June 22, 2021

In-Depth Analysis: The Problem with Empty Backhaul Miles

Empty backhaul miles are expensive, wasteful, and a nuisance. As a reminder, backhaul miles refer to the trip a truck makes when returning from a delivery, and more often than not, these miles are driven with no cargo, traditionally referred to as empty miles. Unfortunately, a large number of both private and dedicated fleets end up driving empty backhaul miles, which is not only lost revenue, it’s unsustainable, and even unsafe for drivers.

What leads to empty backhaul miles?

Shippers who have a dedicated fleet or their own private fleet to take care of deliveries and pickups generally don't have a solution in place that is designed to find loads for the backhaul portion of the drive. Why? Simply put, the shipper’s main goal is to make sure their goods are delivered on schedule, and that their trucks return in time to get the next round of merchandise out. Shippers typically do not have the bandwidth or time—their focus and expertise lie in customer experience and engagement—to address one-off spot market contracts, or to manage drivers to ensure they don’t run out of hours. Shippers already have enough on their plate as it is! If they’re going to focus on backhaul miles, they need a dedicated, recurring, and scheduled backhaul, just like their headhaul.

If shippers were to get loads on their backhaul drive, in many ways, they would be competing with brokers to provide equivalent services by facilitating those loads. These shippers would need to implement a system to address insurance, risk, and contracts, along with payment collection and management. All of these factors lead to increased operational costs, making it rather undesirable. Only in the case of mega retailers like Amazon or Pepsi, with freight costs up into the billions of dollars, would this kind of arrangement become a somewhat practical idea.

How can Dedicated or Private Fleet Owners Make a Change?

We believe that through collaboration, fleet owners can be sure any time they put a truck out on the road, it is optimally utilized. In fact, we can prove it! Over the past 6 months we’ve worked with a retailer to bring about some real change.

Before SemiCab:

A retailer with a private fleet operated by following prescribed routes between manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, wholesalers and retailers, and company domiciles. Though this worked to address their headhaul miles, it also limited their ability to find non-competitive freight to move their backhaul miles. This meant their system led to an increasing amount of waste—time on the road driving empty trucks, unnecessary carbon emissions, and most importantly, wasted opportunity.

After SemiCab:

In an effort to become more sustainable and to fill empty backhaul miles, this retailer joined the SemiCab platform. In doing so, they gained transparency into the network, and had immediate access to all loads available within the SemiCab ecosystem. This allowed them to pick and choose which loads they could piggy-back on for their return journeys. With SemiCab’s proprietary prediction optimization algorithm, this retailer was able to fill their empty backhaul miles without having to shift focus from running their business.

The Result:

This retailer is recouping transportation costs by filling empty backhaul miles on recurring freight lanes due to SemiCab’s Predictive Optimization™ algorithms. This improves their carbon footprint, provides a safer environment for their drivers, and fosters collaboration for all who participate within the SemiCab ecosystem.

Banishing Empty Backhaul Miles, Together

SemiCab was created to build an equitable ecosystem by bringing transparency to the freight industry. We’re committed to helping shippers and 3PLs alike find the right backhaul opportunity, so that they can increase revenue and improve sustainability. With our proprietary prediction optimization algorithm, dedicated fleet owners can thrive by joining the SemiCab platform.

If you’re looking for ways to eliminate empty backhaul miles, let us help. Watch our Webinar, How to Monetize Empty Miles in a Private or Dedicated Fleet, and gain further insight into the issue from industry experts.


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