Do Trucking Companies Pay for Deadhead Miles?

Do Trucking Companies Pay for Deadhead Miles?

When a truck travels without any cargo, this practice is known as deadheading. Often, truck drivers try to avoid routes that will end up with deadhead miles. These practices can be inefficient and force drivers to rush to find other cargo to carry back to their destination. As a result, it can lead to them taking risks on the road.

At the Trucking Injury Law Group, we have seen the effects of drivers who are under stress to complete a drop-off and return for another assignment. Usually, these incidents result in reckless and dangerous behavior.

However, with better compensation, drivers are less likely to engage in negligent actions behind the wheel. In regard to those deadhead miles, do trucking companies pay their drivers? Let’s look at a few scenarios.

What Are Deadhead Miles?

Deadhead miles are also called “empty miles.” Unfortunately, if there is no cargo at the truck’s destination, the driver must travel back on these empty miles. In the trucking industry, all companies want to remain efficient and try to avoid deadhead trucking at all costs. When they need to deadhead, it causes a wide range of issues, from increased fuel costs to wear and tear on the vehicle.

There are several scenarios that can lead to deadheading, such as:

  • After delivering a load to the destination, drivers may need to return to their home base. As a result, this can lead to deadhead miles since the truck is empty on its way back.
  • When a truck is en route to pick up a new load, it may need to travel empty to the pickup location. This can happen when the load is still being prepared for transport, or the pickup location is far from the previous delivery location.
  • Unexpected road closures, weather conditions, or other factors can force a truck to travel empty to find an alternative route. As a result, this can lead to deadhead miles since the driver isn’t carrying any freight.

Are Drivers Compensated for Deadhead Miles?

Yes, some drivers will be paid for deadhead miles. However, that will vary based on the company, type of trucking job, and individual contractual agreements.

Company Drivers

Many companies that employ truck drivers will pay their drivers for deadhead miles. Sometimes, these miles are an inevitable part of the trucking business. The compensation for deadhead miles can be a fixed rate per mile or a percentage of the loaded miles. Some companies offer additional incentives or bonuses to offset the costs associated with empty trips, such as fuel and maintenance costs. These drivers may receive cash bonuses, extra paid time off, or the option to take on additional loads to increase overall pay.

When it comes to covering fuel costs during deadhead trips, most drivers receive a range of $0.60 to $0.90 per mile. This compensation is designed to help offset the expenses associated with traveling without a load or revenue-generating cargo. This mileage reimbursement may vary from company to company or depend on various factors such as the length of the trip, type of vehicle, fuel prices, and other related costs.


These individuals are independent truckers. They own and operate their own trucks. With this position, these drivers have more flexibility. They are able to choose their own routes and schedules. However, they also must face higher expenses, such as fuel costs, maintenance, insurance, and taxes.

Sometimes, these owner-operators negotiate deadhead pay with brokers or shippers. Unfortunately, deadhead pay is not always guaranteed for every load. Some loads may come with no compensation for empty miles. Many times, these drivers will need to find backhauls or return loads near their delivery destination. With that, they will not have to worry about losing pay on a deadhead route.

Freight Contracts

When it comes to the transportation of goods, freight contracts and agreements outline the terms and conditions of the shipment. Sometimes, these contracts stipulate deadhead pay. However, these terms can vary from one contract to another. Some contracts may specify a separate rate for deadhead miles, while others include it as part of the overall compensation.

Are Better-Paid Drivers Safer on the Road?

When drivers rush from one job to another, they could engage in bad practices. This urgency can result in sudden acceleration, hard braking, and speeding, which can lead to a higher risk of accidents. As a result, drivers rushing back on unpaid deadhead hours may end up in rear-end collisions, accidental sideswipes, and lane-changing accidents.

Deadhead trucks are already a safety concern, with them having two and a half times the risk of causing an accident, according to a Science X Network research study in Australia. When you add in a sense of urgency from the driver, that can lead to more mistakes on the road.

Along with compensation, paid waiting times can affect the behavior of drivers. When compensated for that, drivers are less likely to rush through pre- or post-trip inspections, fueling, and dock waiting.

However, not all drivers are compensated for waiting times. In some cases, drivers may be paid only for their time on the road. As a result, they may rush through other tasks to maximize their earnings. All this can lead to running red lights or taking shortcuts, putting both the driver and others on the road in danger.

While deadhead trucking is a practice that can cause the loss of money for both the driver and their company, it is also dangerous. Traveling to any destination with an empty trailer can lead to accidents. When you couple that with reckless behavior by the driver, it may end up with a disastrous outcome.

At the Trucking Injury Law Group, we have seen the effects of these accidents. Our team is always here to help answer any of your truck-related accident questions.