Sustainability & Backhaul In Trucking: How to Remove Empty Miles

Remove empty miles and support sustainability with shipments utilizing backhaul in trucking.

Improving sustainability in trucking requires a fresh look at everything in the industry. It’s time to find better ways to do what we have always been doing in an effort to reduce emissions. One area we can focus on is empty miles, which adds to emissions without any benefit to the industry. Taking a renewed look at backhaul in trucking to reduce the act of “shipping air” is a great way to cut emissions while improving driver safety, enhancing efficiency, and creating more revenue.

What Is Backhaul in Trucking?

In the trucking industry, backhaul refers to a vehicle making its shipment of freight to the destination and then carrying a shipment on the return trip., That shipment may be a full, partial, or less-than-truckload shipment.

A backhaul shipment has a lower rate than headhauls, yet it still brings in revenue for the return trip and is the more sustainable option. Rather than running empty miles as a deadhead, the truck’s return trip is utilized with a shipment.

How “Empty Miles” or “Shipping Air” Is Costly in Carbon Emissions and Total Carbon Footprint

Shipping is one of the industries that can impact carbon emissions most by making positive changes. This can happen in many ways, and backhauling is one of them.

In the U.S., about 36% of heavy-duty trucks run empty, which is higher in Asia. Since transportation and logistics make up more than 20% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, it’s essential to consider possible changes. Rather than contributing emissions on empty loads, backhaul in trucking offers a simple fix that makes a significant difference.

If backhauling can help, why isn’t it happening more?
In general, it’s challenging to find a load for the return journey. Shippers often don’t have the time and focus on investing in executing spot market contracts and allocating driver hours for backhauling. They simply need the truck and driver to make the delivery and return to pick up the next shipment. Ongoing carrier relationships and contracts can also stand in the way.

7 Tips to Reduce Empty Miles and Empty Backhaul in Trucking

Fortunately, it’s possible to turn things around and fully utilize trucks and drivers for both legs of a journey. Here are some ways backhaul in trucking is possible:

Maximize Trailer Utilization
Know how much of each trailer is in use and utilize the full trailer completely. Technology like wireless doors and load sensors makes filling the entire trailer easier. By gaining more information, you can better plan each trailer’s usage.
Use a TMS and Digital Freight Matching Tools
Advanced shipping technology makes it much easier to match a truck with a shipment. For instance, digital freight matching tools allow shippers and carriers to find each other and match up based on the suitable capacity for a shipment. The two parties can use these tools to conduct a search or rely on machine learning and automation tools to create matches.
A transportation management system (TMS) supports the process of utilizing a trailer. It brings together information on shipments and digital freight networks, which facilitates finding spot market capacity for a shipment.
Use Consolidation Strategies

Freight pooling allows you to consolidate numerous LTL shipments into one shipment that goes to a pool point, where it is then sorted for final mile delivery. Consolidation ideas include zone skipping, fanning into a consolidation center, or setting up consolidated loads that are fanned out after reaching a distribution center.

Use a Sharing Economy Model

Through a sharing economy and shared resources, everyone is better able to consolidate and reduce empty miles. A sharing economy features peer-to-peer activity and transactions to facilitate the best processes, in this case, utilizing trailer space and cutting down on shipping air.

Optimize Routes in Real Time
Among other benefits, route optimization can reduce inefficiency, especially for LTL and last-mile delivery. Real-time data creates more visibility, allowing shippers to create the best route design to minimize shipping air.
Rely on Private and Dedicated Fleets

A good private or dedicated fleet program can cut down on empty miles while providing cost-cutting benefits. It may be more possible to access private fleet capacity and reduce shipping air.

Tap Into Trailer Pools & Programs
Trailer pools can help create more efficiency with shipping. Trailer pools allow carriers to drop a group of trailers at facilities for loading and unloading separate from the carrier.

Calculate your potential Saving While Using an enterprise TMS

The Role of Digital Freight Networks

Efforts to improve backhaul in trucking can significantly impact the industry’s efficiency and sustainability. To learn more about setting up backhauling, read our eBook on the role of digital freight networks in matching freight with capacity.

Learn how Digital Freight Networks Are Removing Empty Miles

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