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What Is Backhaul Trucking? 

Backhaul trucking is an important model that helps carriers maximize profits, reduce fuel waste and put more money in the pockets of their drivers. Modern back hauling involves picking up a second load immediately after dropping off the initial freight. 

To qualify as back hauling, the second load must meet two specific criteria. First, it must be located in the same city or close in proximity to the original load. More importantly, the delivery destination should be near the truck’s point of origin. In other words, it needs to be located in the same county or city. 

This article will further answer the question of, “What is backhaul trucking?” and explore the benefits that this model provides.

How Does Backhaul Trucking Work?

The basic premise of back hauling is quite simple. Truckers pick up loads near drop-off points to limit dead mileage. To better drive home this concept, let’s look at deadheading, which is the alternative to backhaul trucking.

Deadheading involves picking up a load, hauling it to its destination and driving straight back to the point of origin with an empty truck. When using this approach, all return mileage is wasteful because the driver is consuming fuel and putting strain on the vehicle but not generating any revenue. 

Conversely, backhaul trucking allows drivers to turn a profit en route back to their point of origin. This setup leads to a decreased cost per mile and greater overall revenue.

Backhaul Trucking Options

Backhaul trucking can be grouped into two broad categories, including internal back hauling and external back hauling. 

Internal Back Hauling

Internal back hauling involves arranging return loads within your existing supply chain network. Large companies with their own fleets use this type of back hauling. A few examples include Walmart and Amazon.

You can use internal back hauling even if you are an independent owner-operator or manage a smaller carrier. When using internal back hauling from this capacity, you will need to coordinate with your normal group of clients to book secondary loads. 

The downside to internal back hauling is that opportunities may be limited, especially if you serve a relatively linear supply chain. Fortunately, you can supplement your supply chain with external back hauling. 

External Back Hauling

Drivers can arrange external back hauling independently or via the use of dispatching services. Many trucking companies, especially smaller ones, prefer the latter. These outsourced service providers have the time and resources necessary to manage the complex logistics of organizing backhaul loads.

External back hauling involves arranging backhaul loads with clients outside of your normal network. You’ll find that external back hauling is a bit more complicated than the internal alternative option. However, it becomes easier as you develop relationships with shippers and brokers. 

How Can Backhaul Trucking Help With Efficiency?

Backhaul trucking solves several common efficiency challenges. First and foremost, this approach ensures that truckers have meaningful work to do instead of deadheading. Additionally, backhaul trucking reduces truckers’ unpaid mileage. This reduction can boost morale and improve driver pay, which will help you retain talented drivers. 

Thirdly, backhaul trucking allows you to reduce unnecessary wear and tear on your fleet. Remember, every single deadhead mile is costing you money. On the other hand, backhaul mileage generates revenue and offsets vehicle operating expenses. 

What To Consider With Backhaul Trucking

If you are contemplating using back hauling, here are a few important factors to consider. 

Fuel Costs

Although backhaul trucking is far more efficient and cost-effective than deadheading, it will drive up return trip fuel costs. Drivers will now be returning in trucks that are fully loaded, as opposed to empty. However, these added costs are easily offset by the extra revenue you will be generating with the return load. 

Equipment Expenses

Back hauling will significantly reduce your overall equipment expenses. It reduces unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicles. 

Additionally, you can close gaps in your ability to meet client needs by offering back hauling services. In turn, this will allow you to haul more freight with fewer trucks, thereby further reducing your overhead expenses. 


When you start back hauling, your per truck maintenance costs may rise slightly. Your vehicles will now be spending more time under load. As such, brakes and other key components might need to be replaced more frequently. Once again, the additional profits you will be generating should far exceed any additional expenses you incur.

Driver Pay

When drivers are back hauling, they generate more revenue for the business and earn better wages. In this sense, backhaul trucking represents a true win-win for employers and their drivers. 

Therefore, businesses of all sizes should explore this hauling strategy, as it will help them retain quality talent and remain more competitive in the ever-evolving trucking industry.

Fleet Costs

One of the few drawbacks of back hauling is that it will increase your total fleet costs. You will incur more fuel expenses, toll fees and so on. With that in mind, it is important to calculate these costs as you begin to incorporate backhaul trucking into your business model. 

You will receive a strong return on these expenses, but it may take several weeks or potentially even a few months for you to realize these benefits. 

Back Hauling Is Critical To Your Success

Back hauling is valuable regardless of where you fit in the freight carrier ecosystem. From a driver’s perspective, backhaul trucking will help you earn a larger income and waste less time deadheading. Business owners can reduce driver turnover, decrease operating expenses and improve profit margins, simply by using back hauling.

If you would like to learn more about exciting freight-related and trucking-related topics, browse the extensive FreightWaves Ratings content library. The library includes guides, product reviews and more.


What Is Considered a Backhaul?

A backhaul is a load picked up close to the drop-off destination for the initial load. When booking a backhaul, schedulers should attempt to find loads with a destination near the truck’s point of origin. 

What Is a Backhaul Rate?

A backhaul rate tracks the percentage of trips that include both an initial load and a return load. Trips that only include an outbound load bring down a truck’s backhaul rate. 

What Is a Deadhead in Trucking?

A deadhead is a direct trip to a delivery location and back to the truck’s point of origin. During the return trip, the driver will not be back hauling but will instead be returning with an empty truck.

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