Reduce Deadhead in Trucking: How a TMS Limits Empty & Idle Miles

Deadhead in Trucking leads to empty miles.

With more sustainability initiatives taking hold in enterprises, more logistics and freight professionals are asking what is deadhead in trucking? How can reducing deadhead in trucking help increased sustainability? 

Deadhead in trucking refers to miles driven by a truck that is empty or has unused space. Spending money on gas and other operating costs while not generating revenue exemplifies the inefficiency of deadhead. 

Reducing deadhead in trucking helps carriers make more money and profits. Shippers, too, can make more by tapping into all available capacity aggregated by using digital freight matching capabilities within a world-class TMS.

Now, using digital freight matching will optimize efficiency and explore additional opportunities to reduce empty miles, which means deadhead rates should decrease while profits continue to rise. However, there’s another benefit: reduced carbon emissions. 

With companies around the globe growing more conscious of their impact on the environment, it makes sense that using a TMS to enable end-to-end optimization, reducing waste, and improving efficiency will help achieve those goals. Of course, shippers need to know a few things about the causes of deadheading, which is perhaps the biggest antagonist to increasing carbon emissions, and how a TMS helps prevent it.

The Causes of Deadhead in Trucking

Empty miles happen when complicated routing arises and causes increased inefficiency and imbalances in shipment flow. 

An imbalance in shipment flow occurs when shipping facilities are very dispersed or otherwise operating at subpar levels. This makes it difficult to match large demands for outgoing loads with incoming shipments. Empty loads and excess idle time cause air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and congestion. 

Larger fleets have a stronger reserve of working capital to invest in route optimization technology, but smaller carriers might lack visibility to create efficient routes to avoid waste. However, it’s not a lost cause.

Why a TMS Reduces Empty, Idle Miles and Carbon Emissions

A software solution that connects loads with drivers, also called digital freight matching, can provide better options to avoid deadheading. 

For example, matching the driver with a nearby delivery if the destination is on the driver’s existing route. As empty miles cause avoidable emissions, a TMS can aid in making sure backhauls gain coverage and the empty miles decrease. 

Deadheading is not associated solely with a completely empty truck; any wasted space amounts to empty miles and excess pollution. As technology in transportation has evolved, today’s trucks will burn around the same amount of fuel regardless of the amount of load transported. There is some variation, but the whole takeaway must be the same: shippers need to ensure that they are maximizing all available space because the emissions will occur whether the truck is 50% or 90% full. 

Inbound Logistics expands on this point, stating how technology ensures “empty deadhead miles are reduced, shippers pay less, and drivers are paid more. Shared truckload shipments save up to 40% of greenhouse gas emissions primarily driven by inefficient asset utilization.” 

In freight, waste means that more fuel is consumed, more carbon is emitted, and drivers spend more hours sitting idle. New advancements in technology and data analytics can provide carriers and shippers with the tools to make progress toward real reductions in deadheading. That must include meaningful improvements to reduce idle time. 

Remember, no one wants to sit in a hot cab, so idle time will lead to more fuel consumed. And by maximizing the space on every move, it amounts to fewer miles total, reducing net emissions and helping your supply chain reduce its impact on the environment.

Reduce Deadhead in Trucking Through Technology-Connected Transportation

Along with considering the topic of what is deadhead in trucking, it is equally important to fully grasp the negative effect deadheading can have on supply chains. 

Optimizing technology and network communications are critical for gaining efficiencies that drive improvement. To optimize processes and increase overall efficiency while decreasing deadhead, additional opportunities to apply technology and system integration include:

  • Leveraging data to reduce carbon emissions, which can provide a more sustainable and efficient supply chain by helping your team identify where waste occurs.
  • Reducing empty miles, which not only helps carriers make more money and profits but it also helps shippers tap into all available capacity aggregated via digital freight matching tools.
  • Technology also helps users bundle low- and high-volume lanes together at a discount to add more appeal for the shippers to travel the route.
  • Using technology also will help LSPs earn the loyalty of shippers, increase the possibility for closed-loop routes, and more.
  • Load bundling can further allow carriers to consolidate two loads, which can also maximize the paid time on a trip. Load bundling also reduces the time carriers spend browsing through available loads and combining the trips.
  • Tracking the full shipment lifecycle across all modes to identify opportunities to leverage more fuel-efficient transportation, such as shipping by ground rather than air when possible.

Improve Transportation Efficiency

Improving transportation efficiency and solving the issue of deadhead can easily be achieved with a world-class TMS. Carriers and shippers can reduce the risk of deadhead while increasing profit flows with the right tech stack and systems in place. Request a MercuryGate demo to see the advantages of digital freight matching and improve efficiency.

See the advantages of digital freight matching and improve efficiency.


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