Reduce Deadheading to Increase Sustainability

08/22/2023 by Christine Morris

Reduce Deadheading to Increase Sustainability

Motor carriers aren’t the only ones affected by deadheading.

While every mile driven takes a toll on the environment, research shows that deadhead miles account for over a third of carbon emissions in trucking. In fact, 36 percent of trucks travel empty in the U.S. every day, averaging roughly 61 billion miles deadheading every year.

Simply put, deadheading is an inefficiency problem within the logistics industry, one that we all know we need to improve. According to a survey by Convoy, 69 percent of respondents said reducing deadhead miles is important to them. By reducing deadhead miles, both shippers and carriers can slash their supply chain costs while also making an environmental impact.


Deadheading, deadhead miles, or empty miles – they all mean the same thing – that a truck is driving empty. Usually, this happens once a driver has made a delivery to the receiver, and they don’t have freight to pick up until their next destination. This means they drive empty back to the original shipping point or to their next pickup location. Empty miles waste time for a carrier by failing to generate revenue. It also causes them to incur extra operating costs and contribute more emissions into our atmosphere.

Ideally, the most efficient use of a carrier’s time is finding a backhaul shipment. This is a nearby shipment that needs to be picked up and delivered close to or at their next destination, so either their pickup origin or next pickup.


We’ve already discussed how deadheading contributes to C02 emissions and how carriers lose money running deadhead miles, but what about shippers? How are they affected?

Well, those carriers need to make up the money and time they lost deadheading somehow. They’re likely to charge a higher rate on their following shipments to do so.

Also, driving empty miles can be dangerous when severe weather occurs. A truck can weigh about half its weight empty than when it’s full, making it more susceptible to accidents. While truck drivers are trained in managing high winds and road safety, that’s often with a full truck and not an empty one. The same winds that shake a passenger car have been known to flip an empty truck.


It’s often difficult for a carrier to find their own backhauls, nor do shippers have the time to focus and invest their time in them. They need the truck to pick up and deliver and return to pick up the next shipment, not thinking of the in-between. Other carrier relationships and contracted shipments can get in the way, making it difficult to arrange or find backhauls.


It’s possible for shippers to keep backhauls for carriers in mind to both help keep carrier relationships moving and make headway on sustainability initiatives.

Make Use of Technology

Technology makes it much easier to match a truck with an available shipment. You can make use of digital freight matching (DFM) tools like Trucker Tools or DAT, which give shippers and carriers an easier way to find each other and match up based on suitable capacity for a shipment. Automation and machine learning in those applications help quickly find and create those matches.

transportation management system (TMS) can also be helpful here. A TMS brings together information on all shipments and digital freight networks to help make sure trailers are utilized fully and backhauls gain the coverage they need. A TMS also gives you the opportunity to optimize your routes to reduce any deadheading.

Consider Consolidating Your Freight

Combining your partial shipments into a full truckload to one distribution point to then be delivered by a regional carrier or vice versa can allow for fewer empty miles and trucks on the road, saving you money and reducing your emissions.

Consider Continuous Move Planning

This plan involves stringing loads together to make the most of fleet utilization and driver time by bundling low-volume and high-volume lanes together. Carriers will add lanes across many customers, creating closed-loop routes to keep freight moving constantly. As a benefit, shippers often receive per-mile rates since they are making use of a carrier’s empty miles. This can be a bit more complex, but with a TMS and proper communication, can be an effective way to reduce deadheading.


Deadheading is an industry-wide problem that we all need to work on together to resolve. Carriers need to dedicate time for searching and finding backhauls, just as shippers need to work with carriers to reduce their empty miles. That’s one way an intermediary, a 3PL like Trinity Logistics, can step in and help. We can work with both parties to arrange shipments so that each company has its unique needs met.

We have over 40 years of experience arranging shipments between shippers and carriers. Our Team of experts can help shippers plan and organize their shipments and recommend freight consolidation strategies when it’s suitable. We also have a Carrier Development Team dedicated to growing our carrier relationships by learning their wants and needs. We reach out and gather their preferred lanes and capacity to better match them to available shipments to keep them moving and generating revenue.

Trinity Logistics is also recognized as a Green Supply Chain partner for its sustainability initiatives and solutions available to offer shippers more options for their logistics that can reduce their carbon emissions.

If you’d like to talk to one of our experts about your shipping needs and find more sustainable options, click the button below so we can get started.