Power Only Trucking: What It Is and How It Works

Apr 5, 2023

Most people assume a truck and trailer always come together, and are each owned and operated by the same company. In the world of shipping, this isn’t always the case — in fact, thinking of trucks and trailers as separate assets can create flexible and unique shipping solutions for everyone involved.

What is Power Only Trucking?

Power only trucking is when a carrier provides the driver and semi-tractor (also known as the power unit), but not the trailer. The driver then hooks up and hauls a pre-loaded trailer leased or owned by the shipper. Often, the trailer itself is owned by a third-party logistics provider — when this is the case, the 3PL will contract with the carrier for “power only capacity.”

You may have also heard this referred to as “drop and hook.”

Power only trucking is a uniquely flexible way to operate. Companies who generally run as regular truckload carriers might even have the option to use them as power only truckers, specifically during off-peak periods.

Flexibility, scalability and versatility make power only trucking a growing practice among truckers and shippers alike.

Pros and Cons of Power Only Trucking

As with every type of transportation, there are pros and cons for electing to use power only trucking as a regular shipping strategy. Here are a few things to take into consideration:


  • Control — The shipping company will have full control over the trailer, while the trucking company is in charge of the actual truck. It gives each side of the partnership control over what they do best.
  • Flexibility — No need to worry about driver schedules. Instead, simply put out a call for a tractor and driver when needed.
  • Efficiency — There are fewer moving empty trailers around the country with power only trucking. Also, shipping and receiving companies can load and unload trailers at their convenience without the pressure of drivers needed to move on.
  • Lower cost — Equipment is expensive to own and maintain. Power only trucking means investing in only the tractor or the trailer.
  • Save on insurance — Insuring a tractor can be a big expense. By choosing power only trucking, the shipper doesn’t have to worry about insurance costs for the tractor, and the shipper can get more loads to help cover that cost.
  • Driver satisfaction — Drivers who work for power only trucking companies (or drivers who are owner/operators) like power only contracts because they can minimize wait times, pick up loads when they are ready to go and drop them off without worry.
  • Multiple carrier types — By choosing power only trucking, drivers can haul multiple trailer types including flatbed/open deck trailers, dry vans, refrigerated trailers and shipping containers.


  • Urgent shipments can raise costs — If you need a trucker immediately for a job, it can cost a premium. It’s best to give at least 2-3 days notice to help reduce the price.
  • More complicated supply chain logistics — Power only is great for simple pickups and dropoffs. If the trailer needs to be returned, it can cause logistical problems for the trailer owner.

Power Only Trucking Terms to Know

As you navigate a contract for power only trucking, you’ll hear a lot of buzzwords you may not be familiar with. Here are a few you might encounter:

  • Drop trailer. A trailer that is unhooked and left at either the shipping or receiving location.
  • Power unit. The tractor (the actual power used to move freight) and the driver.
  • Trailer pool. A group of multiple drop trailers at a single location. Large shipping or receiving facilities might have large trailer pools that are maintained by a separate carrier company.
  • Drop and hook. A driver brings in one trailer, drops it, and takes another trailer that is ready for hauling.
  • Trailer leasing. If you only need a trailer for a short time, or seasonally, it makes more sense to lease one than to purchase one. This is a great time to use power only trucking.

Using a 3PL for Power Only Trucking

Working with a 3PL to utilize power only trucking is an easy way to take advantage of this system. A logistics partner will have established connections and relationships with both trailer and tractor providers, taking the burden of vetting reliable transportation partners from your shoulders.

There are several scenarios when shippers might request a power only solution from a 3PL:

  • Pre-peak trailer positioning
  • Integration of new trailers
  • Seasonal surges
  • Correcting network imbalances
  • Just-in-time shipping
  • Weekend surges
  • Shipping special projects
  • Facility or warehouse moves

If you’re interested in saving time and money through power only trucking, contact First Call Logistics today and learn how we can help strengthen your business’ supply chain!

Simplify your Next Shipment with First Call Logistics

Building and managing cost-efficient supply chains is a full-time job. First Call’s rare combination of in-house assets, expert problem-solving and track record of stellar customer service makes us the 3PL of choice for business partners with a wide range of shipping needs.

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