What is Backhauling trucking? – Definition, Types & Benefits

When you’re running a trucking company, a lot goes into making sure you can turn a profit. 

Deadhead miles or the distance trucks drive empty on the road on their return trip after delivering the cargo can make up a significant portion of overall fuel costs. 

In fact, American Transport Research Institute (ATRI) revealed that out of the 9.4 billion miles that registered trucking companies traveled, 20.7% were empty. That means, at $1.69 per mile, fleets spent $3.3 billion driving empty trucks.

These empty miles clearly waste fuel, increase costs, and lower efficiency. 

Backhaul trucking is a technique that can help you increase the efficiency of your trips, and it’s a great way to lower your costs per mile.

This article will serve as a complete guide for backhauling trucking.

What Is Backhaul Trucking?

Suppose a trucker starts his journey in New York City and ends up in Miami. Instead of driving an empty truck on his return journey from Miami to New York, he can choose to backhaul cargo from Miami back to New York City’s distribution center. 

Backhaul trucking simply uses the same truck to haul loads in both directions (arrival and return) on a trip. 

It would save money because it eliminates unpaid mileage-fuel costs for two separate trips/additional trips. 

Types Of Backhauling In Logistics

Two types of backhauling in logistics are majorly prevalent in the market. Let’s understand them.

1. Internal backhauling

Internal backhauling is a logistics process trucking companies use to backhaul their own loads to their own factory. For example, a whole grain truck driver might deliver a truckload of wheat flour to a store and backhaul wheat to bring it to the factory.

Internal backhauling also allows trucking companies to improve efficiency by optimizing their operations based on what they can carry internally rather than relying on outside sources for all of their shipments.

2. External backhauling

External backhauling is a little more complicated than internal backhauling. Unlike internal backhauling, where original and return trip delivery is for your own company, in external backhauling, your original delivery and backhaul are for different companies. Here, your original delivery can be for your own company or a third party. But it may take time to find backhaul loads or backhaul opportunities. However, this is what most fleets prefer.

It’s a great way to reduce operating costs and increase revenue as the work of two trips gets done in one.

What Is The Significance Of Backhaul Trucking?

Shippers, carriers, and consignees are all looking for ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. 

One way to do this is by combining shipments for backhaul rates.

  • Shippers can ease the capacity crunch by negotiating favorable shipping agreements with carriers. Combining freight for backhaul rates requires freight visibility and more control over transportation routes, which is excellent for a shipper’s supply chain efficiency.
  • Carriers can minimize empty miles. Truckers can still make money on backhaul routes at even lower rates. It’s important for carriers to include all fixed costs in the final rate and calculate potential profit the entire way.
  • Consignees pay less for transportation and receive consistent service with predictable delivery times.
  • With less time spent hauling empty trucks, drivers will have more time to spend with their families. It is a sensitive issue for drivers who don’t get paid during waiting hours.

Advantages Of Backhaul Transportation

Backhaul transportation provides a lot of benefits to the company. Here are some of the most significant advantages of using backhauling trucking.

1. Increases efficiency

Backhaul strategy is used to maximize efficiency in terms of cost, time, and safety. It gets the work of two trips done in one and converts empty miles into revenue-generating miles. The best part is that you can implement this strategy without any hassle.

2. Helps the environment

Your company’s impact on the environment is one of the most important factors to consider in your business. Every trip you make with your empty trucks is an unnecessary journey. It’s not just wasting fuel. It’s contributing to climate change–in fact, transportation contributes to 14% of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The best way to minimize this impact is by maximizing the use of your trucks through backhauling. By loading up a truck with freight, driving it to its destination, and returning home with cargo, you’ll save money and reduce emissions simultaneously.

3. Enhance customer experience

Meticulous route planning and optimization and predicting the truck’s exact route and delivery time is the most effective way to backhaul. This reduces the time it takes for the orders to be delivered, makes you more money, and gives your customers a better experience.

Transport companies can decrease their prices and offer discounts to long-term customers if they use their return trips to transport additional backhaul loads.

4. Helps create new business relations

Carrying freight for third parties is a great way to open up new opportunities. You can use freight brokers to discover businesses along your trucks’ usual routes that require hauling services and potentially agree to long-term partnerships with them, expanding the organization’s scope.

With software like Upper, you can efficiently plan routes that minimize deadhead miles between destinations and maximize the number of daily deliveries.

Level Up Your Backhauling Process With Upper Route Planner 

Shippers and freight companies must find innovative ways to reduce the time, fuel, and cost incurred when shipping long distances in an environmentally conscious world. Innovative routing solutions are an excellent way of making data-driven decisions.

Enter Upper! Upper Route Planner is the best way to level up your backhauling process.

The Upper Route Planner uses GPS technology to create route plans for carrying cargo efficiently and reducing deadhead miles. This handy feature will help you plan your journey and benefit you from backhauling.

Three ways Upper improves the backhauling trucking

The platform considers various important factors, including which drivers are available, how many trucks are in your fleet, and the location and specifics of each stop on the route.

1. Smart route planning

Backhauling is an excellent strategy that saves valuable resources but manually planning routes for effective backhauling will drain your time and energy and increase the chances of human errors. Upper cuts 95% of your route planning time, so it’s best to automate this process with Upper’s route planning and optimization software. 

  • You must enter relevant details about your drivers and delivery locations, including your pickup location (s), to create effective backhaul routes.
  • Upper helps you optimize and get the fastest routes as per specific delivery constraints like driving preferences, time windows, and curbside delivery options, which adds to route accuracy and delivery efficiency.
  • Such meticulous planning and ongoing optimization help your drivers be at the right place at the right time, which is essential for backhauling. This cuts down any empty miles and generates revenue from all miles.

2. Analytics and Reports

With Upper’s real-time access to your entire logistics network’s activity, you can make more informed decisions about where to invest resources to optimize your fleet’s efficiency. It will help you stay on top of fuel costs, driver turnover rates, equipment maintenance needs, and vehicle/truck utilization rates. All of which will help ensure that your company runs smoothly.

That’s how intelligent data utilization can help reduce deadheading occurrences and make the entire supply chain more profitable.

3. Optimize scheduling and get more deliveries done in less time

With the fastest multi-stop delivery routes, your drivers wouldn’t have to figure out the next best action on the road while adding to the empty miles. They will know exactly what to do and, in fact, get much more done in less time. 

Upper also accounts for drivers’ availability and skillset while assigning delivery and pickup location (s) and ensures that challenging routes and handled by skilled drivers. You can pick multiple drivers for a route schedule, and Upper will divide addresses as per their start and end points, adding to the productivity. 

Try out Upper with our 7 days free trial. 

Boost Your Backhauling Process with Upper

Avoid taking long routes during backhauling trucking. Instead, follow the efficient routes and reduce your overall operational costs. Improve the backhauling process using Upper and reduce your unnecessary spending.


Backhaul transportation is a common practice in the trucking industry. It is the return movement of a transport vehicle from its original destination to its original point of departure.

The carrier can transport a full load, partial truck load, or less than a truck load on its way back instead of driving an empty vehicle after the original delivery. An empty truck is not economically viable, so most companies will use this practice to compete on transport costs.

Companies practicing backhauls are making the most of their vehicles and truckers by maximizing resource utilization. They are also reducing their road trip’s carbon footprint and environmental impact by converting empty miles into revenue-generating miles.

Backhauling improves fleet operations too. Besides carrying their own product, companies can fill their vehicles with backhaul loads belonging to third parties. It helps logistics companies to reap cost savings and other benefits.

Backhaul load is the cargo the trucker picks up on a return trip from the original delivery destination so that they don’t have to drive the truck empty. It generally covers freight delivery on its designated route back, which allows for total cost management and intelligent logistics that save time.

When you own a fleet, you don’t want your trucks to sit around empty, using fuel, transporting just your drivers when they could be moving more cargo from one point to another.

When managing backhaul routes, careful consideration is given to ensuring trucks aren’t empty on the return trip, maximizing efficiency and productivity on the road. Fleet managers looking to implement backhauling can benefit significantly from GPS fleet tracking tools.


Backhaul strategy is for all businesses wanting to get more out of their trucks while keeping costs low and increasing efficiency simultaneously. You can eliminate deadheading within a freight network with the help of dynamic routing, real-time freight data, and strategic KPIs.

Remember you cannot rely on manual route planning if you want your carriers to be productive and adopt backhauling. It requires machine intelligence to plan and optimize routes that promote maximum deliveries in less time. You can effectively save yourself from draining time and energy that goes into manual planning and trust Upper. 

Leave it to Upper to leverage backhauling while saving time and money, and achieving customer satisfaction like never before.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.