March 12

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A Complete Guide To Backhaul Trucking

By lruribe

March 12, 2022


Do you find yourself returning home with an empty trailer after a long load? Do you hate covering the operating cost of driving your truck across states back home, empty in the cab and in the trailer? Then you should try to focus on backhaul trucking.

In this piece, we tell you everything you need to backhaul trucking, the types that there are, and how to secure backhauls. We then conclude by helping to ease the decision-making process if you’re considering whether backhaul freight will be worth it to you or not.

Dig in.

What is Backhaul Trucking?

Backhaul is the return load you haul on your way back to your destination of origination. It is often a way for truck drivers/carriers to cover the cost of driving home after delivering a load. 

When you haul from destination A to destination B, for instance, the cost of the trip is covered by your shipper. That one is called headhaul trucking. The cost of returning to your initial destination A is on you, though. And this is where backhaul trucking makes sense.  

With backhaul trucking, you can secure another load that is set for your initial destination. This then helps to cover operating costs back to your originating point.

Many truckers tend to negotiate lower rates than they would normally charge the shipper since they’re only trying to make sure the operating cost back home is covered. But that doesn't have to be the case. In fact, we have a set of handy tips to help you negotiate higher freight rates with your freight broker. How low or high you want to set your backhaul rates, however, depends on you and some other factors, such as the load value.

Internal Backhauling

Internal backhauling happens within a company. The company backhauls its products back to the originating destination. For example, the truck headhauls new car parts to the main store and then backhauls broken parts to the factory for repairs.

External Backhauling

This is the kind that owner-operators often resort to. The reason is that the company they headhaul for is different from the company they backhaul for. The truck driver sources for headhauls and backhauls on load boards. And these hauls are often for different shippers.

External backhauling requires constant networking, load board scouring, and even partnering with brokers to secure loads. Usually, the trucking companies that do external backhauling are third party carriers. But lately, more private companies are resorting to external backhauling to limit operating costs.

How to Secure Backhaul Freight lanes

You can secure a backhaul lane in just the same way you get a head-haul. You may discuss with your freight broker or dispatcher to help you with it, or you may search for backhauls on load boards.

Similarly, the factors that you considered before setting a rate for the head-haul should be covered for charging the shipper. For instance, load value should still determine how much you charge. Distance, additional en-route fees, permit fees and the capacity available at the origin and destination cities should also be factored into your rate.

Should You Always Backhaul?

Theoretically, backhauling sounds nice, doesn’t it? You’re returning to your originating destination, anyway, so you should secure a haul that’s going to your originating destination and have your return operating expenses covered. Simple, right?

But what you may not be considering is that there are some destinations where loads hardly ever head out of. Truckers call these places dead-end markets because it is hard to get an outbound load to take home with you. 

The competition increases for fewer outbound loads. Soon enough, it becomes a competition of which truck drivers can charge the least. And this is where the disadvantage of backhauling rears its ugly head.

Are you willing to haul a load way below your usual rate, just because it is a backhaul? Or do you have a lower threshold that rates must be above before you ship them? These are questions you should ask yourself when you’re considering a backhaul.

By the way, you can always factor the limited backhaul opportunity into the head-haul when you’re traveling to a dead-end market. Destinations with more consumers than producers often pay more. Hauls from Philadelphia to Boston, for instance, have higher rates than hauls the other way around. This is because Boston doesn’t have as many producers. While this may limit the possibility of a backhaul, you may negotiate a higher rate for the head-haul.

Summary

Backhaul is the load you haul to your originating destination. After you’ve delivered a load to destination B from destination A, backhaul is the load you haul back to destination A. Most of the time, the idea behind this is to cover the backhaul operating costs back home. 

About the author

I’m Luis Uribe, author of this website. I am the owner and head publisher for Trucker Daily and a freight brokerage Total Connection Logistics. I have been in and around the trucking industry for over 15 years. It is my mission with Trucker daily to equip truck drivers, with the latest in industry updates, news, and helpful tips to help further your trucking career and life. Whether you are a truck driving veteran, or beginner, you will find information on this site to save you a lot of time in your driving journey.

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