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Backhauls and Your Transportation Spend Backhauls: Making the Most of Your Transportation Spend

Semi truck backhaul

As the trucking industry faces an increasing driver shortage and capacity volatility, it’s hard to believe that many of the trucks on the road every day are running at less than full capacity. Even more staggering is that many companies are not taking advantage of backhaul opportunities, leaving trucks empty for their return trips.

A backhaul is the term commonly used to refer to the return movement of a truck from its original destination back to its point of origin, especially when carrying goods back over all or part of the same route.

According to recent industry research, between 15 and 25 percent of the trailers on U.S. roads are empty. For those trailers that are not empty, 36 percent are under-utilized.

So how can shippers maximize their capacity levels and generate extra revenue in the process? By having an optimized transportation network that takes advantage of all available space and backhaul lanes.

Being successful with backhauls is like building a three-legged stool, requiring:

  1. Third party interest on the specific lane that matches the network
  2. Pickup and delivery schedules that are on-time, every time
  3. Reliable drivers and equipment

If one any of these three pieces is missing, then, just as the stool is not going to stand, the backhaul won’t run.

When it comes to moving their freight on a private or dedicated fleet, companies are paying for round-trip miles, as opposed to those paying one-way mileage for truckload or less than truckload. While running a backhaul lane may not be appropriate in all instances, filling those lanes when possible can lead to lower costs for the shipper.

Ultimately, with the shipper already paying for the driver, fuel, and truck, not running at full capacity means they are losing an opportunity to improve their bottom line.

The key to taking advantage of backhaul lanes is consistency. Backhauls should be planned the same way that any other outbound shipment is planned. Finding backhaul lanes when the trailer would normally return empty is also the perfect opportunity for 3PLs to lower their customers’ costs and increase their revenue.

There are times in which shippers need to be flexible to be able to take advantage of the backhaul lanes. For example, some shippers have reverse trips that contain empty pallets, returns, or fixtures. But if the shipper can delay the reverse trip and take the backhaul, ultimately they will be able to reduce their transportation costs.

For many companies, transportation is not a core competency. And, because of this, empty backhaul lanes are not the first thing companies think about when they need to get their products from one point to another. However, in many cases, this is how outsourcing to an experienced partner can maximize your transportation spend, while reducing your costs.
" Between 15% and 25% of the trailers on U.S. roads are empty. And 36% are under-utilized."

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