivers and trucking companies money. In most cases, drivers aren’t paid for their deadhead miles. Some clients will offer compensation for deadhead miles, but it usually isn’t enough to cover all of the expenses associated with extra driving. 

When you’re deadheading, you’ll also still have to pay the cost of fuel, and drivers will be spending extra time and effort on driving without profiting off of that time. This could be particularly frustrating for drivers that are already overworked with busy schedules. If your drivers are deadheading frequently without proper pay, you will likely struggle with employee retention and morale. 

Additionally, deadhead driving puts additional wear and tear on trucks without any financial payoff. The more you drive, the more preventative maintenance your vehicles will need, and you’ll also be at a higher risk for breakdowns and other emergencies. 

Deadheading not only has a negative impact on your company financially, but it also harms the environment around you. More driving equals more carbon emissions, and this can be particularly harmful when those carbon emissions aren’t directly linked to a shipment. 

In rare cases, deadheading can even be dangerous. Empty trailers are much more difficult to drive than full trailers, and if you encounter severe weather with heavy winds, your truck could potentially crash or fall over. 

3 tips for avoiding deadhead miles

Deadhead miles can be costly for your brand, but luckily, there are things you can do to prevent them and make your trucking routes more efficient. Here are three tips to help you avoid deadhead miles. 

1. Use technology to plan your routes ahead of time

Using a transportation management software (TMS) like Rose Rocket gives you complete visibility of all of your shipping routes. This makes it easier to plan efficient routes and minimize deadheading. The best way to do this is to get in the habit of thinking several steps ahead when planning shipments. Before you dispatch a driver, you should know exactly where they’re going after their shipment is complete. If you encounter a situation where a driver would need to deadhead, use load boards and other client management tools to search for other shipments to add to their route rather than deadheading. 

2. Stick to your schedule

Sticking closely to your pre-planned schedule is another way to avoid deadheading. Shipping delays pile up quickly, so if you’re late dropping off a shipment, you could also end up missing a pickup, which ultimately results in a deadhead trip. As a truck driver, there are always going to be some delays that are out of your control. However, researching your route ahead of time will help you be more prepared and potentially avoid traffic delays. In particular, it’s important to research alternate routes to take in the event of a large traffic jam or weather-related delay. 

3. Prioritize paid deadhead routes

Unfortunately, there will likely still be times when you need to drive a deadhead route, no matter how efficiently you plan your trips. When this happens, make sure to prioritize clients that offer reasonable payment for deadhead miles. While you may not make as much money as you would carrying a full shipment for this distance, you might be able to break even. Many load boards will allow you to search for shipments that offer incentives like deadhead pay. Working with a freight broker can also help you negotiate higher-paying shipments. 

Plan efficient routes with Rose Rocket

Leveraging technology to plan your shipping routes will help you avoid the frustrations that come with deadhead trucking. Want to streamline your trucking business? Get started with Rose Rocket – as the #1 Rated TMS, we’d be happy to help you learn more!

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