Hotshot trucking refers to the expedited hauling of smaller, time-sensitive loads. It’s an owner-operator trucking specialty believed to date back to the oil industry in the 1970s. If you’re new to hot shot trucking or looking for other options beyond what you currently do in the trucking industry, continue reading to learn more about what can be a lucrative owner-operator business.

Below, we present our Complete Guide to Hotshot Trucking.

Complete Guide to Hotshot Trucking
What is Hotshot Trucking?

1. What is Hotshot Trucking?

Also referred to as expedited trucking, hotshot trucking is when brokers or shippers have loads that are time-sensitive and usually on the smaller side that need to be delivered. While originally referring to such loads involving the oil industry, hot shot trucking today can include an assortment of other time-sensitive loads, including:

  • Agricultural products and/or equipment
  • Construction equipment and materials
  • Heavy machinery for certain projects or sites
  • Cars and other vehicles

2. What Do Hotshot Truckers Do?

Hotshot truckers primarily deliver time-sensitive, project-specific loads. Hotshot truckers also typically have a vehicle exclusively used for these types of loads, and they usually do straight-through deliveries. This means there are no additional stops along the way for other pick-ups.

3. What Are Truck Types for Hotshot Hauls?

Class 3, 4, or 5 trucks are usually used for hotshot loads. In some situations, other types of trailers designed for heavier loads may be used. If you’re an owner-operator, you would have your own truck with the appropriate hauling capacity under your own MC number. However, you can lease with a trucking company that uses these types of trucks, although there are advantages to going the owner-operator route.

Pros and Cons of Hotshot Trucking

4. What Are the Pros and Cons of Hotshot Trucking?

Hotshot trucking is a good way to get into the trucking industry if you’re a newer driver or looking to gain some experience. Plus, it’s often easier to get your foot in the door this way as an owner-operator. Some of the other appealing pros associated with hot shot trucking include:

  • Lower startup costs
  • Higher per-mile pay possibilities
  • It’s easier to make the transition from a hotshot business to a semi one since regulations overlap
  • Lower operation-related costs

One of the drawbacks associated with being a hotshot trucker is that the work can sometimes be unstable.

Maintenance requirements also tend to be more demanding due to the heavier loads typically transported. The added wear-and-tear on your truck makes it more difficult to maintain the resale value as well. This could be a concern if you decide to upgrade to a newer truck or shift your focus. Also, the competition tends to be more noticeable since it’s easier to get into the trucking industry this way.

5. How Do You Start a Hotshot Trucking Business?

Start by scheduling a physical to get your DOT medical card. Also, take care of vehicle insurance and get a vehicle identification number (VIN) if you don’t already have one. If interstates will be used for your deliveries, you’ll need a DOT number, and also a good freight factoring service.

Next, decide if you prefer to obtain your LLC if you’ll be an owner-operator or if you wish to lease with a trucking company. If you’re going to run your own hotshot trucking operation, get your employer identification number (EIN) and take any other steps that apply to your state. With commercial insurance, brokers typically require $100,000 cargo insurance and million-dollar liability coverage. 

Startup costs generally range from around $15,000 to somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000. What applies to you depends on factors such as whether or not you already have a truck. If you do, for instance, you’ll just need to get a trailer and deal with any related legal fees. Check out this article to see detailed steps to starting a hotshot trucking company.

What Equipment Will You Need in Hotshot trucking

6. What Equipment Will You Need?

Super-duty pickups with trailers are typically used by hotshot truckers to haul time-sensitive loads. The two main pieces of equipment you’ll need are a pickup truck and an appropriate flatbed trailer suitable for larger items. With trailer types, common recommendations include:

  • Bumper-pull trailers
  • Gooseneck trailers
  • Tilt-deck trailers
  • Dovetail trailers

Don’t forget your “accessories,” too. These include heavy-duty chains, straps, tarps, and binders.

7. How Do You Find Hotshot Loads?

Typically, the most effective and efficient way to find hot shot loads is to use load boards, but don’t limit yourself to “small load boards” only. You’ll have a better chance of finding regular hotshot loads if you use more generalized load boards and simply refine your search. Load boards usually have search settings you can use to save specific searches based on search criteria that includes:

  • Your preferred geographic area
  • Clients specifically with hotshot freight that needs to be delivered ASAP
  • Routes and lanes that tend to work well for you

Some of the more popular load boards include advanced features such as alerts and alarms. These are features that give you a heads-up when loads matching your search criteria come up so you can act quickly. We also want to invite you to take advantage of this our special 7% Better Together Factoring-Dispatch Deal.

What’s the Average Hotshot Trucker Salary?

8. What’s the Average Hotshot Trucker Salary?

If you have a hotshot trucking business managed and operated well as an owner-operator, you could earn anywhere from $60,000 to around $120,000 annually as a hotshot trucker. Related expenses that you’ll need to be mindful of so that you can maximize your earnings include fuel-related costs, expenses for vehicle maintenance and insurance, and fees for licenses, tolls, and similar business/operational costs.

9. How Do You Run a Successful Hotshot Business?

Keep the focus on quality as a hotshot trucker. As you build a reputation for being dependable and reliable, this will make it easier for you to attract a steady flow of clients. Owner-operators working in this niche normally set their own rate, which is usually by the mile.

You’ll have a more successful hotshot business as well if you’re aware of your related costs. In turn, this allows you to have a per-mile rate that makes it easier for you to remain profitable. You’ll also boost your odds of having a successful hotshot trucking business if you remember to:

  • Maximize your hours while still keeping Hours of Service (HoS) regulations in mind
  • Be diligent about maintenance so it’s easier to manage maintenance-related costs
  • Use convenient apps to keep track of fuel costs so you can find affordable options
  • Give yourself time to get a steady pace and rhythm going

Some industry insiders recommend charging half the rate for half the freight. In other words, if a load you’ll be carrying will take about half of your hauling capacity you should be earning half the rate per mile.

Conclusion: Take Action

Now that you’ve read our complete guide to hotshot trucking, determine if this is an owner-operator specialty that appeals to you. If it is, look for clients with loads fitting into this category that need to be safely and promptly delivered. Give yourself time to get set up and get the feel for this approach to hauling loads if you determine it appeals to you. We also invite you to pass this Guide to Hotshot Trucking along to company drivers you may know looking for an owner-operator alternative or a specialized niche to consider.