Song Inspiration: "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel, 1973
“So a 6am delivery is easier when it’s over 500 miles away as opposed to 300 miles?”
It’s true, Tweener loads are difficult for trucking operations and drivers, let me explain:
First, we’ll start with some definitions:
In order to understand the impact of Tweener loads, we must first recognize the two types of semi-truck drivers.
- Short Haul or Local Drivers: They are home every night. These guys/gals run day cabs and go home to their families, and beds, every night. Long hours and many docks make up their 500 mile days (if they don’t hit too many docks.) I want to be sure to mention that their 500 miles a day is round trip! On a normal day, short haul drivers can run 250 miles from point A to point B. Then they have to make it back to point A to be home, otherwise they are staying in a hotel and not home to say goodnight to the family.
- Over-The-Road (OTR) drivers: This group runs a sleeper truck and will stay out for a week+ at a time. These drivers can run 600 (or so) miles per 11 hour driving period before they have to break. If they are going to be away from home, they want to be running as many miles as possible during their work day as that’s what makes them money.
As you can see, there is a daily mileage gap between what a Short Haul Driver and OTR driver can run in one day, we call these Tweeners.
- Tweeners: Nothing scientific here with the definition, it’s just a term to describe those runs that are just a bit more than a day cab can run; but less than what an OTR driver would want to run in a day. Generally speaking, these loads are over 250 miles, but less than 400 (give or take) and are more difficult for a carrier to hit, especially when the delivery time is 6:00am.
Tweener loads are less desirable for a carrier, often underutilizing the truck, and drivers risk a financial hit when they run them.
The inefficiency of Tweener loads on trucking operations:
Stuck in the middle with you, Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you
And I’m wondering what it is I can do.
The first question a fleet manager must answer is, “Who to run on the Tweener load?” Well, if you put a Short Haul Driver on one of these loads, remember they start their day at home every day, that means the driver has to get up early enough to drive 250-300 miles and hit an early appt. Because they are leaving early to make their appointment, the fleet manager must also plan the drivers previous day accordingly as drivers must take a 10 hour break after driving before hitting the road again.
Therefore, it has to be the OTR driver that takes the load since they are prepared to stay out overnight. As a result, the truck doesn’t run the maximum miles in a day and doesn’t generate the revenue it normally would. An OTR driver will head out to the receiver the night before and sleep nearby. There is the difference, it is all where the truck shuts down for the day. If there are any deadhead miles required to pick up the load, they become a much higher percentage of total miles for the run and a $2.00 per mile revenue rate starts getting close to $1.00/mile in revenue without too much effort.
The inefficiency of Tweener loads on Truck Drivers:
Both Short Haul and Long Haul Drivers are paid by the mile. With a Tweener load, the driver doesn’t drive the maximum number of miles they could in a day and that doesn’t do his/her paycheck any favors. Drivers understand this about Tweeners and may not be too happy when they need to take one. If you push too many on a driver, they just may take their talents to another carrier that has a better book of business. It’s like making your child eat their vegetables, and if they do, they can have desert. It’s how it works for transportation companies. Drivers do their fleet manager a favor by taking a Tweener load and expect their fleet manager to get them a long run next so they can still salvage a good week and make their mileage goals.
So, for all of these reasons, carriers have to price these lanes higher. Tweeners will become more significant to the industry in the future. As government regulations increase and E-logs (ELDs) are mandated, there will be no more skewing of paper logs for carriers, and their records will reflect when they violate the hours of service in order to delivery these types of loads on time. For those carriers that that run legal logs already, no big deal. For more information on optimizing loads to mitigate ELD related Productivity losses, check out this blog by David Roush.