This post was last updated on January 26th, 2017
Hot shot trucking allows you to be your own boss. Many agencies will work with hot shot loads as a way to boost revenue and keep a steady client base. For owner-operators, you’ll find that hot shot trucking does take a chunk of the commission, but they also supply you with leads you would have otherwise not been able to handle on your own.
Let’s take a look at what this type of trucking is before diving into pay and working on load boards.
What Is Hot Shot Trucking?
Hot shots are often confused with expedited loads. They are similar in nature, but expedited trucking deals with time-sensitive freight that is delivered with: vans, T/T’s and straight trucks.
Expedited trucks are always on standby, and there are no set lanes available.
Hot shots, in their true form, are medium duty or one ton trucks that pull trailers and get time-sensitive loads to their destination on time. Some loads are 100 miles away, while others are on the opposite side of the country.
You’ll find many owner-operators using their rigs to haul freight like this. While not a “true” definition of hot shot, these drivers are finding loads on a daily basis. The issue? The pay per load is often less than what a typical load would offer.
If you go back to the 70s, this is where real hot shot loads were born. There would be truckers driving even normal trucks waiting outside of oil part manufacturers for a part to be completed before zooming down the interstate directly to the oil well. It was a great time for truckers because they had loads consistently, and a lot of money exchanged hands at this time.
But we have all seen what has happened to the oil industry.
Why is Hot Shot Trucking Great?
Hot shot trucking is a lot of fun, and it allows you to haul loads that most freight trucks don’t want to haul. It doesn’t make sense for a large trailer to carry small loads that are better off hauled by a hot shot driver.
You’ll need to have a dually or 1-ton truck.
The truck that you choose is very important. You’ll find that a lot of drivers choose a Ford F450/550 Super Duty. And these trucks are powerful and affordable. A newer truck has a base rate of $33,000 for a 2016 – so the investment is much smaller.
A hot shot business allows for lower start-up costs, and you won’t burn through fuel in the same way that a larger truck will. It’s very important to remember that a hot shot won’t be driving a full trailer unless they’re really desperate for a load.
Licensing is Easier
In it’s true form, hot shots will need to get a commercial license, but not necessarily a CDL license. A CDL is meant for vehicles that are 10,000 pounds or more (depending on the state). Vehicles that are 26,000 pounds used to fall within these rules, but you will need to check with your state’s laws.
It’s safer to obtain a CDL if you’ll be crossing state borders.
You will need a USDOT number and possibly an MC number as well.
Always speak to the department of transportation in your state to ensure that all of the above information is valid as per your residence.
Pros and Cons of Hot Shot
The initial starting of a hot shot is confusing, especially the licensing. You can benefit greatly from talking to the Department of Transportation to understand if you need a CDL A / B license or not.
And a lot of haulers will find that it is a great way to start their own business. You’ll also make more money than a Class 8, which is nice.
- Initial startup costs are much lower.
- Waiting is minimized due to many loads being expedited.
- Income is as good, or better, than most Class 8 pay.
- Loads are often regional or local, allowing for more home time.
- Starting your own trucking businesses means you’ll have to worry about maintenance and costs.
- Demand can be high one day, and low the next.
- Pressure to grow a steady client base.
A mistake that many new hot shot trucking companies make is that they don’t understand local laws. You’ll need to make sure that you account for taxes (at least 25% of your gross), obtain the proper insurance, and maintain your vehicles. The weight of your truck and haul may be more than allowed within state law, so you’ll need to remain within federal laws, which means you need to be registered commercially.
It’s always best to discuss your business with DoT and get all of the legal issues taken care of prior to hauling any loads.
You’ll be fined heavily if you don’t have the proper licensing. You’ll also be responsible for your own logs, and you will need to stop at weigh stations in most cases.
As a business owner, more of the responsibility is on your shoulders, but you will reap the benefits of being an owner.
Hot Shot Trucking Rates
You’ll be glued to hot shot load boards, and it’s important to know how to work these boards to maximize your profits. It’s far too easy to lose money if you don’t work the boards properly. It is highly recommended that you set a rate average, say $1.5 a mile, and work from there.
A lot of people will negotiate for a rate of $1 – $1.25, but this will depend on you, your truck needs, and the haul that needs to be hauled.
The goal is to find 2 or 3 good loads, and then loads that will cover deadheads.
Since these hauls need to go out as soon as possible, there will be little down time, which is nice for a trucker. You don’t need to wait for a long time without making money.
You’ll also need to account for:
- Truck maintenance, which can be $400+ per month.
- Commercial liability and cargo insurance, which can run $4,000 – $5,000 annually.
Rates change from one haul to the next, and you’ll see rates per mile of $2 stated by some drivers, but these aren’t plentiful jobs in most cases. You need to remember that hot shot trucking pay will jump from one driver to the next.
A tip that a very successful owner stated was to discuss shipping with many of the clients you deliver work to. If these companies need a driver for their freight, you can cut out the middle man and make more money in the process. But you need to give the client a reason to hire you.
Hot Shot Load Boards
In this business, you need to be in constant contact with potential load providers at all times. And there are a lot of different load boards to choose from. Keep in mind that some pay may be dispersed in days, while others will be dispersed in 30 – 60 days. Always know when your pay will be provided.
A couple of the most popular boards include:
But there are dozens of load boards available. A lot of people don’t like uShip, as an example, but then some truckers won’t be able to haul autos, so they may not want to work with someone like Central Dispatch. You’ll need to find the load board that fits into the equipment that you have already purchased and what you actually want to haul.
Just remember to choose a rate that accounts for your average costs per mile and leaves you with some profit at the end of a haul.