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Deadhead Miles: The Hidden Costs and Dangers You Need to Know

January 31, 2024

Deadhead Miles: The Hidden Costs and Dangers You Need to Know

Understand the risks, costs, and solutions of deadhead miles for more informed decisions on the road.

Understand the risks, costs, and solutions of deadhead miles for more informed decisions on the road.

According to market research, 28% of miles driven by private fleets count as deadhead miles.

These miles have negative effects on drivers, trucks, and others on the road. Understanding these effects is crucial for making informed decisions that benefit everyone.

What Are Deadhead Miles?

So, what exactly does "deadhead" mean in trucking? How much does it cost, and how can Covenant, a trusted logistics partner, help? In the trucking world, "deadhead" refers to the miles driven with an empty load. This includes the return trip to home base and driving to another warehouse to pick up a new load.

It's important to note that deadheading is different from bobtailing, which involves driving a cargo truck without a semi-trailer attached. Deadhead miles specifically refer to driving empty without carrying any load.

The Risks of Deadhead Miles

Why is deadheading such a problem? Here are some well-known risks associated with excessive deadhead miles:

  • Increased crash risk: Deadhead trucks are 2.5 times more likely to crash compared to loaded trucks, partly due to weight differences.
  • Weather-related challenges: Lack of weight combined with severe weather conditions can increase the crash risk for deadhead drivers.
  • Lack of training: Many drivers are not adequately trained in deadhead driving, resulting in difficulties maneuvering an empty truck.

Deadhead miles pose additional challenges for drivers and others on the road, especially in bad weather when safety is already a concern.

The Financial Costs of Deadhead Miles

In addition to potential risks, deadhead miles also come with financial costs, especially for owner-operators who are independent contractors.

Extra Fuel Costs

Imagine driving 100,000 miles per year with a truck that gets only 6 miles per gallon. You're looking at approximately $73,147 in fuel costs, assuming an average diesel price of $4.389.

If 28% of those miles are deadhead miles, you'll be driving 28,000 miles costing $20,482 without any revenue to offset it. And don't forget the taxes you'll have to pay on that fuel under the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA).

Additional Wear and Tear

Deadhead miles result in increased wear and tear on your truck, leading to higher and more frequent maintenance expenses. If your loads aren't profitable and you're spending extra on maintaining your truck, you could face financial challenges.

Wasted Time

Driving deadhead miles takes away valuable opportunities to haul loads and earn more money. Time equals money, and wasting time on deadhead miles means losing out on potential earnings.  

How to Reduce Deadhead Mileage

The good news is, there are steps you can take to minimize deadhead mileage:

  • Look for loads that require return material, so you don't have to drive an empty truck after dropping off a load.
  • Utilize load boards to find other brokers in the area who may have loads that need to be delivered.
  • Partner with a logistics professional like Covenant. We offer dynamic truck routing, transportation management, and other solutions to cut down on deadhead mileage and maximize your productivity on the road. 

How Covenant Can Help

You don't have to tackle deadhead miles alone. Covenant is here to help you.

As your logistics partner, we take care of the heavy lifting. Our team of experts can help you create efficient and cost-effective solutions for your business.

Contact Covenant today to learn more about our services and how we can help you avoid deadhead miles.