Convoy Survey: Empty Miles Top Carriers’ List of Priorities

Convoy survey cover image

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Digital freight network company Convoy found reducing empty miles is a top priority for small and midsize trucking companies, according to a sustainability survey released March 17.

The Convoy Sustainability in Trucking Snapshot  found that 69.2% of respondents indicated that reducing empty miles is very important to their business. That was followed by 12.6% who believe is it important, 10.8% who think it’s moderately important, 3.9% who say it’s less important and 3.5% who say it’s not important.

Empty miles in the freight industry occur when a truck unit is not earning revenue for being on the road, such as when a driver has to travel to a new location without a load. The result is more carbon emissions and added costs for the carrier. Convoy found 35% of truck miles may be empty.



“Considering that 35% of all miles driven by truck drivers are driven empty, there is an ongoing underutilization of the truck in the U.S. freight industry,” Jennifer Wong, head of sustainability at Convoy, told Transport Topics. “If we as an industry can work to reduce the amount of empty miles being driven, we can put more money in truck drivers’ pockets, improve their livelihoods and make the job more lucrative.”

Convoy surveyed nearly 700 companies earlier this month. Survey participants include dispatchers, drivers and owner operators, and the results were self-reported by the participants.

Survey Says

The percentage of dispatchers who believe that reducing empty miles is very important is 63%. That represents a 5% increase from the August 2021 survey. The percentage of dispatch drivers who believe that reducing empty miles is very important rose by 3%, to 69%.

Source: Convoy Sustainability in Trucking Snapshot 

“Our carrier surveys help us understand the opportunities to support carriers as they feel increased pressure to reduce emissions,” Wong said. “In this latest survey, we found that reducing empty miles is a top priority for carriers, with nearly 70% responding that it’s very important.”

Convoy noted in the report that the regional distance of 100 to 400 miles represented the biggest share of loads for owner-operators, dispatchers and driver groups. But that distance also is when drivers experience the most empty miles. The report found that trimming just 1% of empty miles from one longhaul truck could save over 100 gallons of fuel.

The top reason for wanting to reduce carbon emissions is government regulation at 25.3%. That was followed by more awareness of the environmental impacts (17.8%), reduce operating costs (9.4%) and personal motivation (8.8%. ). In the previous survey, the top reason was more awareness of environmental impacts (24.3%).

Carbon Output

The survey also found 38% of respondents said that they feel pressure to reduce carbon emissions. That is up from 34.9% in the previous study. However, 62% indicated that they don’t feel pressured to reduce carbon emissions.

Source: Convoy Sustainability in Trucking Snapshot 

“We also found that carriers are actively exploring ways to be more fuel-efficient because of government pressure and more awareness of the environmental impact of carbon emissions,” Wong said. “We are encouraged by the findings of this report, showing that owner-operators across the country are interested and incentivized to build a path to zero-emission trucking.”

The survey found 23.8% of respondents strongly disagreed that stricter environmental laws and regulations were worth the cost. That was followed by 17.6% who disagree, 14% who agree and 4.9% who strongly agree. Most were neutral on the issue at 39.6%.

At the same time, 19.2% strongly agree that stricter environmental laws and regulations cost jobs and hurt the economy. That was followed by 22.8% who agree, 40.5% who were neutral, 9.1% who disagree and 8.4% who strongly disagree.

The survey also found about 61% of respondents believe climate change was an issue of some or a great deal of importance. About 39% of respondents indicated that they thought climate change was not too much of an issue or not at all an issue.

Electric and hydrogen vehicles represent one way for carriers to reduce emissions. The survey found 48.4% plan on buying a new truck within the next year. There were barriers; 58.2% of respondents said electric trucks are too expensive, followed by distance limits (38.6%), charging infrastructure (36.6%), charging time (35.4%), maintenance costs (28.3%) and weight limits (16.6%).

The Freightliner eCascadia was the electric or hydrogen truck respondents were most excited to drive at 22.8%. That was followed by Volvo electric trucks (18.1%), Tesla (18.1%), Kenworth (11.6%) and Peterbilt (11.4%).

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