What Is Backhaul Trucking?

March 25, 2024

Team ACV




What Is Backhaul Trucking?

ACV facts & figures

No items found.
A shipment of used cars on a trailer

Transporters are always looking for ways to maximize their efficiency when delivering goods. Backhaul trucking is a key to that strategy, but it can be complex to execute. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about backhaul trucking so that you can maximize your transportation processes and take advantage of your return trips as a truck driver. 

Backhaul Trucking Explained

Backhaul trucking is the load that a truck takes on its return trip. So, rather than sending a trailer back across the state or country empty, backhauling is the practice of using that trip to transport other goods for the sake of efficiency. 

There are two types of backhauling: 

  • Internal: This is when a company sends its own products in other directions. This is a straightforward option since it doesn’t require any third-party arrangements. However, internal backhauling hinges on whether the company has shipments that need to go to that exact return destination. 
  • External: With external backhauling, shippers (Company A) typically transport and deliver third-party (Company B) shipments on a truck’s return trip. This requires coordination between separate parties, and also requires Company B to find those available return shipments.1 

What Are the Benefits of Backhaul Trucking? 

Backhaul trucking serves many benefits, including: 

  • Maximizing profits for the truck fleets—each trip can do double the work if planned correctly. 
  • Improving efficiency for the transporter—since they are already returning to that location, they can complete a job in what would have otherwise been wasted time. 
  • Increases fleet utilization for the trucking company—your truckers and vehicles will be used productively a higher portion of the time.3 

What Are the Costs and Challenges Associated With Backhaul Trucking?

Because much of backhaul trucking consists of external backhauling, carriers face barriers that may prevent them from taking advantage of the opportunity. 

  1. It Requires Extensive Planning: Yes, it may increase efficiency and avoid wasted trips, but these connections between points A and B will require prior arrangements and research, so a company needs to have a strategic plan in place. It’s not always as easy as two parties partnering up to share transit—the networks can get much more complex in order to produce the most suitable routes for the drivers involved.
  2. Delays Can Have a Knock-On Effect: When one route is delayed, the return route can get delayed, further altering the schedule. So, it can be risky to add routes that don’t quite match up to pre-existing plans. 
  3. Lack of Demand: In order to maximize these return trips, there have to be suitable shipments needed at the right time, and this isn’t always the case.3 

Plus, increasing loads on the return trip will require extra fuel,  additional maintenance, increased driver pay, and additional insurance, tolls, and other fees that all must be considered. For transporters, this practice does add to one’s workload. However, it offers you the potential to double the amount of work you execute in the same amount of time. 

How to Develop a Strategy for Backhaul Loads

While carriers can communicate with one another to find backhaul loads, this can be inefficient and may not reveal all of the suitable trips that are in demand. Typically, the preferred strategy for transporters is to work with a broker who has a digital load board that can connect carriers with shipments in demand. As a middleman, this matching system will connect parties, closing any gaps and identifying opportunities that would have required hours of research to find independently.1 

Partner With ACV Transportation to Find Backhaul Loads

To find backhaul load opportunities each day, join our ACV Transportation Load Board. We list thousands of opportunities each day to help you make use of your return trip. We have a network of partners across the country and offer opportunities at a local and regional level. Learn how you can sign up as a carrier and get started today. 


  1. Truckstop. 2022. “What is backhaul trucking?” Truckstop. Retrieved March 11, 2024. https://truckstop.com/blog/what-is-backhaul-trucking/ 
  2. Teletrac Navman. “What is backhauling?” Teletrac Navman. Retrieved March 11, 2024. https://www.teletracnavman.com/fleet-management-software/resources/what-is-backhauling 
  3. Raimondi, Sofia. 2023. “What is backhaul in trucking?” Flock Freight. Retrieved March 11, 2024. https://www.flockfreight.com/blog/what-is-backhaul-in-trucking