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Empty Miles in Truck Dispatching

Empty miles in Trucking

Today, we'll discuss the concept of empty miles in truck dispatching and assess the optimal distance a client should travel to pick up a load.

Defining Empty Miles

Empty miles refer to the distance a client (trucking company) must travel from their current location to the shipper's site to collect a load. This distance is crucial because it represents the stretch a client travels without compensation. Typically, motor carriers are compensated for the distance covered transporting cargo from the origin (point A) to the destination (point B).

For instance, if the journey from the shipper to the receiver spans 1,000 miles and the freight broker offers $3,000 for this load, the client effectively earns $3 per mile. However, if the truck must cover an additional 300 miles to reach the shipper, the total distance becomes 1,300 miles, effectively reducing the per-mile rate to $2.31. 

Determining Acceptable Distances

While the mathematics of the situation is clear, it's essential to discern what constitutes an acceptable distance for a client to travel to collect a load. Generally, a 50-mile radius from the client's current location is deemed reasonable. If a suitable load is available within this range, it's often advantageous for the client to proceed to the shipper, collect the load, and commence their journey.

However, challenges arise when a lucrative load is situated 200 miles away. In such cases, it's vital to calculate the total distance, including the added 200 miles, to ascertain if the rate remains viable. While the financial aspect is paramount, it's equally crucial to consider the associated risks of extended travel. For instance, a short 20-mile journey to a shipper that results in a canceled load might be a minor inconvenience. In contrast, a 200-mile trip that culminates in a canceled load can lead to significant time and fuel losses. Such scenarios underscore the importance of minimizing empty miles.

Empty Miles

Strategies and Risks

It's always a good idea to prioritize loads in proximity, which is why it's advisable to maintain trucks near busy “freight areas” or major cities. Such locations typically offer a diverse range of freight options, reducing the need for extended travel to pick up a load. However, there are instances when a client might find themselves in remote areas with limited load availability. In such situations, truck dispatchers might have to take calculated risks, sending trucks on longer journeys to secure loads.


In the realm of truck dispatching, fewer empty miles are invariably preferable. While a 50 to 100-mile radius is generally acceptable for picking up loads, distances exceeding 100 miles should be approached with caution. Even if a distant load offers an attractive rate, the inherent risks of potential cancellations and lost workdays should always be factored in.

Thank you for joining us in this exploration of empty miles. We look forward to sharing more insights in subsequent discussions.


© By Alfa X Logistics September 2023

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