The price of a trucking job is dependent on a number of factors. The type of load, whether it’s temperature sensitive, the pickup and drop-off location, the timeline required and more all factor into how a trucking job is priced.

Of course, one of the biggest components that factors into the price of a load is the number of miles driven from where the load is picked up and where it’s dropped off.

Because of the nature of big trucks, it’s not as simple as plugging the starting point and the destination into a mapping program and getting the number of miles. There are other things to consider, as there are three different types of mileage that apply to the trucking industry.

Let’s take a deeper dive into each, and how they would affect the price of a load.

Practical Miles vs Actual Miles vs Shortest Miles

The three different categories of mileage are practical miles, actual miles and shortest miles. As you likely know if you’re in the industry, driving a truck isn’t like driving a regular vehicle. The routes that are best for you to take aren’t always the most direct, for a variety of reasons.

Here’s an explanation of the three different types of mileage for trucks.

Practical Miles

Practical miles are defined as the shortest and best practical route that a driver and the truck can take from Point A to Point B. Practical miles are essentially the most efficient route that a driver can take in a trucking route.

In almost all cases, practical miles will be more than what the shortest miles will be. These routes will keep trucks on interstate highways as much as possible, reducing the number of miles they drive on other highways, toll routes and local roads.

When drivers must exit interstate highways, they might also be restricted to what roads they can take. Some local roads ban trucks from traveling on them, for example in Gainesville, Georgia,  meaning they have to take a longer-than-necessary route to get to their destination.

Actual Miles

The easiest category to understand is actual miles, as they are just the exact miles that are driven during a delivery. Those in the industry might refer to actual miles as “hub miles,” in reference to the hubodometer. That was a device that, at one time, was installed on the axle of the truck and was considered to be more accurate than the odometer of the vehicle.

Actual miles are easy to calculate since they can be viewed right on the odometer. Most modern trucks will also store these miles in the ECM system, or the engine control monitoring system, which can be transmitted to an office wirelessly.

Shortest Miles 

Also known as HHG, or household good miles, shortest miles represent the shortest route from Point A to Point B. Oftentimes, shortest miles will be less than practical miles or actual miles, for the reasons discussed above.

Shortest miles don’t take into consideration what the fastest route or most efficient route for the delivery might be. It just represents the lowest number of miles that could’ve been driven from a starting point to an ending point, regardless of any outside factors such as speed of the truck or congestion on the road.

How to Calculate Practical Miles? 

Practical miles can be calculated in one of two ways. If you have modern software, you can type in the starting and ending address for a route to calculate the practical miles. This is an invaluable tool for many trucking companies and drivers to be able to use with ease. Some trucking load boards will also list the practical miles with each job.

The classic way of calculating practical miles is to use the closest Post Office to both the starting point and the end destination. You’ll then be able to calculate the mileage between the two points to get the practical miles of a job. 

What is Practical Mileage Pay?

Sometimes, drivers are paid based on how many practical miles they will drive for a job. Manufacturers and trucking companies will base their driver’s pay off the practical miles because it’s the most likely route the driver will take — and the most efficient one based on the particular truck being driven and load being delivered.

Drivers aren’t locked into taking the route that the practical mileage pay is based on. It’s even possible that they may have to alter the route slightly if there is too much traffic, an accident or a road closure.

However, even if drivers end up traveling more miles than the practical mileage, they won’t be paid any more than the agreed-upon rate. So, make sure you understand the terms of the agreement and whether your pay is based on practical mileage or some other calculation.

What is the Average Rate Per Mile?

The rates for trucking can vary dramatically, sometimes on a daily basis. The price is typically based on the availability of trucks, the demand that’s out there in the industry as well as the possible routes that drivers can take. Also taken into consideration are the number of stops the driver will have to make, the equipment the driver will have to use and the contents of the load itself.

The per-mile-rate averages anywhere from $1.50 to $2.50 in the industry. The national average at the start of 2021 varied based on the vehicle that was being driven in the delivery.

Vans averaged $1.97 per mile. Flatbeds averaged $2.17 per mile. Reefer trucks came in the highest, with an average of $2.35 per mile.

On average, it cost operators $1.82 per mile to run one of their trucks as of the start of 2021. This includes all costs, including maintenance, insurance, licenses, driver wages and equipment. The operator will take all of this into consideration when pricing out the jobs for their drivers.