Mercer Transportation


Power Only Trucking: What is it and How Does it Benefit Shippers

Highway transportation with delivery trucks at sunset

There are many ways to transport goods from one place to another, each offering its own unique advantages. One effective transportation method is power-only trucking. This approach is used when a company has a trailer full of freight but no truck or driver to move it. Power-only trucking allows businesses to focus on their primary operations while depending on carriers to handle the logistics of moving their goods.

What is Power Only Trucking? 

Power-only trucking is a service where a trucking company provides the truck (known as the power unit) and a driver to haul trailers owned or leased by the shipper. In this arrangement, the shipper maintains control over their trailers, which can be pre-loaded and ready for transport when the carrier arrives. This setup provides significant flexibility, as shippers can utilize their own trailers and only pay for the transportation service provided by the truck owners.

shipper vs carrier infographic

Power-Only Trucking Terms to Know 

Understanding the terminology associated with power-only trucking is important to navigate this service effectively. Below are key terms that will help you better understand the specifics of power-only trucking:

  • Power Unit: The tractor and driver provided by the carrier.
  • Trailer Interchange Agreement: A contract outlining the terms for using a trailer owned by another party.
  • Drop and Hook: A process where a driver drops off a loaded trailer and picks up another pre-loaded trailer.
  • Trailer Pool: A group of trailers available at a specific location for use by multiple carriers.
  • Load Board: An online marketplace where shippers and carriers can post and find loads.

How Power-Only Loads Work 

  1. Pre-Loaded Trailers: The shipper loads their trailers with goods and prepares them for transport. These trailers can be loaded in advance so they are ready for immediate pickup when the carrier arrives.
  2. Carrier’s Role: The power-only carrier is responsible for providing the power unit and driver. The carrier hooks up to the pre-loaded trailer and transports it to the designated destination. This process involves securing the trailer to the truck using a fifth wheel hitch.
  3. Trailer Interchange Agreement: A trailer interchange agreement is often put in place to outline the terms and conditions under which the carrier will transport the non-owned trailer, including liability and insurance company coverage.

Types of Trailers Used in Power-Only Trucking 

Power-only trucking services can accommodate different trailer types, based on the type of cargo and the shipping requirements. Understanding the types of trailers can help shippers select the best option for their needs. Some common trailer types used in power-only trucking include:

  • Dry Van Trailers: Common for general freight.
  • Reefer Trailers: For temperature-sensitive goods.
  • Flatbed Trailers: Used for oversized or irregularly shaped items.
  • Shipping Containers: Ideal for international and intermodal shipping.

Benefits of Power-Only Trucking for Shippers 

Power-only trucking offers several key benefits for shippers, making it an attractive option for businesses looking to optimize their transportation processes.

benefits of power only trucking for shippers infographic

Improved Efficiency

With power-only trucking, shippers can load trailers at their convenience without waiting for a truck to arrive. Having pre-loaded trailers ready for pickup reduces loading and unloading times, leading to faster turnaround and on-time delivery. This process enhances overall supply chain efficiency and minimizes delays, helping businesses meet tight schedules and customer expectations.

Cost Savings

By using power-only trucks, shippers can save money on trailer leasing or purchasing, as well as maintenance and storage costs. This service allows them to focus their budget on the transportation aspect, leading to more efficient use of resources. Additionally, shippers can avoid the expenses associated with owning and maintaining a large fleet of tractors, such as fuel and repairs.

Greater Flexibility

Power-only trucking offers shippers the flexibility to use various types of trailers based on their specific needs. Whether it’s a dry van, flatbed, or reefer trailer, shippers can select the most suitable option for their freight without being restricted to a carrier’s equipment.

This method also enables better management of truckload capacity and trailer capacity. Shippers can store their freight in trailers on-site until a trucking service is available, allowing them to load trailers at their own pace without incurring the costs of drop trailer services.

Reduced Insurance Costs

By not owning the tractors, shippers avoid the high insurance costs associated with them. Instead, they only need to insure their trailers, which is generally less expensive. This reduction in insurance costs can result in significant savings, especially for businesses with large trailer fleets.

Qualified Truck Driver Usage

Carriers specializing in power-only loads often have a pool of experienced owner operators and truck drivers capable of handling different trailer types. This ensures that each load is managed by a qualified driver, leading to better handling of the cargo, reduced risk of damage, and improved compliance with transportation regulations.

More Control

Shippers using power-only trucking have more control over their transportation operations. They can manage their trailer fleet, schedule pickups and deliveries, and ensure their specific requirements are met without relying on a single carrier’s capabilities. This increased control allows shippers to tailor their logistics to their specific needs.


Power-only trucking allows shippers to scale their operations easily. During peak seasons or periods of increased demand, shippers can quickly hire additional power-only carriers to handle the extra load without investing in new trailers. This scalability ensures businesses can adapt to changing market conditions and customer demands without incurring significant costs.

Simplified Logistics

Shippers can use load boards and freight brokers to find available power units, making it easier to manage logistics and ensure on-time delivery. These platforms provide access to a wide network of carriers, allowing shippers to quickly match their freight with available trucks.

Who Uses Power Only Trucking? 

Power-only trucking is commonly used by companies that frequently ship dry van or open deck freight and have trailers ready to go. It is an ideal solution for businesses that own or lease a fleet of trailers but need more tractors or drivers to haul them. Industries that benefit from this method include those with fluctuating shipping needs, such as seasonal surges, special projects, or just-in-time shipping requirements. This includes sectors like retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and entertainment.

Power Only Trucking vs Regular Truckload Carriers 

Power-only trucking and regular truckload carriers differ primarily in their service offerings. Regular truckload carriers provide both the truck and the trailer, handling the entire transportation process from loading to delivery. This service is comprehensive but can be more expensive and less flexible, especially for shippers with specific trailer requirements.

On the other hand, power-only trucking offers greater flexibility by allowing shippers to use their trailers. This method can reduce costs associated with trailer ownership and maintenance while providing a more tailored transportation solution. Additionally, power-only carriers can quickly adapt to varying load sizes and trailer types, making them ideal for shippers with dynamic shipping needs.

Contact Mercer for More Information on Power-Only Trucking

Mercer power only trucking

Power-only trucking offers a flexible, cost-effective solution for shippers looking to optimize their supply chain. By leveraging the benefits of power-only capacity, shippers can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and maintain greater control over their logistics operations. 

Whether dealing with dry vans, flatbeds, or reefer trailers, power-only trucking provides a versatile option to meet various shipping needs. For more information on how power-only trucking can benefit your business, contact Mercer Transportation Services today.

We understand that your load is more than just cargo – it’s a crucial component of your business process. That’s why we’re committed to ensuring your shipment reaches its destination on time, every time.

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