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In our research, we find that there is not a comprehensive yet concise article explaining the difference between these two measurements of trucker pay, so we wanted to lay things out easily for the common man, or someone just getting into driving.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line between them. Our roadways are not like that, with obstacles such as mountains and lakes, and so short miles is the shortest distance between two points that a truck can travel upon. This excludes things like bridges with a load limit of fewer than 80,000 pounds.
Practical miles is the distance between two points when considering the fastest route a truck can use to get there (as in, the least amount of time to travel). This considers factors such as speed limits, traffic, and potential detours for fueling and bathroom breaks.
The Difference Between the Two
In the time before the Information Age and widespread adoption of the Internet, short miles was king. Truckers and dispatchers could use common sense to determine some traffic such as rush hour at 5 PM, but finding out about an accident or bad weather conditions was harder. Now with the advent of smart devices and data being processed by the gigabyte, all of this information is at your fingertips and can be used to find the quickest route.
Many trucking companies a trucker may work for pay by the short mile but want the driver to travel there along the practical mile route for peak efficiency. This makes a driver’s actual pay per mile less than the amount of road they actually traveled, and can make a trucker feel scammed, as forum posters on the internet have voiced their concerns.
Some carriers such as Crete Carrier pay by practical miles instead of short miles. Usually, a trucking company will pay its drivers less per mile when paying by practical miles. While short mile drivers and practical mile drivers are often paid comparable rates, there is certainly a psychological effect of not feeling “cheated” and driving for free on some miles of the trip.
In the end, practical miles has its name for a reason. In the early age of trucking short miles were the way to track distance in the industry due to how quick and easy it was, but now that data is abundant practical miles make more sense.
Thinking in terms of practical miles may cause trucks to wear down more quickly as they travel more distance in the same amount of time, but the ability to beat the clock and keep drivers happy will almost certainly trump the depreciation of the vehicle.
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