37 Mar 25

Four years is a long time. In March 2012, there was only one major van lane paying $1.00 per mile: Philadelphia to Chicago, at 48¢ for the line haul, plus a fuel surcharge of 52¢. Of course, truckers were spending more than $4.00 per gallon for diesel in 2012, and you're paying about $2.00 now. You have other costs, though, and they add up to more than $1.00 a mile.

Is a buck-a-mile better than a deadhead? The "buck-a-mile" backhaul has returned to U.S. highways. There are about 200 lanes that pay $1.00 per mile or less. They're only 1.3% of the 18,000 possible lanes, but you might end up running one, just to avoid a deadhead out of Denver or another challenging market. Some truckers won't even accept a low-priced backhaul. They prefer to drive empty. 

Get a good rate going in. The good news is that there are almost 2,000 van lanes with rates above $2.00 per mile. Chances are, those low-priced backhauls are paired with higher-paying head hauls. If someone offers you a great rate, check to see what's available for the return trip, and be sure the roundtrip average is profitable for you. TruckersEdge Enhanced shows you what other truckers got paid on that lane in the last 90 days, so you'll be forewarned. 

Here is an estimate of the costs per mile to operate a Class 8 truck. Everyone's costs are different, but let's assume these numbers are average. 

 Here's some more detail. You can plug in your own numbers. 

  • Fuel costs averaged $2.12 per gallon in the U.S. last week. Divide your cost per gallon by your mileage. If you get 6.0 to 6.5 miles per gallon, your fuel cost per mile is between 33¢ and 35¢. In 2012, your fuel cost was $4.14 per gallon. In March of 2000, it was $1.49. 
  • Equipment costs have changed, so you should use your own numbers here. I estimated that costs rose 21% for leases and overhead in the past four years. Overhead includes monthly expenses for office space or parking, or employees who aren't drivers.
  • Maintenance and tire costs vary, depending on your equipment. These costs have gone up since 2012. I'll add 6¢, for a total of 39¢ per mile. 
  • Driver pay has risen since 2012. If you include benefits, 45¢ per mile may be on the low side. (If you're the driver as well as the owner, you might not count driver pay as a cost. But you do need to pay yourself, so add it to the equation.)

Find your break-even number. If you add up all those costs, you get to $1.59 per mile or more pretty quickly. Whatever that number is for you -- and yours may be different -- that's your break-even number. If it's $1.59, then you need to average $1.59 for all miles, including deadhead. Otherwise, you lose money. That's why you need to load the truck and move it. Deadhead miles are a big fat zero, and it takes the same number of loaded miles. at $3.18 per mile, to make up for that deadhead. You're better off taking a low-paying backhaul -- just make it a short one, if you can.

Roundtrips must do better than break-even. When you take those buck-a-mile backhauls, you need to make at least $2.18 per mile on the head haul. Why? The average of $2.18 + $1.00 is $1.59. Remember, this doesn't leave you any profit, but it covers the bills. 

Remember your indirect costs. You could park your truck instead, and you'd save on fuel, driver pay, and some portion of the maintenance and tires, but you'd still have to pay for insurance and the lease on your equipment. Those are indirect costs. You pay those bills every month, whether your truck moves or not. 

Average rates may not be profitable for you. Right now, the national average rate for vans is $1.58. Remember that low-priced backhaul from Chicago to Philly? It paid $1.06 per mile this week, and the head haul was paying $2.03, for a roundtrip average of $1.55. That's not gonna cut it. What can you do?

1. Get paid more. Sounds great, but how do you do that? One way is to plan your roundtrips, and find out what rates you can expect in both directions. If the roundtrip doesn't pencil out, look for a TriHaul route. Example: Instead of heading straight back from Philadelphia to Chicago, take a load from Philly to Pittsburgh, then get a second load from there to Chicago. You'll make more money without adding a lot of miles. 

2. Spend Less. If you can't make more money, you may need to cut costs. You've heard all the advice: Run your rig at a steady 55 MPH when you can, to improve your miles per gallon and reduce wear on the tires and engine. Don't idle the engine unless you absolutely have to. Avoid out-of-route miles and deadheads. Maintain your equipment, to prevent breakdowns and costly repairs. Pay off your debts, to save interest payments. When your costs are low, it takes some of the pressure off. You can afford to spend a little more time to find the best loads and to build solid relationships with your best customers.  

 

 

Learn what other truckers got paid on the lanes you run, when you sign up for TruckersEdge Enhanced. You'll see the average prices paid on more than 65,000 lanes, based on real transactions between brokers and carriers. To add rates to your TruckersEdge subscription, or to get DAT Express with TriHaul route suggestions, call 866.487.8253. 

Comments (37) -

You really going to sit there and write some trivial b.s. on how to survive a $1.00 a mile????  Answer this, why should anyone have to drive for that??  If you sit and do the real math drivers don't even make minimum wage and with your article you act like this buck a mile bull is ok.....get off your superior high horse and write an article that says the rates are way out of context to today's economy for owner/operators, small fleets...oh, just dawned on me, you get paid regardless

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Richard Gonzalez
Richard Gonzalez

Thats priceless driver!

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Veronica, you're right. Truckers can't get by on $1.00/mile. As I point out, if you take a load at $1.00 in one direction, you probably need to get at least $2.18 in the other direction, just to break even.

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DONNIE CHAMBLESS
DONNIE CHAMBLESS

I can remember when there was no word as backhaul in trucking,which was invented by brokers as a way to rob the owner/operator. Do Not kidd yourself the brokers are making a killing on this so called "backhaul" freight. In my case when i leave home with a load i don't unload and return home with load, I stay out until I make what I have to have to pay bills. so what I am saying is the word "backhaul" doesn't even apply to those of us who run like this. We have no one but ourselves to blame for "backhaul" freight cheap prices because if you didn't take these cheap price loads they would be forced to pay a fair price which sure be as of today at lease $2.00 mile. REMEMBER THE WORD BROKER MEANS DEAL WITH ME AND YOU WILL GO BROKE!!!!!!!!!! DON'T ACCEPT CHEAP PRICE LOADS!!!!!!!!

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JUSTICE for ALL
JUSTICE for ALL

Donnie, u better be glad u dont work for one of these load board people..U would be out of a job so fast..faster than u posted this comment..the level of control money have..everybody hoping and wishing to be the next slave driver..Mr. pitiful..(small p)not worthy of a capital P..they get theirs in Capitalism..using trick words (BREAK EVEN, BACKHAUL)to make one feel bad for not wanting to sell his soul..then u have people so raped,broken and abused for so long they will take up for these authors rubbing your head patting u on the back for being such a good boy..REMEMBER THE WORD BROKER MEANS DEAL WITH ME AND YOU WILL GO BROKE!!!!!!!!!! DON'T ACCEPT CHEAP PRICE LOADS!!!!!!!!

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James Altman
James Altman

I'm right there with you.  

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Thanks for this article. Some good examples. But lets post an article on how can wr drive out this lying, theiving scum brokers. Because the problem is in the brokers who take like 90% profit off of the rate that customer pays.  Why not eliminate those brokers. Why not not allow them to use load boards?
to go to california you might get lucky with $1.30 per mile. From california you will get 1.2 if lucky.
Every trip this year has been loosing money. Im taking out loans just to pay for bills.
This is rediculous.  

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JUSTICE for ALL
JUSTICE for ALL

Notice!! how the people so called fighting for the truckers, are too afraid of writing any articles about ways to alleviate the leprechan at the gates of hell (brokers), waiting for u to finish your daily ritual (driving for their fancy lifestyles while sitting on their butt holding a phone too tired from having so much money to spend the night before, to do anything but cheat the hard working man and woman)..I wonder why?? I thought this was supposed to be a country built on value and BRAVE people and all i have ever seen is Bullies taking lunch and dinner money from the poor and depriving the hard working individual of a happy lifestyle at home with his family by not paying them a decent wage..Im beginning to see why the unemployment rate is so High..nobody wants to work for the leprechan thats always complaining about certain groups of people not willing to waist 30 years paying off loans and a tax for everything but his lavish lifestyle..my question is:Is a Bully actually BRAVE for preying on the divided weak??

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bottom line it dont work we talking about breaking even what business survives that ONLY BREAK EVEN

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THE "LIGHTBULB"
THE "LIGHTBULB"

The truth is being uncovered constantly thanks to people like Veronica, beware of  people like these that say they are truck advocates but are really double agent hypocrites working for both sides and only out to feed themselves..
One can obviously see this article and articles like these are to lull and ease one into taking a load for scraps then get used to nothing and nothing from nothing leaves nothing and u are back a company driver working the "chain gang" again..I'll bet the author is a broker or has connections to a load board..refuse the load and no one makes money..or instead get your broker license and cut the brokers looking for slaves out..thats what a real truck advocate would say..deceitful articles, BEWARE!!

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Lightbulb, to be clear: I work for DAT. Also, I am not recommending that truckers take loads at $1.00/mile. Far from it. My main point is that it's important to know what loads and rates are available, so you can make the right decisions for your business.

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At the end of the day, the only person that determines the rate, is the owner of the Truck-Company! Not the broker! $1@ mile is not a acceptable or reasonable rate. If no one hauls for that, the rate WILL go up! If we stay united we will all benefit, while at the same time minimally affecting the end product cost. This is a real and reasonable solution. Unfortunately I don't believe it's possible for us unite, at least without strong representation. (Good leadership)

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we dont "backhaul" . every load is income, if we operate out of our home every day then it would be considered a back haul. know the areas, i dont go into florida and countless other states due to pathetic freight rates. knowing your cost per mile is crucial, mine is currently 1.04 after ALL expenses not just fuel as most think. crippling the owner op and smalls are loading/unloading times, 8 am to 2 or 3 pm cutoffs, no fridays and the fmcsa, brokers( explain why a bank or credit card cant loan shark but a broker can?) and of course junk rates. the inability to strike has also crippled us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Fernando amador
Fernando amador

Good Veronica  can we tell the bank o sorry but we broke even this month and no  money for truck or trailer payment o I forgot the people that work in the warehouses they take money out of the bank to give to the owner of the warehouses to keep working because the warehouse run even and can't pay the employee  nor van keep them we are the only once that loose money all the time I don't move for a $1per mile and we should all keep it up no money to make why should I move to make someone else  rich  the worst people are the broker

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Todd, who says we can't strike? I know we all have to eat whether we be company drivers or O/Os. However, if enough drivers just parked the trucks for just a few days at the same time, maybe a week? Maybe things would improve. The brokers are people too, they also rely on trucked in goods to survive. When the shelves at the stores start to get empty, and stay that way for a bit. Things will change. They don't have enough people just standing around, waiting to drive a truck.

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The problem is - if shelves on stores start emptying then prices on groceries and goods will go up and if rates on truck loads go up your still not going to be making any profit because a banana will cost you $3 each....this country is going down the drain.

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Sadly, as is evident here, most that own trucks are just drivers that bought a job.  They fail to look for ways to make the most profit and look for ways to capitalize on the markets.  An article that is written to provide perspective is slammed.  A business person takes all information and looks to see if there is something they can learn from it.  Maybe the information sheds some light, brings up a new idea or gets filed away to emerge another day.

What they don't do is shoot something down because it doesn't fit into their bumper sticker business model.

But that's ok, grab that steering wheel and hold on.

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"the LIGHT BULB"
"the LIGHT BULB"

NICE TRY..your little hand caught in the cookie jar again..as is EVIDENT, to the defense..another worker for the $1.00 load board..PUT UR MONEY WHERE U SIT..LET'S PICK A WEEK TO SIT IDLE AND ANNOUNCE IT ON THIS WEBSITE AND BE THE FIRST WEBSITE TO START, PROMOTE, AND OVERSEE THAT THE TRUCKERS DO IT RIGHT..thought so!! what's the matter too many endorsements to loose..LOL..the People are AWAKE!   MR TRUCK ADVOCATES. better to have a bumper sticker business than to be a hypocrite...we are waiting!! until then let me finish my VACATION..

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Apparently the bulb is burnt out.  I don't work for DAT, I'm a carrier.  Read what I wrote.  I'm talking about being enlightened to any and all ideas, good and bad.  Those that aren't willing to do that are always going to be crying about how they can't make it and we need to "unite".

Can't find any good ideas?  Then find a new business.  It is just embarrassing that so many can prosper with all the same opportunities and tools as others and to see people blaming others for their failures.

For all the business owners, time to pull on you big boss pants, stop holding the steering wheel, start thinking and acting like a business owner.

And while we are at it stop posting as anonymous.  Want to talk big and promote the latest price fixing scheme then post your name.  That at least shows you have the courage of your convictions.

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been sitting idle for two weeks..$400,000 cash in the bank, stock market, property, 2 PROSPEROUS BUSINESSES along side of the truck business..and still willing to not forget about the small trucker and truckers just getting in the business. BE A LEADER
mr. Neighbor hood u are pathetic and u have some cheese left in between your teeth and a brown coloring on your nose that cant be whipped off from where your nose has been for a long time..ONLY THINKING OF YOURSELF..SHAME..you say I made it, so hell with everybody else..pathetic close the HOOD and keep driving

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oh and hood rat, remember, u only control ur 1.00 a mile truck not me..

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Double deezs
Double deezs

As the editor said to break even. He job is to report the facts. You guys are winning about making money yet none of you will talk to other drivers about turning you trucks off  hell. If your gonna haul the s***. The rates will never come back. Your only setting yourself and the industry up to fail. We all now what needs to happen. So who will do it. That's the real question these so call back hauls don't exists your an over the road driver you can go anywhere. And it cost the truck the same to go down is to come back. Stop running them s****y lanes like Florida. Atlanta Denver. And maybe they start paying. The problem is the brokers. Plain and simple.  10 owner opt.  Keep you truck up and weather out the storm. The rates will come back!  Will You?

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Physical Attraction
Physical Attraction

My truck have been parked for two weeks and this is not the first month..Have yours??? I didn't see in the articles anything the editor said about parking your truck..I apologize for missing that part and I apologize for missing the part about how to become a broker with free training to offset the greedmongers {"TO WEATHER THE STORM"}..How hard could it be?? If someone is really out to help truckers, TEACH them how to become a broker for free and show them how to find the freight or did I miss that part too...parked for two weeks in perfect condition!!! SACRIFICE!!!   HAVE YOURS???? don't worry about the spelling as long as u can spell NO!!!

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Double deezs
Double deezs

Sorry I missed spelled a few things but yeah you get the point 330 am waiting Chicago ford. To Load.  

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These rates will continue as long as no one acts ,load board
Owned by the drivers Salary played employees to operate and maintain
a trucker seems to be like a turd in the sewer everything is fine as long as it keeps moving butt when it stops things will happen and that you can take to the bank so if the rates are low there's no one to blame but the trucker himself if it's not profitable I don't see the rest of the world taking part in that it's only the trucker that will work in the red and I ask myself why are you not in control of your destiny maybe it's time you took control

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What pisses me most when i call a broker and he offers me a load Newark, NJ to Syracuse, NY for $450 and i just say no thank you. I don't want to even negotiate with that person but he screams hold on a sec let me ask my boss if I can work with you. I'm offered same load at 700. how can you expect me to believe you that this load has to go now and the rate just jumped 30% where that money come from? we still know you making money on that load. so you just tried to rip me off for $250 and how much more you still get?
Another different issue...... this stupid Lumper fee when that started. I pool a load for $500 and there is $350 lumper fee on that. wth is wrong with that picture.

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Charles jr
Charles jr

Yes rates are very low because of of fuel prices aren't high rates were darn good with fuel prices was up to $3-4 a gallon. But while we're crying about rates and putting all are $back into our trucks.  How many of you are putting $ into to a ira or some type of savings.    I know it's hard because there's no profits but stop putting all of your $ back into your trucks. And fix your own equipment I had a blown turbo gasket and 2missing turbo bolts and limped from co-Ca with a heavy load.   Fixed the problem myself and saved time and $     stop making mechanics rich and REMEBER put something up for your retirement and pay what you can on tithes  I'm broke but my trucking business is blessed to have a good driver and mechanic.   WHICH IS ME

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Freight-Match.com
Freight-Match.com

This is a VERY sore topic for many drivers.  Not only is the broker a part of these issues, the customer is as well.  Squeezing the HECK out of what moves this country

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Rick Vogeney
Rick Vogeney

One solution would be to bypass the broker and find your own shipping accounts.

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Stumblefoot Hot Shot
Stumblefoot Hot Shot

You cant really blame the load boards, its the brokers..as mentioned above, when you pull a load 450M for $500 and you see on the BOL it paid $1200, well you really wonder where did the money go? --Broker-- Why would any one want to break even? I'm here to make a profit. I have to make a profit to someday replace my truck and trailer, The maintenance fund really wont cover replacement. Brokers should be forced to never take more than 10% of the freight rate. The big ones CH R would still make millions, some of the small ones might go away but most would still make $$ and we would not be taking $1 freight just to break even.

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OK THIS IS CRAZY ...there are transportation magazine, and news feed that's show that FED-X and UPS and others raising their shipping rates even though the cost of fuel is down and had several listing of which brokers that made the top 100 of 100 brokers that made in the billions and don't even own a truck..hell BJ and the BEAR made $1.50 A MILE BACK IN 1979 WHEN FUEL WAS 50.CENT A GALLON...you have to think about the real cost of running and operating your truck and the real cost if you have a family and your not there to watch them grow while a broker goes home every night has the weekend and holidays off and can take a 2hr lunch ,add that all up..your miininum should be at least $2.50 a mile but i guess that's just a dream

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Also GOOGLE the top paid transportation company,3rd party logistics and brokers and you will see the killing they are making off of your back

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Dean Slowiak
Dean Slowiak

I was an owner operator for 10 years. Got tired of that lifestyle. Leased on 3 owner operators. Charged 8% to keep their trucks loaded. Got my broker authority. Brokered freight for 14 years. My average percentage for the year was 6%. I had over 1100 carriers in my data base. Never had to advertise, word of mouth and referrals. Some of my steady carriers didn't even ask what the loads paid because they knew I was honest and fair. Not all brokers are the scum of the earth. I made a good living, slept very well at night, sold tbe business and am back driving again. Hi

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BRIAN VANNOY
BRIAN VANNOY

Mr. Slowiak:

I am where you were.
OTR vet for 6 years.....finished up as an O/O with Dart.
Had to get off the road in Aug due to wife's ongoing medical issues and our 3 grandbabies and their parents had to relocate back home with us.....I got a good gig as a CDL Instructor at Central GA Tech College but as ou can image I took a massive pay cut to do it and be able to stay home.

Trying to do what you did and get going here as a QUALITY, HONEST, and DEPENDABLE Freight Broker.....I have a lot of background in auto manufacturing with Ford for 11 years and in Food Service for 20 years in addition to trucking.....I'm also looking at developing relationships with the Port of Savannah because of its current massive expansion.

To the point.....Im in NEED of a REAL, SOILD, MENTOR who would be willing to take me under their wing and show me how its done.....CORRECTLY......there are a lot of online courses and others but Im really one of those who benefit from working directly with someone who has actually done it.

Or could you refer me or pass my info along to someone you know in the businss who could help me get started.

Thanks for any help or advice you might have for me.

God Bless and Merry Christmas.
Brian D. Vannoy
478-978-4490

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Angelo rivera
Angelo rivera

I have to tell you I am either in partners or own a share in a few small trucking companies as well as other businesses around the country I have read the article if I am not mistaken the author is using numbers as a statistic and nothing more at the end of the day I never go under 2 per mile. Unless it's a huge account my trucks all have GPS and other technologies that I use as a tool to help run my business so I can squeeze every dollar as I can from it and the word back load should be struck from the truckers dictionary all together. There is a saying good work ain't cheap and cheap work ain't good . Your break even number is of course is going to be different then mine. I come out of the ny erea and our over head is through the roof then if you come from another state. The brokers who I never use and I'm in business to make money don't try to just cut it because it will never work trust me I know I did those mistake when I first started out the ones who cut to the bone are the ones who never stay in business for to long and some how are the ones in trouble you read about them in the paper from time to time they are the ones owing money to the IRS and loosing their homes and such so at the end of the day don't be a scavenger and cut it close even though you might loose some money in the beginning you will make more in the end and when you do diversify into something else so that if one thing doesn't do well the other is good luck trucking out there and be safe my friends ...

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Rich Collins
Rich Collins

Buck a mile? Are you kidding me? Thank God trump became president. Now if he does what he says.renegotiate NAFTA to benefit the American trucker, build the wall , because some one is hauling the cheap freight, it's not me that's for sure.american truckers should haul American freight, PERIOD!!!!

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You are also not taking into account that if you dead head back to a hot market to get better paying loads, you don't have to worry about wasting a day making a $1.00/mile delivery. This will in turn cost you more in lost revenue you could have had finishing up a day early in a hot market.

Example I start on Monday in Los Angeles with a load paying $1,000 going to phoenix to deliver on Tuesday. Then I dead head back on Tuesday to grab another load on Wednesday. If I were to take one of those $1.00/mile back hauls to deliver on Wednesday, I've just wasted a day and lost more money when it comes to overall revenue.

Many drivers and companies don't think about this factor and it's one of the largest reasons they're losing money.  Just say no to the low paying loads and the prices will start going up.

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