6 Strategies to Find Freight for Your Backhaul

6 Strategies to Find Freight for Your Backhaul

Last Modified : Jan 24, 2024

Fact-checked by: Bruce Sayer

Empty backhauls are one of the most pressing and ongoing problems that plague the industry. Trucks make money when they haul loads – but they can just as quickly lose that profit when they return home empty. Finding headhaul loads is relatively easy compared to the real challenge of finding cargo to haul on the return journey. According to recent industry research, between 15 and 25 percent of the trailers on U.S. roads are empty. For trailers that aren’t empty, 36 percent are under-utilized. That’s a lot of empty trailers and a lot of lost profit!

To correctly calculate the financial return of a haul, you must consider the profitability of the entire trip. Headhauls are typically the highest revenue-generating leg of the journey. Deadheading on the way home loses money, so backhauls are opportunities to convert those high-paying outbound loads into money-making roundtrips. Operators who focus on filling the backhaul often do a much better job maximizing their trucking company’s profitability.

This article looks at six strategies to secure freight for your backhaul.

Strategies to Fill Backhauls

Trucking companies who regularly face the prospect of empty backhauls need to establish viable strategies to fill capacity as much as possible for the return trip. Digging in to find backhaul freight takes time and effort, but the benefits of filling the backhaul far outweigh the time and effort needed to secure those extra loads. Some of the most successful trucking companies utilize several key approaches to accomplish this. Here are six of the most effective strategies to help you out:

  1. Work with freight brokers: Freight brokers connect shippers with carriers to get loads delivered – they need your services as much as you need theirs. If you shop around to find additional brokers with regular freight in the lanes you run, you could end up with fewer deadheads (and a more robust broker network overall). To get off on the right foot, verify their legitimacy, ensure they have experience, and let them handle the legal legwork necessary to move those loads. Then continue communicating often and clearly to ensure all details are covered.
  2. Leverage customer relations: A satisfied customer is your best asset in business. Talk to your customers, develop a rapport, and ask for referrals. If you provide quality service, they will likely be happy to refer you to other business associates in their network who may be moving goods into your home territory. In this case, not only will good customer relations keep the loads coming, but it may help you generate new leads for backhaul freight.
  3. Embrace collaboration: Despite typically stiff competition in the freight business, there are times when a collaboration between carriers can benefit all parties involved. Trailer interchange agreements are commonly used to increase operational efficiencies on long-haul freight and last-mile deliveries. Establishing collaborative partnerships with other carriers to achieve more elastic capacity can create additional operational flexibility and efficiency for both sides. In the end, working with other carriers could open the door to more opportunities for more freight, both outbound and inbound.
  4. Increase Your Networking: Expanding your network beyond your local industry associates will widen your net of contacts and possible sources of new freight. Consider joining associations in areas where you deliver loads regularly, as they may have members who ship to your territory. Casting the broadest net possible by expanding your network will capture more opportunities to fill backhauls.
  5. Reduce Backhaul Rates: You undoubtedly made a profit on the outbound freight. Had you not, then you shouldn’t have hauled it in the first place. One way to protect that profit is by getting your equipment home without unnecessary expense. Cutting your rates to win a return load and at least cover costs can be a far more profitable strategy than deadheading home because you held firm to your established freight rate.
  6. Monitor load boards: Load boards are a great resource – they are the most accessible and most frequently used source of uncontracted freight. These convenient-to-use tools are real-time monitors of available freight, allowing trucking companies to select cargo to be picked up in a designated area bound for delivery within your home turf. Select load boards that feature supporting information and resources such as the number of days a freight carrier will have to wait to get paid, credit information, and links to funding solutions such as a freight factoring company.


There is no arguing the extreme value in filling the backhaul! Increased revenues and profits can reward overcoming the challenges that hinder finding, acquiring, and moving those extra loads. Fronthauling may be the bulk of your business and the primary revenue driver but filling the backhaul is equally essential. At most, it will add to profits – at least, it will be the guardian action to protect your bottom line. Carriers that focus effort and apply varying strategies to fill capacity on return trips will benefit from increased operational efficiencies and higher profitability.

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