What is Backhauling? [Trucking/Logistics]

If you are freight broker or trucking company you may have been asked, what is a backhauling?

The concept of backhauling freight, is the return trip of a commercial trucker that is transporting freight back over all or part of the same route it took to get to its current location.

To be more specific, let’s say a trucker hauls a load from Buffalo, NY to Miami, FL for one of his shipping customers. He now has to return to Buffalo, NY to pick up another load for his shipping customer.

So they have two choices:

1) drive back empty, which can be very expensive or

2) take a backhaul load that is inroute back to his home base to help offset cost.

Who uses backhauling?

Both freight brokers and motor carriers rely heavily on one another when it comes to backhaul freight.  Let me explain how and why. 

After delivering their customer’s freight, motor carriers need to get their trucks back to their home base quickly so they can pick up another load for one of their primary customers.  

If one of the carrier’s primary customers calls him for service and he doesn’t have any available equipment to pick up the load, that customer is most likely going to call another carrier which presents a lost revenue opportunity. 

Carriers typically call on freight brokers to provide them loads back home, backhauls, in an effort to save both time and money.  In exchange, freight brokers are typically able to negotiate a reduced per mile freight rate of 10-30%. This allows brokers to earn a profit for the service rendered to their customer.

Why would a carrier take a lower rate on a backhaul freight load?

The answer is MONEY! The fact is, every minute that a truck is sitting still or running without a paid load onboard, it is incurring expenses and losing money.  A few of these expenses include the truck/trailer payment, insurance, fuel and driver pay just to name a few. 

So many, truck drivers and motor carriers feel it is better to accept a discounted backhaul load from a broker today that can get them home quickly, versus driving home empty or waiting for several days hoping for a higher paying load.

Another growing trend regarding backhauls is with private fleets.  More and more companies who deliver their own product to customers via private fleets. Many of those fleets are using backhaul freight loads as a way to offset expenses.  

A few examples of well known private fleets include Walmart, Bridgestone, Wegmans and Del Monte Foods.  You can learn more about private fleets by visiting National Private Truck Council.

Now consider this; if a truck runs 100,000 miles per year at 6 miles per gallon it is using approximately 16,666 gallons of fuel per year.  At the current diesel price of $3.83 per gallon the total cost of fuel for one truck is over $63,000 per year.

The fact of the matter is, if a private fleet accepts backhaul freight to cover even half of those miles, it can save over $30,000 per year/per truck!


Some may debate the question of what is backhauling or the value of backhauls. The fact is, they are an important part of the logistics industry because they provide a valuable service to everyone involved.  

Carriers save time and money repositioning their trucks. While freight brokers receive discounted freight rates and shippers get their freight delivered without delay. 

In the dog eat dog, highly competitive market place as we have to today, I see backhauls as a true win-win opportunity for everyone.

Click the following link to learn more about our online freight broker training program.


Dennis Brown
Owner www.freightbrokerbootcamp.com

Owner, CEO

Dennis Brown the freight broker, is the owner of FreightBrokerBootCamp.com and former CEO of Logistic Dynamics, Inc. (LDi) one of North Americas fastest growing logistics providers. Dennis has over 25 years of hands on experience as an entrepreneur and is widely regarded as an expert in logistics, freight brokerage, business growth strategies and B2B sales and marketing. Dennis became a freight broker in 2003, as a one man operations with NO industry experience . He went on to do over $200 million as a freight broker, eventually selling the freight brokerage to spend more time with his family. Dennis Brown has trained over 10,000 students, in 16 different countries, how to become a freight broker or freight agent. Many of his students have went on to build highly successful and highly profitable freight broker businesses.

  1. marly_vaughn

    Just a thank you for all your hard work in helping some one like me whos new to this

    May 31, 2017 at 4:46 am
  2. Melissa

    Even as a veteran truck driver for 27 yrs ,and knowing how trucking works ,I still love the fact that this information 8s available, excited to be on the other side of windshield,and learning about freight brokering wish i would of done this years agao

    February 3, 2019 at 2:34 pm
  3. Russell Hildebrand

    We use leased trucks to deliver our products. Can we use these trucks to pick up back hauls? If so, what credentials do we need? We already have a DOT#. Our company is based in Florida.

    June 6, 2019 at 2:55 pm
  4. Dennis Brown

    If you are hauling your own good then you have some version of a private carrier authority. In order to haul other peoples good you will need a for hire authority. See the FMCSA and/or DOT for more details.

    July 29, 2019 at 4:13 am

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