Freight Brokering – What is Dead-Head Pay?

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You’ll hear the word “dead-head” in the transportation industry quite often. I remember my very first job as a brakeman on the TP&W railroad in East Peoria, IL. They dead- headed me to the Illinois-Indiana border about 120 miles east.

They had another employee drive me in a car to Indiana. From there I got on No. 20 where – as my brother warned me – I’d be walking all the way back to central Illinois (he was a brakeman himself at TP&W). And that I did. After arriving in Indiana, I think I had several hours of sleep first and then a steak dinner at the “hangout”.

We left Indiana about midnight and stopped to switch cars in and out all along Route 24 – Sheldon, Watseka, Chatsworth, Forrest, Chenoa, Gridley, El Paso and eventually back into the yard in East Peoria. We arrived about 12 noon and I was tired.

To be honest, I don’t know what kind of pay I received for being dead-headed to Indiana. But I didn’t care. This was back in my younger days – when a guy didn’t have to worry about what he ate or drank let alone how much he was getting paid to get dead-headed 120 miles.

So, you’ll find dead-heading in trucking as well. Normally, this is when a driver will drive empty, out of his way to pick up a load. Now, some people say it’s dead-heading when the driver does not have to drive out of his way to pick up a load – but perhaps at the destination, there is little freight to pick up as a back haul so the driver has to leave elsewhere – empty – to pick up another load.

Either way – the truck is driving empty in order to pick up a load or driving elsewhere empty to find another load after making a drop.

And, of course, the driver is looking for dead-head pay. In my opinion, a shipper should help to some extent by providing deadhead pay. But many don’t.

I think it all depends on “urgency”. How urgent is the shipper to get his load moved? Or, how urgent is the driver wanting to move truck? The broker, of course, should always try to get the best “package” for his truck. But, ultimately, it’s the shipper’s decision.

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Source by John D. Thomas

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