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Truckers’ guide to practical vs short miles

Navigating the roadways is more than just a day’s work for truck drivers; it’s a puzzle of logistics and economics. The concept of practical miles and short miles often comes into play, directly influencing truck driver pay and operational efficiency. 

This article aims to unravel the complexities of these two mileage calculations, helping you understand how to count miles and improve truck route planning.

What is practical route mileage?

In the transportation industry, practical miles refer to the most commonly driven routes between two points, as opposed to the shortest possible distance. This is crucial in truck route planning as it offers a more accurate estimate for truck driver pay. 

Practical miles consider real-world trucking problems, such as road restrictions and traffic conditions. Understanding practical miles can also contribute to logistics optimization and improved trucking fuel economy. It’s a vital metric often used in calculating how truck drivers get paid, and can be determined through a truck miles calculator. 

What is short route mileage?

Short route mileage refers to the shortest distance between two points, often using the most direct roads and paths. Unlike practical miles, short route mileage doesn’t take into account real-world truck route planner considerations like traffic, road quality, or truck-specific restrictions. 

While it might offer the shortest route from point A to point B, it can result in truck issues like lower trucking fuel economy or increased truck maintenance. Short route mileage can be found using a trucking mileage calculator, but it may not be the most efficient option for truck route planning.

Practical vs short miles

In the world of freight, the terms practical miles and short miles play a crucial role in determining truck driver pay and route efficiency. This section delves into the pros and cons of each, offering insights for better truck route planning and load optimization.

Practical route mileage


  • Logistics optimization: More realistic planning improves efficiency in the transport industry.
  • Truck driver pay: Provides a better metric for trucker compensation, as it reflects actual driving conditions.
  • Takes challenges into account: Addresses real-world issues like road restrictions, aiding in effective truck route planning.
  • Trucking fuel economy: Usually more fuel-efficient routes because they consider traffic patterns and road quality.


  • Longer route distances: May not be the shortest route from point A to B, leading to more miles driven.
  • Complexity: Requires sophisticated trucking mileage calculator for accuracy.
  • May not account for all trucking problems: Can still encounter unexpected issues like road closures or detours.

Short miles


  • Quick trips: Ideal for time-sensitive deliveries, adhering to the concept of “what is the shortest route.”
  • Simplicity: Easier to calculate with a truck distance calculator, reducing trucking problems related to planning.
  • Truck driver pay: Could benefit drivers who are paid by the job and not by the mile, affecting truck driver pay.
  • Fuel savings: Potentially lower fuel consumption due to shorter distance, contributing to better truck fuel economy.


  • Truck challenges: May encounter roads not suitable for trucks, increasing truck maintenance and reducing trucking fuel economy.
  • Inaccuracy: Doesn’t reflect the real-world driving experience, affecting logistics optimization in the freight industry.
  • Legal issues: Risk of breaking transport regulations if the short route involves roads with weight or height restrictions.

Understanding the pros and cons of short vs practical miles can help in effective truck route planning.

What is a hub mile?

A hub mile, also known as an odometer mile, is a measurement of the actual distance a truck travels, as recorded by the vehicle’s odometer. Unlike other methods like practical miles or short miles, hub miles include all the distances covered during detours, rerouting, or even idling in a parking lot. This makes it the most accurate form of mileage tracking from the truck’s point of departure to its destination. 

However, it’s worth noting that because hub miles account for every twist and turn, they may not serve as the most practical basis for truck driver pay or truck route planning. While they offer the most granular level of distance measurement, using hub miles for compensation can lead to problems or disputes over what constitutes necessary travel. Therefore, understanding hub miles is important both for drivers concerned about how much owner operators make, as well as for companies focused on logistics optimization in the transport industry.

What to consider in truckers’ compensation

When considering truck driver pay, multiple factors should be taken into account to ensure fair compensation. Here are some aspects to consider:

  1. Type of pay: Determine whether the pay is by the mile, by the load, or hourly. This impacts how truck drivers get paid.
  2. Practical miles vs actual miles: Knowing the difference can be essential for determining how to calculate truck driver pay accurately.
  3. Bonuses: Performance, safety, and retention bonuses can boost overall compensation.
  4. Benefits: Health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits add value beyond basic pay.
  5. Detention and layover pay: Compensation for waiting time at shipper or receiver can be a crucial aspect of truck driver pay.
  6. Breakdown pay: Given that truck challenges like breakdowns happen, breakdown pay for truck drivers should be considered.
  7. Loaded miles vs empty miles: Distinguish between pay for carrying a load and returning empty.
  8. Team truck driving jobs: For those in team driving, the split of pay and responsibilities should be clear.
  9. Cost of living: Regional differences in the cost of living can drastically affect how far a truck driver’s pay goes.
  10. Trucking problems: Address how to handle compensation around delays due to weather, traffic, or other trucking issues.
  11. How often do truck drivers get paid: Frequency of pay, whether weekly, every two weeks, or monthly, is important for financial planning.

Understanding these elements is vital for logistics optimization in the transport industry.

Maximize your earning potential

Understanding the nuances between practical miles and short miles is essential for optimizing your earnings and navigating the challenges of the transport industry. Whether you’re an owner operator or a salaried driver, your choice of mileage calculation can make a big difference. 


How do CDL drivers get paid?

CDL drivers usually are paid by the mile, by the hour, or by the load. Bonuses, detention pay, and benefits can also contribute to their overall compensation package.

How are miles calculated in trucking?

Miles in trucking can be calculated in multiple ways, such as practical miles, short miles, or hub miles. Each applies its own methodology. The method used often depends on the employer’s policies and affects how truck drivers get paid.

What is a practical route?

A practical route is a path between two points that takes into account real-world driving conditions. These include speed limits, traffic patterns, and road restrictions. It aims for a balance between the shortest distance and the quickest time. It’s often used in truck route planning to optimize efficiency and fuel usage.

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