22 March 20247 minute read

Backhauling in Logistics: Benefits, Types, and Optimization


Optimize backhaul routes for your delivery drivers with Circuit for Teams.

It’s one of the most essential aspects of supply chain management: backhauling in logistics. 

In short, backhauling is when you plan your delivery routes to make sure you pick up goods on every leg of the journey. 

It's like killing two birds (or more) with one stone. More bang for your buck!

Here’s the deal: Whether you’re a cross-country independent truck driver partnering with trucking companies or a startup delivery company in New York, no truckload for your delivery vehicle means no income. 

As the minutes pass and those “empty miles” add up, that’s some serious cash down the drain. 

But a solid backhaul strategy can help you minimize “deadhead miles” and increase efficiency.

This article is all about the benefits of backhauling in logistics, last-mile delivery, and the trucking industry. We’ll show you how a backhaul strategy can help your delivery routers maximize company profits. 

We also explore the different types of backhauling and specific backhaul trucking techniques to optimize your own delivery routes. We’ll give you the lowdown on how to plan your routes and pickups and where to find backhaul loads.

In other words, don't sleep on backhauling. 

Keep reading to learn how to implement the best backhauling strategy for your business and optimize your delivery routes better than ever.

Key takeaways:

  • Backhauling in logistics is picking up a load on the return trip instead of driving back with an empty truck, reducing the number of empty miles, saving time, fuel, and money.
  • There are two categories of backhauling: internal and external, where internal is when a company moves its own goods, and external is when third-party freight is transported.
  • Backhauling helps reduce transportation costs, lower carbon footprint, increase asset utilization, and improve efficiency in the supply chain.
  • There are four types of backhauling: direct, indirect, milk run, and triangle routing.
  • To optimize backhauling routes, companies can leverage technology and techniques like route optimization, consolidation, collaboration, and modal shift.
Circuit for Teams is a simple software for optimizing routes with multiple drivers. Click here to start your free 14-day trial.

What is backhauling in logistics?

Backhauling in logistics is when you pick up a load on your return trip instead of driving back with an empty truck. This reduces the number of empty miles, which is a waste of time, fuel, and money. 

There are two categories of backhauling: internal and external.

  • Internal backhauling occurs when a company moves its own goods or products on a return trip. For instance, an ice cream company may deliver several gallons of ice cream to a store and pick up ingredients like milk and eggs near the store to take back to the factory.
  • External backhauling, on the other hand, is when you transport third-party freight to and from the original delivery point. This type of backhauling needs more planning than internal backhauling because you have to communicate with other carriers and brokers to find backhaul loads. But it's worth the effort because it increases operational efficiency, meaning more productivity and boosted revenue.

These categories include several more specific types of backhauling, which we detail below.

You can communicate with other carriers to find backhaul loads, but working with a broker is often more effective. 

Even better, you can use a digital load board. Online marketplaces (known as load boards) connect carriers with brokers and shippers, enabling efficient and cohesive transportation of goods throughout the country.

The next section dives into the good stuff and talks about the benefits of backhauling.

Benefits of backhauling

Backhauling is a smart way to reduce empty miles, increase revenue, and improve operational efficiency. Here’s how:

Reduced transportation costs 

reduced transportation costs

Backhauling is fantastic because it lets companies optimize their transport by filling empty trucks with return loads. 

This way, they can avoid shipping half-filled loads or running empty vehicles. As a result, companies can save some serious cash on transportation costs

Lower carbon footprint 

Not only is backhauling easy on the wallet, but it's also eco-friendly. 

By reducing empty trips and maximizing vehicle usage, backhauling can help cut transportation-related carbon emissions. It's a win-win situation.

Increased asset utilization 

Backhauling is a boss move because it helps delivery companies get the most out of their assets. 

Using the same trucks or vehicles for multiple purposes can boost asset utilization and get a better return on investment for that equipment.

Improved efficiency in the supply chain 

Backhauling is clutch because it can help reduce lead times and improve delivery times. 

Using the same vehicle to transport goods to and from different locations helps you streamline your company’s supply chain and make it more efficient. 

Types of backhauling

Let's talk about the different types of backhauling! 

In addition to the simple difference between internal and external backhauling, understanding these further variations is important for any delivery company looking to optimize its supply chain management. 

There are four types of backhauling: direct, indirect, milk run, and triangle routing.

Direct backhauling 

Direct backhauling is when you use the same vehicle or truck to transport goods to and from the same location. It's like making a round trip. 

For example, a delivery truck may transport goods from a warehouse to a retail store and then return to the warehouse with goods from the store.

It's simple and efficient!

Indirect backhauling 

Indirect backhauling is when you use the same vehicle or truck to transport goods to and from different locations that aren't directly connected. 

For example, a truck may transport goods from a warehouse to a retail store and then pick up goods from another store before returning to the warehouse. 

It's a bit more complex, but it can still save you time and money.

Milk run backhauling 

Milk run backhauling is when you use the same vehicle or truck to make multiple stops along a specific route. 

For example, a delivery truck may stop at several different retail stores along a specific route, delivering goods to each store and picking up goods for backhauling.

This is perfect for companies with multiple deliveries in a certain area. 

Triangle routing backhauling 

Triangle routing backhauling is when you use the same vehicle or truck to transport goods in a triangular route.

For example, a truck may transport goods from a warehouse to a retail store, pick up goods from a different location, and deliver them to a third location before returning to the warehouse.

This one is a bit more complicated, but it can be efficient if done correctly. 

These types of backhauling each have benefits and can help you optimize your delivery routes. 

Use them strategically to save time, money, and fuel while increasing efficiency.

4 optimization techniques for backhauling

Let's get down to brass tacks and talk about the top four optimization techniques that can help you get the most out of your backhauling routes. 

Whether you're shipping goods across the country or just across town, these tips can help you save money and improve delivery times.

1. Route optimization 

Route optimization

First up, we've got route optimization. You can leverage technology to analyze data on factors like traffic patterns, road closures, and weather conditions, then determine the most efficient routes for your backhauling trips. 

And that's where Circuit for Teams comes in. Use our delivery management software to easily manage multiple routes, saving you hours every day. 

Why waste time planning when you can let us do the heavy lifting?

2. Load optimization 

Next on our list of backhauling optimization techniques is load optimization

You can determine the most efficient way to load goods onto a vehicle by analyzing their weight, volume, and fragility. 

And that means you can increase asset utilization and reduce transportation costs.

3. Collaboration and sharing 

Third on our list is collaboration and sharing. 

Working with logistics companies or partnering with other supply chain services to share transportation resources means you can reduce transportation costs and optimize your supply chain

It's all about working smarter, not harder.

4. Technology and data analytics 

Last but not least, we've got technology and data analytics. 

It’s true that you can manually create efficient routes without software. But the difference between a manual route and a computer-optimized route is just no contest.

By using software that gives you real-time data on factors like traffic, weather, and delivery times, you can make more informed decisions about route planning, load optimization, and collaboration. 

For example, the Circuit for Teams live tracking features let users confidently track deliveries, know each driver’s exact location, and see whether they're on schedule.

You can also use recent Circuit for Teams updates to edit routes in real time and view dynamic stop status icons, giving you even greater flexibility and agility while managing deliveries.

There you have it — four optimization techniques to help you get the most out of your backhauling operations.

Ready to get started? 

Discover how Circuit for Teams can help optimize backhauling for your business

Now you know what backhauling is all about, how it can save you additional trips and operating costs, and the different types of backhaul transport available. 

If you want to optimize your delivery logistics and plan backhaul routes for your truckers or other delivery drivers, Circuit for Teams is the solution.

With Circuit for Teams, you can easily add your list of drivers and deliveries in a simple spreadsheet and let our software find the fastest solution. 

That’s right — say goodbye to wasted hours trying to plan routes and say hello to more time to focus on growing your business. 

Plus, you can choose which navigation app your drivers use and add special instructions, comments, or notes for each package.

And since your dispatchers probably deal with multiple depots, you can rest assured that Circuit for Teams has you covered. Our recent update now offers enhanced functionality for managing deliveries across locations for larger teams. 

Businesses can also easily prioritize certain stops by selecting them as first or last on a route, improving their backhauling efficiency.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to optimize your backhauling operations with Circuit for Teams.

Try it free today.

About the author

Heather Reinblatt
Heather ReinblattContributor

Heather Reinblatt is a managing editor currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. She spends her free time reading, trying new recipes, and cuddling her cat Paisley. You can find Heather on LinkedIn.


Easily manage drivers and deliveries

See how Circuit for Teams makes it easy!

Try it free

Reduce your delivery costs by 20% with Circuit for Teams

Logistics map interface showing the New York afternoon delivery run with route lines and list of addresses