What Is Hot Shot Trucking?

Last Updated: Oct 30, 2018

Hot shot trucking is a type of trucking that carries relatively smaller, time-sensitive loads to accessible locations. Hot shot drivers are essentially the minutemen of trucking. Think of a standard, super duty pick-up truck hauling farm equipment or appliances.

While hot shot trucking does not require a Commercial Driver’s License for loads under 10,000lbs, all drivers are required to obtain a Motor Carrier Authority Number and be approved to drive by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. To be approved, you must meet the physical requirements for driving, so check with the FMCSA website for the requirements of drivers before investing any further.

Advantage Of Hot Shot Trucking

A huge benefit to hot shot trucking is that it is often cheaper to start-up than traditional trucking. This is also a great way to see if you would like to invest in getting your Commercial Driver’s License and driving a big rig.

Hot Shot Trucking is Not Expedited Shipping!

Expedited shipping is sending out hauls more quickly than they would usually be delivered. These trucks are always on standby. Typically, expedited shipping trucks can be vans, tractor trailers, or straight trucks.

Hot shot trucking is different because they deliver smaller loads, using medium to one-ton trucks, to get time-sensitive materials to their destinations on time. While expedited shipping trucks are on standby, hot shot trucking distributes jobs to various drivers by communicating through load boards (we will talk about these more below).

Types of Trucks Used in Hot Shot Trucking

  • Class 3 (14,001-16,000lbs)

    Examples include: Ram 3500, GMC Sierra 3500, Ford E-350, Ford F-350

  • Class 4 (16,001-19,500lbs)

    Examples include: Ram 4500, GMC 4500, Ford E-450, Ford F-450

  • Class 5 (19,501-26,000lbs)

    Examples include: Ram 5500, GMC 5500, Ford F-550, Peterbilt 325

Types of Trailers Used in Hot Shot Trucking

When it comes to the types of trailers to attach to your truck, you want to make sure you are choosing the type that will be the most functional with the types of loads you want to haul, as well as with the truck you have. Here is a list of the types of trailers and what the best ways to use them.

  • Bumper Pull Trailers

    A very common type of trailer, bumper pulls are often used by civilian drivers and commercial drivers alike. This means that they are easy to use, and you might already be familiar with them. They are typically shorter, especially compared to a gooseneck, and therefore cost less. The combined weight of your truck and the bumper pull will likely be under 10,001lbs, meaning that you will definitely not need a Commercial Driver’s License. However, this also means that they can haul less materials, so be aware of the type of loads you want to haul before committing to a cheaper trailer. In fact, heavier loads on the bumper pull means there is more you will need to consider about your truck. Your truck will have to be weighted properly, or else you are likely to encounter several problems while on the road, such as lack of stability, loss of control, and the trailer swaying. 

  • Gooseneck Trailers

    These trailers are well-known to more experienced drivers. Rated high for their stability, limited swaying, and tighter turning radius, goosenecks would be ideal for larger freights on unfamiliar roads, so consider what routes you will want to drive. The most common length for gooseneck hot shot trailers is 40 feet. Longer trailers might give you the ability to haul more freight but can be restrictive depending on the state laws. Because of its size, it is likely that loads on gooseneck trailers will be considered commercial, and therefore require further training and licensing. They also need a special hitching system, instead of just the bed of a pickup truck, so this could be an additional investment. This would be a great trailer if you choose to really commit to trucking.

  • Deckover Trailers

    While these can be used both commercially and recreationally, deckover trailers offer unique advantages for hot shot drivers. They are great for heavier hauls (tractors, cars, etc.). The wider deck and lack of well wheels means that you would have a lot of room for a lot of materials, and be able to take more in one trip. However, because the deck is not very high off the ground, this means that you will have shorter ramps. This is not an extreme disadvantage, but it affects how you get materials on and off your trailer, as well as how you will support and lock them on the trailer while you’re driving.

  • Lowboy Trailers

    Because of the lowboys’ low center of gravity, it offers the best stability for the heaviest loads. It also means that most equipment can clear the height restrictions in most states. If you were to haul heavy, track-type equipment, it would be the easiest to unload on this trailer because when it is detached from your truck it lays flat on the ground. However, there is a lack of usable deck space. This means that it really limits you on how much you can load onto the trailer at a time. While you can stack very heavy equipment on the trailer, you may only be able to fit one, which can really limit what you can haul.

Common Hauls for Hot Shot Trucks

Typically hot shot truckers will haul construction materials, heavy equipment, machinery, or farm materials. Hauls can be anywhere from 50 miles away to across the country (though most often they are local).

Salary For Hot Shot Trucking

Because hot shot truck drivers are owner-operators, there are several factors in determining what they are actually paid.

  • Maintenance, Cost, and Fees of Owning a Small Business

    Remember: you have to spend money to make money. So when you are investing the money into truck maintenance, commercial liability, and cargo insurance, it is just the beginning of the profitability of hot shot trucking.

    According to many sites, truck maintenance can be about $400 a month. Commercial liability and cargo insurance can be between $4,000 and $5,000 annually.

    You will also need to take into account tax rates on your income, which can be 25% of your gross.

  • Payment per Freight

    Knowing the value of your work and how to set your rates is the best way to maximize profits and not lose money as you are starting your own business. Typically, drivers will negotiate rates by the mile. Many drivers negotiate between $1-$1.25, but it depends on your experience, the haul, and your truck’s capabilities.

How to Find A Job In Hot Shot Trucking

When it comes to finding work for hot shot truckers, most turn to load boards. Load boards are essentially marketplaces for transportation professionals to post quick, small load jobs for willing drivers. Additionally, there are lots of tools for drivers to find loads to haul and the navigate the best ways to increase business revenue.

Between apps, websites, and various subscription-based services, it is easy to find load boards that have the tools you need, equipped in the areas you want to drive, and feature the types of loads you are able to haul.

Here is a list of some of the leading load boards:

Some of these are paid services, while others are free. Typically the services with monthly fees will offer more options, so you should evaluate if they will be right for your business.

Logistics for Hot Shot Trucking

In order to begin your own trucking business and become and owner-operator, you need to understand federal and local laws that contribute to the business.

  • Trucks must be registered commercially. Without the proper licensing, you could be fined heavily.
  • As an owner-operator, you are in control of your own logs. That means the timing, distance, and weights of your hauls. Remember that weights of hauls could vary by state to state, so be aware of federal regulations and know how to document your hauls for interstate driving. Because you must keep track of your own weights, you may need to stop and scale your load, so be sure to account for that in your driving time.
  • Discuss the nature of your business to make sure that you understand all of the legalities associated with driving hot shot trucks before you begin. Do it right the first time with all of the information you need.

If you are considering hot shot trucking, make sure you know all of the facts from the type of truck you want to use, to the trailer specifications, to the licensing and financial necessities of the business. While it is a great way to start trucking, be a small business owner, and make money, there are a lot of factors you have to weigh to make sure that it is right for you. Just like any other business opportunity, you have to understand the facts before you completely dive in.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

Fm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

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