The High Cost of Shipping Air: How a TMS Reduces Empty and Idle Miles

The High Cost of Shipping Air: How a TMS Reduces Empty and Idle Miles

With more sustainability initiatives taking hold in enterprises, more logistics and freight professionals are asking what does deadhead mean in trucking and how reducing deadhead may help in these initiatives. Deadhead in trucking refers to miles driven by a truck that is empty or has unused space, sometimes referred to in the industry as “shipping air.” Spending money on gas and other operating costs, while not generating revenue, signifies the inefficiency of deadhead. Reducing deadhead not only helps carriers make more money and profits, but shippers can also avoid unnecessary costs associated with fuel surcharges and consumption by helping carriers avoid empty miles.

Using digital freight matching will optimize efficiency and explore additional opportunities to lower 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, reduce waste, and improve 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 causes inefficiency, and imbalances in shipment flow increase. 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 gases, 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. It’s not only empty miles for 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 loaded status. 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 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.

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Additional Opportunities to Reduce Idle Miles Through 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 gaining network communication 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 can provide a more sustainable and efficient supply chain by helping your team identify where waste occurs.
  • Reducing empty miles not only helps carriers make more money and profits, but it helps shippers that can 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 will help LSPs, brokers and freight forwarders earn the loyalty of shippers, increasing 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 With the MercuryGate TMS Now

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 flow with the right tech stack and systems in place. 

See the advantages of digital freight matching and improve efficiency.

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