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Backhauling Trucking: Unveiling a Game-Changer in Delivery Logistics | Detrack

backhauling trucking

You might have repeatedly heard that backhaul trucking is a game-changer in the logistics industry. However, to properly understand what it entails, you need first to understand why or how it is relevant to the industry.

In 2021, cargo trucks in the EU clocked up a total of 21 billion miles as deadhead mileage, a figure that equals 21.2% of the entire distance traveled by road freight the previous year.  This figure elaborates on how much of an issue deadhead mileage has become. 

Deadhead or empty miles is one of the biggest issues facing the trucking industry. It increases the operational costs of the business due to the increase in fuel consumption and is also counterproductive — it reduces efficiency.

According to Express Freight Finance, running your truck for an average of 120,000 miles a year will result in around 18,000 to 36,000 deadhead or empty miles. If you run dry vans based on the $1.8 per mile national average spot rate, you could potentially lose $67,680 per year in revenue. 

While this is a growing concern for cargo truck companies running deliveries, it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. Enter backhauling trucking — a strategic solution and game-changer that can help your trucking logistics business avoid deadhead or empty miles

In this article, we’ll explain what it means, the benefits it brings to your logistics business, the types, examples, and how to optimize your backhauling trucking process. 

Definition of Backhauling in Trucking

If you’re wondering what is backhauling in trucking, it’s a strategy that can help improve the efficiency of each trip your truck embarks on. It’s an effective way to reduce the cost per mile and eliminate deadhead miles from your logistics business.

The backhauling process involves the addition of several pickup stops to your delivery and transportation routes. The pickups and stops are carefully and selectively planned with the route depending on the amount of cargo they need to be picked up and the truck that’s available to pick up the cargo. 

As a result, all trucks will be utilized and filled with cargo to avoid any unnecessary empty miles while ensuring the trucks don’t exceed their payload capacity. 

Put simply, backhauling in trucking is when a truck picks up several items or packages on its return trip rather than driving back empty. It’s important to transport efficiently because it helps prevent time waste, and saves fuel, and money. 

backhauling trucking

5 Benefits of backhauling 

As a logistics owner or someone starting a trucking company, it is essential to understand the several benefits of backhaul in logistics in order to capitalize on them properly. For starters, backhauling helps to reduce the cost of transportation, giving you a competitive edge over others. It also helps to increase the efficiency of your operation, lower carbon footprint, and enhance your supply chain. 

Let’s look at these benefits in detail below.

It saves fuel and reduces transportation cost

While some logistics businesses identify short haul trucking as an alternative way to avoid mileage from deadheading and the expensive cost of transporting packages due a higher fuel consumption, backhaul logistics can help reduce transportation costs. 

Additionally, when customers use your truck’s return trip to carry extra loads, you can easily generate money from that trip to reduce the cost of transportation and offer special discounts to regular customers. 

Maximize operational efficiency

Delivery companies involved in line haul transportation can maximize their overall operational efficiency through backhauling, which improves the efficiency of load planning. When delivering goods over long distances, using the trucks to their maximum capacity is essential. With backhauling, you can efficiently plan the truck’s load. 

It also helps improve the quality of service your business offers by allowing you to expand the availability of your services to provide immediate help to your customers. For instance, as an owner of a trucking business, if one of your trucks is delivering a large shipment of customer’s goods to a nearby state and will return with some extra items without exhausting the truck’s space. 

You can put out an ad stating you have space to transport extra cargo from the state where the initial goods were delivered back to your state. It allows the business to make extra money by delivering more goods without making an extra trip.

Lower carbon footprint

Sustainability is an essential aspect of the transportation industry. Ensuring your business doesn’t contribute to an increasing level of carbon emission in the environment is vital. Anytime your trucks make an empty trip back to the warehouse, it’s an unnecessary journey that not only results in fuel wastage but also increases carbon footprint. 

Businesses transporting packages and products in the transportation and trucking industry are directly responsible for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. So as a business owner in this industry, improving the sustainability of the environment is important in winning new customers. 

Enter backhauling. It’s a carbon reduction strategy that helps make your business environmentally safe. Backhauling helps you to reduce the time your trucks spend making empty return trips, thereby lowering the amount of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions that directly affect the climate and environment. 

Increased asset utilization

Properly using backhauling can help the business scale its operation as it’ll be able to provide services to more clients. When the number of deadhead mileage is reduced, there will be more available trucks and drivers, meaning the business can increase the utilization of its assets to serve more customers within the same time frame. 

Also, having your drivers carry freight while making return trips is a great way to efficiently utilize personnel and trucks, which increases their productivity and improves the company’s revenue.

Creates new business opportunities 

When return trips are used to carry goods for third parties, it can open up opportunities for future collaborations. As a delivery truck business owner, you can make use of brokers to find several businesses along your truck’s frequent route that need hauling service. That way, you can form a potential long-term partnership that can expand your business’s scope. 

backhauling trucking

What are the Differences between Internal vs. External Backhauling?

There are basically two types of backhauling in the trucking business. They’re internal and external backhauling. Below is an in-depth explanation of them both. 

Internal backhauling operations and strategies

As the name implies, internal backhauling is a logistics strategy used by mainly production companies to transport their products or goods. A common example involves a company delivering its finished goods to a different location and then using the return trip to pick up raw materials and components necessary for manufacturing more finished goods or products  

Let’s look at a bottling delivery service, for instance. When the driver drops off new bottled drinks, he then picks up empty crates of bottles to take back to the factory so they can be used for making more bottled drinks. Internal backhauling often depends on the availability of other clients or suppliers on the return route of the truck. 

Additionally, it helps trucking companies improve their efficiency by optimizing and maximizing their operations according to what they can carry internally instead of relying on external sources for all shipments. 

External backhauling processes 

This type of backhauling process involves the transportation of third-party cargo and goods on the truck’s return trip. It’s the main type of backhauling that private trucking companies, reverse logistics, and fleets use since most large companies outsource their transportation and shipping to lower their costs. 

Unlike internal backhauling, which requires synchronization and communication between the company’s employees or departments, external backhauling requires constant communication between the carrier and other carriers in the area. It involves working with broking companies that can arrange the transportation of goods for other carriers. 

Major Costs Involved in Backhauling

While backhauling can be effectively used to minimize the cost of freight transportation and reduce deadheading, there are still expenses or costs that can affect backhauling and make it less profitable. 

So before engaging in backhauling, below are some costs you need to consider. 


Backhauling is a great way to improve the efficiency of fuel usage. However, fuel remains a fundamental and basic cost for all truck operations. As a result, a fully loaded truck weighs more or is heavier and, therefore, needs more fuel than a less loaded or empty truck picking up extra freight on its way back. 

Also, the extra detours or stops may also add to the total fuel consumed, which means an increased cost for fuel. 

Driver’s compensation

When drivers perform a backhauling operation, it can increase their expected pay for the round trip since it might include some stops where freight will be loaded and unloaded. However, it’s still a more cost-effective option for the driver and truck returning back empty.


The cost of maintaining the trucks is also another expense involved in backhauling. Since the trucks will be loaded while going and coming, there’s a greater chance that some parts might require maintenance.

However, since most trucking logistics companies often calculate backhauling on a per-mile basis, you can lower the cost of maintenance by making sure your trucks use the shortest and fastest possible route. 

backhauling trucking

How to Optimize your backhauling trucking process

The importance of backhauling to a shipping and logistics business cannot be overemphasized. However, it’s often difficult to manually manage the process. Explained below are ways you can utilize Detrack’s management system to streamline the backhauling process through the automation of routes and optimizing driver scheduling. 

Automatically plan routes for backhauling efficiency

Having a list of several routes for your trucks makes backhauling trucking way much easier and more efficient. Detrack’s add on, ElasticRoute, high-speed route optimization can help you reduce fuel consumption and improve backhauling. When combined with line haul transportation and trucking, it’ll allow you to optimize your delivery operations and ensure that goods are delivered efficiently. All you need to do is add ElasticRoute to your workflow, easily customize your routes, and add pickup locations to allow your trucks to backhaul customers’ freight without extra miles or fuel wastage. The interface makes it super easy to add or remove vehicles and drivers from your fleet and adjust delivery routes as needed. 

Account for vehicle size and capacity

The size and capacity of each truck is an essential factor to consider before using it for backhauling. Each truck often has its payload capacity and the number of packaged boxes that can fit into it. By accounting for the capacity and size, you’d be able to avoid overloading, which can result in damage. 

It also gives a good knowledge of the exact space available on each truck after delivering the customer’s freight before planning any pickups. 

Optimize driver scheduling for backhaul trips

Driver scheduling allows you to assign drivers to specific shifts or routes in the trucking operation. This can involve creating schedules for the drivers and dispatching them to various locations. It also involves managing their time and activities throughout the workday.

Detrack‘s driver scheduling is the perfect way to streamline your backhauling trips. It helps you easily assign drivers that are available to pick up customer’s freight on their way back. 

Utilize multi-stop route planning 

Multi-stop route planning is a dynamic way of optimizing delivery in the logistics industry. In the trucking business, it involves creating an effective route that connects several stops or destinations. 

Since some backhauling trips often involve long routes that keep the drivers on the road for days, using a multi-stop planner will help you account for the trip’s entire duration and include overnight stops for the driver before continuing the trip the next day. 


Backhauling is vital to the trucking business. It helps to improve fuel efficiency and save costs, thereby increasing revenue generated which is why most businesses are adopting the practice. Aside from that, it also maximizes operational efficiency and creates more business opportunities for those involved. One of the most important reasons why backhauling should be adopted is because it promotes a more sustainable and efficient transportation industry since it lowers carbon footprint by reducing the time your trucks spend making empty return trips. 


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