| Read Time: 3 minutes | Glossary
What Does Deadhead Mean in Trucking?—Trucking Resource Library

If you’re new to the trucking industry, you might’ve heard the term deadheading trucking. What does deadhead mean in trucking? This term refers to a truck that has an empty trailer.

What Is Deadheading in Trucking?

A deadhead in trucking refers to the practice of driving a commercial truck, typically a semi-truck, with an attached trailer but no freight being carried. It occurs when a trucker returns to the point of origin or backhauls an empty cargo container. Deadheading is essentially the transportation of an empty trailer, either to pick up a new load or return it to its point of origin, without carrying any cargo. It is a common strategy in the logistics industry to optimize transportation efficiency.

Deadheading is the worst-case scenario for trucking companies because it means they’re losing income. Some truck companies don’t pay for deadheading, while others might pay a mileage amount after a certain distance, such as 100 miles.

Drivers try to stay loaded because it’s how they make money. However, they likely need to deadhead a certain distance between where they dropped off one load and are picking up the next.

Deadhead in trucking is not the same as bobtailing. Bobtailing means the truck doesn’t have a trailer attached at all. With deadheading, the truck will have the trailer attached, but it’ll be empty while the driver travels to pick up the next load.

What Is Deadhead in Trucking: Backhaul vs. Headhaul

Deadhead is not the same as backhaul or headhaul. Headhaul refers to a truck driver carrying a load heading to its destination, while a backhaul refers to a return trip over the same route. Essentially, the headhaul would be route A to B, while a backhaul would be route B to route A.

Backhauls can help reduce deadheading. When a driver does a headhaul to a destination, they likely will be deadheading from the drop-off point to pick up the next load.

Negotiating a deal for backhaul means the truck won’t be empty. This option can be a great deal for shippers who can receive lower transport rates. Carriers don’t have many options after they arrive at their headhaul destination.

A backhaul gives them some cargo for a negotiated price so that the truck doesn’t have to deadhead.

In trucking terminology, DH-D, or Dead Head Destination, refers to the maximum distance a driver is willing to travel beyond their intended destination. For instance, if the DH-D is set to 100 miles and the destination is Billings, Montana, the driver may drop off goods anywhere within a 100-mile radius of Billings.

Sometimes, a driver will have to deadhead from where they delivered a load to pick up another load. The driver can look for loads within a certain distance from their point of origin by setting their DH-O to their desired distance.

For example, if the driver’s point of origin is Atlanta and they set their DH-O to 80, they’ll be shown loads they can pick up that are within 80 miles of Atlanta. This feature lets drivers have more control over how many miles they’re deadheading between cargo loads. 

Is Deadheading Dangerous?

Now you know the answer to the question, “what does deadhead mean in trucking.” The deadhead meaning in trucking is important to know because deadheading can be dangerous for truck drivers and other motorists on the road.

Empty trailers don’t weigh as much as full ones, which can become problematic under certain conditions. Drivers need to be cautious because they might find the empty trailer becomes unmanageable when trying to stop suddenly.

Changing weather conditions, such as high winds and black ice, can also aggravate the situation.  

By looking for backhaul options, truckers can reduce deadhead miles, make some income for the trucking company, and reduce the risk of being in an accident.

Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer

If you were involved in an accident caused by a deadhead truck, contact Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C. today. Pursuing compensation in a truck accident claim can be complicated.

Our legal team has years of experience assisting victims in Texas and New Mexico who suffered injuries after colliding with a deadhead truck.

To learn more about how to pursue compensation after an accident, contact Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C. to schedule an initial consultation. We have offices conveniently located in both Texas and New Mexico.

Author Photo

Daisy Chaparro

Daisy Chaparro was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. A graduate from El Dorado High School in 2008 and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy from St. Mary’s University in 2012. Daisy then obtained her Juris Doctorate (magna cum laude) from Texas Tech University School of Law in 2015.

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