Starting Hotshot?

Topic 27743 | Page 1

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Robert A.'s Comment
member avatar

New to the forum and it looks like this board is FILLED with knowledge so figured I’d ask here. I’m currently looking into starting a hotshot business with a friend of mine, both of us have been in DOT jobs for a decade and more each so we’re baptized in living on the road and what comes with it. We’ve been hearing and looking up different combinations for ideal local/regional runs and have gotten a wide array of answers. Some companies say “keep it at a 3/4 truck with a 32’ trailer”, others say “if you’re gonna hotshot then go 1 ton with a 40’ and remove the truck bed”, etc. We’re trying to keep it smaller, like 6k to 10k max loads, but don’t know if going bigger is worth it. Just reaching out to thIs community to see if any seasoned personnel can recommend which route is better (not necessarily what’s going to bring more money per load) based on experience or openly sourced knowledge. Thanks in advance to anyone who can give us some insight!

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Anne A. (G13MomCat)'s Comment
member avatar

Hi, Robert A., and welcome to the forum!

I have NO answers for you (sorry!) but just wanted to let you know that although we don't have a lot of hot shot folks on here, giving your location (and as much 'other' relevant information you can) could sure be a scope of some hope!

The more info you are willing to share..the better chances of assistance!

Best of luck;

Annie

Robert A.'s Comment
member avatar

Annie A. Sure thing! We’re in the mid-con region (Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas). Rates and miles around here really vary greatly but at the end of the day a $4.00/mile local run is equal to a $2.00/mile regional run. Lowest rates around these areas is roughly $1.80/mile. There are a few minor hotshot companies around here that my friend and I have become acquainted with over the years. Some preach using a 3/4 ton with a 32’ trailer in order to reduce mechanical strain but would require longer hauls. Other guys and gals tell us to start with a 1 ton, no bed, and a 40’ which would result in not so longer hauls but definitely heavier loads. And we of course have those that say if we’re going 1 ton we might as well go all the way to tractor and a lowboy. We’ve been all over the country in the last 10+ years so we’re trying to stick as local as humanly possible (aren’t we all!) to get a little more time with the family but still maintain a driving profession albeit a step down from rigs. Hope this helps clarify where we’re coming from.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

Hello Robert, and welcome to Trucking Truth!

I'm a long time business owner who chose to be a company driver. I never could put together a viable business plan that proved I could make really great money as an owner operator. You guys are splitting hairs over a 1/4 ton difference in truck size and an 8 foot difference in trailer length. I honestly don't think it's going to make the slightest difference in your results.

Your freight is going to vary greatly. That's what "hot shot" work is all about. You're going to be pulling all kinds of stuff at wildly variable rates. Some of it's going to make you think you're making a killing, but ultimately most "hot shot" owners I've known end up making nothing more than common wages and can't figure out why they're working so hard for so little. They wear out their first truck, and then realize they don't have any money to replace it with.

I think you're making the classic "owner/operator" mistake. Look at your stated goals...

we’re trying to stick as local as humanly possible (aren’t we all!) to get a little more time with the family

I'm trying to think how many wildly successful entrepreneurs I know of who had as their goal "to get a little more time with the family." I'm still thinking, but I'm having trouble coming up with any.

Are you serious? If I was going to invest in your business, or even if I was going to be one of your customers, here's what I'd look for - I'd look for an attitude that says, "We will get it done! We will work our butts off. We will out work, outperform, and stay at it harder than anyone. We are committed professionals who burn the midnight oil and make magic happen out here. We will show up when you need us, we will bend to your crazy demands, and nobody will be able to serve you like we can."

I'm still thinking about any successful people I know with your stated goals. I'm sure I'll come up with someone in a minute.

I'm not trying to bust your chops. I like to make people think. It's something most of us tend to not understand. I'm not even being critical. I'm trying to get you to focus on other things. You're wanting to get into a business with blinders on. You're choosing to focus on things that aren't really helpful while ignoring the things that kill most hot shot companies.

I'd never start a business because I wanted to be home more - that makes no sense. I'd go work in the trades if that was my goal. I'd be an electrician or maybe a carpenter. Start a hot shot trucking company? Never!

Have you considered your insurance expenses? They're going to be a huge surprise. Not the kind of surprise that makes one giddy either.

Honestly we don't have any hot shot drivers here that I know of. We've only got a few owner/operators. I don't think it's a good business to venture into. That's my opinion of course, but I can assure you it's based on solid evidence and facts that show a good solid company driver can and will typically be more successful than most owner/operators.

Why don't you go to work for a regional flat-bed company like Maverick, TMC, or McElroy. You could earn around 70,000 to 80,000 dollars per year and be home every weekend. What's not to like about that?

I'm trying to think of any hot shot owner/ops I know that make that kind of money and get home every weekend. I'm still thinking...

I'm hoping I've got you thinking.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Susan D. 's Comment
member avatar

Ny nephew was an OTR driver with Steven's and loved it. My brother in law (his uncle) who works for the Florida department of agriculture, had started a portable building business on the side. When it grew to more than he could handle the deliveries in his spare time, he gave my nephew a 3 year guaranteed contract, assisted him in setting up an LLC, getting his own authority, and he left Steven's and leased a hot shot setup.

He's staying so busy that they're renewing that contract since the 3 years is almost up.

Because he's in a niche market, he's doing well with it, but that's not the norm and competition in hot shots, just like traditional trucking companies is fierce. Having a guaranteed contract is what makes it feasible for him. He leases his hotshot rig so doesn't have to worry about maintenance either... 3 year leases to match the 3 year contract.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Robert A.'s Comment
member avatar

Old School, No worries about coming off critical, that’s always acceptable in my book, although I think you’ve missed the mark by quite a bit on where I’m coming from.

For starters the difference of 8’ and 1/4 ton may seem like splitting hairs but wouldn’t that mean we’ve already checked off the big “elephant in the room” items (insurance, operating expenses, wear and tear, fuel, etc) and have now narrowed down our focus to the smallest details? Secondly, the difference of the fore mentioned rig set up equates to about an 18-20% variance in load availability, simply meaning the larger of the two rigs would allow me the same pay as the smaller rig with the added benefit of being home 18-20% more often. Thirdly, I stated that the goal is more home time, not the business model, I believe you’re misunderstanding that as poor customer quality. As an owner of a business you should be able to understand that if you’re in a position to control your own schedule but still make a livable wage and sustain your company with a good and satisfied customer base, wouldn’t you choose to do that over grinding yourself 24/7? Lastly, hotshotters (the ones that “make no money”) around here tend to all suffer the same failures. They over spend, get started with MASSIVE overhead, and then spend the next years trying to catch up to the first big investment. I’m coming from an entirely different route of almost no overhead and a pretty manageable monthly expense design, both personal and professional. So to reiterate, my goal is not to “make it big” or be “wildly successful”, it’s to control my own schedule in a manner that I’ve worked very hard to attain, maintain my life style, and work the schedule I have worked towards obtaining. At the end of the day if you have to grind and work just as hard while running your own rig compared to working for a company, then what’s the payoff? Staying gone and working 30+ days on the road at a time is the same thing whether you’re being paid directly from a broker/customer or the company one would work for. I apologize if my original post didn’t cover those areas or seemed confusing, and by no means was I, nor am I, trying to debate life practices or business ideology, I was simply putting a line out to see if anyone had experience in one particular area or another to find the little plot holes that I may have overlooked. I do still appreciate your response though, please don’t take this in any manner other than a friendly response👍. Be safe out there and God bless.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Robert A.'s Comment
member avatar

Susan D.

That sounds like your brother in law found a good set up that he worked for, excellent for him! I can understand that it’s a very niche market but we’re hoping to edge in on the competition with the fact that little overhead means we can charge less per mile, or at the very least scoop up loads which other competitors would overlook due to various reasons. This is a kickstart between my friend and I with the equal understanding that it may or may not work out. We each have our respective “plan b” lined up should we encounter any issues within the first year of startup. We’re confident we can manage but we also never bank on anything as if it’s a water tight commodity. Thanks for the response. Stay safe out there and God bless.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Robert, I certainly hope you do well. I like to see people succeed. The whole concept of going into the trucking business and thinking it's going to make your life better or easier than being a company driver sounds very naive to me. You asked this question...

At the end of the day if you have to grind and work just as hard while running your own rig compared to working for a company, then what’s the payoff?

The answer to that question embodies my whole response to you. I don't see any payoff. I certainly don't see you being able...

to control my own schedule in a manner that I’ve worked very hard to attain, maintain my life style, and work the schedule I have worked towards obtaining

To be in the trucking business is very consuming. There's no easy money here. Drivers who've been accustomed to wages paid by the mile sometimes look at those freight rates and think, "Man, I've been getting the short end of this deal!" So they decide to get in on it themselves. It seldom works out like they envisioned. Freight rates are not wages and cannot be considered anything even close to that.

You said this...

my goal is not to “make it big” or be “wildly successful”

I'm sorry, but my life's experiences tell me you are making a huge miscalculation. You need the kind of ambition that wants to be wildly successful at this job if you're going to survive in the trucking business.

It cracks me up when I see you making remarks about "grinding and working hard" as a company driver, but you think you're going to have it better when you and your buddy start up a small hot shot operation. It makes no sense.

Had you come in here saying how tough you realized this was going to be and you were committed to do or die at this point because you had some legitimate ideas of how to beat the competition, then I would have been much more impressed.

I think your ideas are naively lofty and destined for a serious disappointment. I've been wrong plenty of times in my life Robert, and I hope I'm misreading you.

Just remember this...

Don't Be Fooled By Owner Operator Math

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
PJ's Comment
member avatar

I’ve worked around several hot shot operators in the southeast. Some are making it and others have disappeared. The one take away I have picked up is you need a niche market and customer.

If your throwing in to haul whatever you can find, it is simply not there at this time in my opinion.

The cost of the equipment isn’t really that spread apart as some would think at first glance.

As far as working harder. I know of not one person in business for themself that doesn’t work harder, than a company driver. The driving is the small part of running your business. I’m leased onto a major carrier so they take care of a fair portion of the back office stuff, and yet I still spend alot of time dealing with the other aspects of the business.

Your still hauling goods for hire and have many of the same DOT requirements the bigger trucks have.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Chris L's Comment
member avatar

I have an old Army buddy that hot shots but he is in niche for custom hauling. He hauls custom built truck campers for a manufacturer based in Idaho. I'm not sure if he considers himself a 1099 IC or is an actual W2 employee. What ever his status is he is doing quite well for himself. I'm not sure what his compensation package is I assume he gets millage, fuel reimbursement, and toll reimbursement. Other than that I don't much about his gig - of course he enjoys the job and has gotten to see allot of the Country. In the"Hot Shot" world gigs like that are few and highly sought-after.

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