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Combating Empty Deadhead Miles Through Continuous Move Planning

semi-truck on highway

Challenges like driver shortages, meddlesome federal regulations, and unpredictable spikes in the cost of fuel have been thorns in the transportation industry’s side for several decades, with the severity of each concern rising and falling over time. But while those problems may seem to be the transportation industry’s oldest enemies, one issue has been plaguing carriers since before the internal combustion engine was even invented—empty miles.

Empty miles (also known as non-revenue miles and deadhead miles) refers to instances where trucks are on the road without any cargo, usually due to lack of nearby loads headed in the same direction as the driver. Because carriers cannot derive any revenue from empty miles, they represent a major waste of fuel, time, and labor, in addition to contributing to traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

Naturally, carriers strive to minimize their number of empty miles as much as possible, but available data suggests that current approaches leave significant room for improvement. Industry reports posit that as much as one-third of Class 8 truck miles are driven empty. What’s more, historical assessments indicate that only marginal gains in efficiency have been made since the 1990s.

Thankfully, companies are far from powerless when it comes to addressing this issue. In this blog, we’ll be exploring how a concept called continuous move planning can help minimize empty miles.

Continuous Move Planning Explained

In order to properly comprehend how continuous move planning can reduce empty miles, we first need to understand what “continuous moves” even are. Ordinarily, shippers schedule their loads based solely on their own business concerns (like when a pickup would be most convenient for them, how soon their cargo needs to be delivered, etc.). As a result, most loads are requested on an individual basis, meaning that it’s entirely up to carriers to find nearby loads after drop-off. When no such loads are in the same direction of the driver, empty miles become practically unavoidable.

In a nutshell, continuous moves are achieved when a shipper strings multiple loads together for their carrier, thereby enabling the carrier to make better use of their truck and make the most of driver time, usually in exchange for favorable shipping rates. This arrangement results in a win-win for both parties because the additional loads allow carriers to minimize empty miles and shippers receive a discount. Continuous move planning describes the practice of creating, identifying, and executing continuous move opportunities as commonly and efficiently as possible.

The consistent volume of loads provided by continuous move planning allows carriers to make far better use of every mile their drivers travel on the road. By establishing closed loop routes that keep freight circulating on a consistent basis, carriers are able to make more efficient use of their fuel, time, and labor investments.

How TMS Help Continuous Move Planning

While continuous move planning provides carriers with a multitude of benefits, it also requires more intricate coordination and clear communication from dispatchers and compared to typical load planning. To properly pull this off, it’s crucial that dispatchers have the kind of visibility over their work that spreadsheets and whiteboards simply cannot provide. Transportation management systems empower dispatchers with all of the information they need to keep their drivers informed and their customers up-to-date.

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