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The Trucking Crisis: Everything you need to know about empty miles in trucking

Image of an empty truck to denote empty miles in trucking

What are empty miles and why does it matter?

The trucking industry has its own set of challenges in terms of logistics and transportation management that impact the economy and the environment to a large extent. One of the major causes that create such an impact is empty miles in trucking. It refers to the process where trucks are driven empty to the destination due to the lack of efficient freight load matching strategies, solutions or technologies.

Recent research indicates that empty miles in trucking range from 33% to 40% of the total miles driven (Source: Convoy). Empty miles in trucking is a major challenge because it increases fuel consumption, logistics carbon footprint, and unproductive hours for drivers while not fetching revenue.

How does trucks without loads affect the economy and environment?

  • Economic Impact: Empty miles in trucking affect the economy of logistics in terms of lack of revenue generation. Trucks that return to the destination without loads still require gallons of fuel and incur maintenance costs but do not provide any value since there is no income because of a lack of shipments. Moreover, it also leads to additional costs like salary for drivers even during unproductive hours when trucks remain idle at warehouses or other destinations. 

  • Environmental Impact: The lack of real-time visibility and proper communication channels between shippers and carriers lead to empty miles which in turn affects the environment in terms of logistics carbon footprint. According to a report by Convoy, a Digital Freight Network, empty miles cause 87 million metric tons of carbon emissions every year. 

What strategies can help to reduce empty miles for your fleet?

Increased visibility with shipping networks can efficiently reduce empty miles with freight load matching. If multiple trucks are making deliveries on similar routes, they can be loaded onto one truck. Moreover, reverse logistics can also be utilized where goods from the final destination can be returned directly through packages instead of loading on trucks. 

3 technological solutions to address the problem of empty miles

  • Transportation Management Systems (TMS): Continuous fleet movement planning is crucial to reduce empty miles in trucking and this is made possible by integrating Transportation Management Systems. It provides complete visibility of the supply chain and helps to schedule loads and assign drivers in such a way that trucks are loaded from and back to the destination and drivers also ensure maximum productive hours and thereby reducing empty miles in trucking and additional costs for fuel and maintenance.

  • Digital Freight Matching Platforms (DFM): Manual freight booking is a complicated process because there is limited access to trucking information except for familiar or mutual contacts. This results in empty miles as trucks cannot find enough loads that actually generate considerable revenue. However, Digital Freight Load Matching Platforms (DFM) are web or mobile-based apps which connect customers to carriers and help in finding the available capacity and matching loads for greater efficiency and reduced costs and thereby eliminating empty miles.

  • Blockchain and IoT Devices: Data analytics and transparent information exchange plays a vital role in optimising shipment capacity and routes to reduce fuel consumption and empty miles. The integration of blockchain technology with IoT devices help to monitor traffic, weather or risk prone areas and optimise routes to reduce fleet-related expenses while also providing visible yet secure information through blockchain for optimising freight load matching in real-time to reduce empty miles.

Let’s Wrap Up!

Empty miles in trucking is one of the major challenges faced in logistics and transport management which has a negative impact on the economy and the environment. It leads to additional costs in terms of fuel and fleet maintenance and also results in unproductive hours for drivers and increases logistics carbon footprint. 

However, the problem of empty miles in trucking can be addressed efficiently through technological solutions. The major solutions include Transportation Management Systems (TMS), Digital Freight Matching Platforms (DFM) and blockchain with IoT devices, all of which provide increased visibility and shipping networks to reduce or even eliminate empty miles in trucking.

Axlerate is a unified platform for Logistics and transport management, payments and services. Our solutions help to simplify tolls, fuel purchases, fleet expenses, loans, insurance, escrow, payments, truck booking, fleet management and the buying and selling of logistics products and services.

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