The term dead-head refers to truckers hauling trailers that are empty. The problems of empty miles and dead-head are not new. In fact, they exist in healthy economies. However, the pandemic has exacerbated the problems by causing an economic downturn and delays in the international supply chain, resulting in not enough freight for truckers to haul. Technology is now playing a vital part in finding solutions to these problems.
Reducing Empty Miles and Dead-Head
The main problem is financial. Running an empty truck or a truck that is not fully loaded to either collect or deliver shipments costs about the same in terms of fuel, maintenance, repair, driver wages, and insurance costs as a fully loaded truck. To be profitable, a truck or trailer needs to be full in both directions it travels. Putting COVID-19 pandemic delay issues aside, the problems have begun to compound as a result of fuel price hikes and the uncertainty around future fuel supplies. Truckers either have to charge more to compensate for empty journeys, often pricing themselves out of work, or close down.
Another problem with empty mileage and dead-head miles is that it is dangerous. Empty trailers weigh half as much as full trailers. There is a very clear danger involved in driving empty trailers across the great barren expanses of the country. Empty trailers are difficult to manage at the best of times, however, in crosswinds they are susceptible to being blown over.
Improved Truck Design
Since the 1980’s heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency has improved by around 20 percent. Truck manufacturers have been able to achieve this by utilizing designs that reduce drag and by implementing other design modifications.
Medium to large size trucking companies with a few trailers or a small fleet are now deploying their trailers to last locations and parking them there to wait for another load. The last locations are the areas that trailers were off-loaded. By staying closer to the shipper locations, trucking companies are able to reduce the cost of deadhead miles.
Algorithms and APP Solutions
Trucking companies experience on average an empty miles ratio of approximately 35 percent. However, some trucking companies experience ratios of around 55 percent. What the industry is working on now are algorithms that will configure truck and load optimization using a combination of load availability, truck availability, and routes. These algorithms will help freight companies optimize their resources via an APP. The APP will make recommendations to the trucking companies.
Early indications on the Convoy APP are that dead-heads and empty miles could reduce to around 19.5 percent. As the economy improves and the backlogs in the supply chain are continue to work out, they expect the ratio to improve. The success of the APP is contingent on suppliers and manufacturers signing up for it, Although, this shouldn’t be a problem as it will reduce their trucking availability problems and help keep costs in check.
Similar to the Convoy App is GoLoad. The stated aim of GoLoad is to help drivers to eliminate waste and improve their profitability by harnessing the mobile cloud ecosystem and GPS data to streamline driving and add value to their routes. They receive load opportunities and track their hours of service (HOS) through integration with My20ELD. The service is a load matching system that connects shippers directly with truck companies, in real-time.
Light in the Tunnel
Now that the country has adjusted to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are signs of recovery. The delays in the global supply chain are also starting to work themselves out of the system, both of which are good news for the transport industry.
The Junction LLC | Truckload Shipping
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