The full guide to hot shot trucking

Many companies build their shipping strategy around sending out full truckload shipments on a regular basis. However, there are instances where you need to make a smaller, more time-sensitive shipment. This is where hot-shot trucking comes in. Working with hot shot truckers will help you wow your clients with expedited shipping options. Here’s everything you need to know about hot shot trucking, whether you’re looking to hire drivers for your business or become one yourself. 

What is hot shot trucking? 

Hot shot trucking is the process of carrying small, time-sensitive shipments of various load types. Hot shot shipments are usually less than a full truckload, or LTL.  In most cases, hot shot drivers are freelancers who own and operate their own vehicles. They work with multiple companies and freight brokers and are paid per project rather than having a full-time contract. In addition to working with freight brokers, hot shot truckers often use online message boards, dispatches, and other networking techniques to find new gigs. Hot shot trucking is different from expedited shipping – expedited shipping trucks are always on standby for rush orders, while hot shot truckers are typically only available on a contract basis. They usually carry full truck loads rather than the smaller, specialized loads that hot shot truckers focus on. 

Truck types used for hot shot hauls

Hot shot truckers use a variety of different truck types. Most hot shot truckers use Class 3, 4, or 5 medium-duty trucks with a trailer or flatbed attached for extra capacity. These trucks are classified by weight. 

Most trucks in these categories are marketed as consumer pickup trucks rather than commercial trucks, making them more accessible to freelance drivers. However, medium-duty consumer trucks can be used for commercial operations as long as you have the correct registration and insurance. 

Trailer types used for hot shot hauls

Hot shot drivers attach trailers to the back of their trucks, which enables them to carry a variety of different load types. The type of trailer you choose will ultimately depend on your budget and the type of load you have. Here are the most common trailer types used for hot shot loads:

Gooseneck trailer: Gooseneck trailers are popular among experienced hot shot drivers because of their tight turning radius and ability to carry heavy loads. However, they often require specialized hitching systems, which makes them a big investment for new drivers. 

Lowboy trailer: Like gooseneck trailers, lowboy trailers are able to carry very heavy loads. However, they don’t offer as much deck space as other trailers. 

Bumper pull trailer: Bumper pull trailers are relatively affordable and easy to set up. However, they have lower weight limits than other trailers, and they aren’t as stable. 

Dovetail trailer: These trailers are best for shipping cars and other vehicles. They can be difficult to drive in hilly terrain. 

Tilt deck trailer: Tilt deck trailers use a hydraulic system to tilt back and forth for easy loading. They require extra maintenance, but are great for drivers who want to reduce the amount of heavy lifting they do. 

Pros and cons of hot shot trucking

Many people start hot shot trucking as a way to make extra money on the side and test-drive a career as a trucking professional. There are plenty of advantages to working as a hot shot trucker, but there are also some disadvantages to be aware of before you get started. The biggest advantage to working as a hot shot trucker is that you get to decide which loads you take, so you have more control over your schedule than someone who drives full-time for a single company. There’s relatively little investment required to get started, and hot shot drivers are often able to charge high rates for urgent shipments to recoup these costs. 

The unpredictable nature of hot shot trucking is a downside for many drivers. When a job comes up, you’ll need to decide very quickly whether you want to take it or not. Your income will also vary depending on how many loads you take. Hot shot truckers also have to cover their own maintenance and insurance expenses. 

How much do hot shot truckers make? 

Hot shot truckers are usually paid per-mile, so take-home pay varies depending on how much you drive. Hot shot truckers are also able to negotiate their rates for each project. Per-mile rates for hot shot truckers typically range from $1-2 per mile depending on the urgency of the shipment, type of load and equipment required, geographic region, and other factors. The average yearly salary for hot shot truckers in the US is $58,947 per year

Legal requirements for hot shot trucking

To become a hot shot trucker, you’ll need to meet certain legal requirements. First, you’ll need to get a commercial driver’s license and register your truck commercially, regardless of what type of truck you have. To do this, you’ll need to get a USDOT registration number and an MC number. From there, you’ll also need to make sure your truck is insured for commercial operation. Before you start working, you’ll need to understand legal regulations for hot shot drivers. These include requirements for equipment maintenance and load security, hours of service requirements, and brake regulations – you’ll need to keep track of your own.

Where can you find loads?

The most popular place for hot shot truckers to find work is through online load boards. Companies with loads to ship will post jobs on these boards for drivers to apply to. Some load boards are free to sign up for, while others charge a monthly membership. Over time, hot shot drivers can expand their business by networking with freight brokers and dispatchers to get loads directly. 

If you're looking to expand your trucking business, book a demo today with Rose Rocket today, the #1 rated TMS. One of our logistics experts would be happy to show you how our all-in-one program makes it easy for both drivers and dispatchers to manage their shipments.  

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