How to Start Hot Shot Trucking

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Becoming a hot shot trucker has many benefits– the main one being that you are your own boss. If you’re considering becoming a hot shot driver, the process is similar to going into business with a Class 8.

The difference?  Hot shot trucking often involves only one destination and can be on a tight time schedule, so companies will usually hire contract drivers to complete only one run at a time.

Hot shot loads are usually expedited in a flatbed truck and are often industrial material. Most hot shot loads are local or regional, making this type of trucking ideal for those looking to spend a lot of off-time at home. A typical hot shot trucker wage is similar to that of a Class 8 driver.

Steps to Becoming a Hot Shot Driver:

  1. Apply for USDOT and MC Numbers

Your DOT number serves as a unique identifier for your company when dealing with safety reports, crash investigations, inspections, reviews and audits. To apply for a USDOT number, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website.

The process of getting your DOT number from the FMCSA differs for first time applicants and applicants who have already registered for a USDOT number or looking for additional authorities. Read through the FMCSA steps to ensure you’re filling out the right application.

If you’re planning on crossing state lines, you’ll also need an operating authority in addition to a DOT number. You can apply for your operating authority, also known as your MC number, here. There are some filing fees (listed on the FMSCA site), so you’ll want to be aware of those before you start the process.

  1. Purchase Insurance

Liability insurance is one of the largest initial costs to starting a hot shot trucking business.  Most freight brokers require a minimum policy of $1,000,000 in liability coverage.  According to Commercial Truck Insurance, policies for a hot shot trucker can cost from $7,000 to $12,000 annually.  

To receive the proper amount of coverage, you’ll also need:

  • your DOT number
  • membership in a drug and alcohol testing group
  • the required driver qualification filings
  • to follow the hours-of-service regulations
  1. Purchase Equipment

The equipment costs for hot shot businesses are far less than those of a Class 8 trucking business. The two main purchases include a truck, usually a pickup, and a flatbed trailer. There may be other small pieces of equipment needed such as bungee cords, chains and anything else you need to secure your load down.

The type of truck you buy is up to you. Most drivers start with a Ford F450 or F550 or a similar model from a different automaker, like Chevy. Smaller trucks such as an F250 or F350 would also work, but the wear and tear would be greater because light-duty trucks are often at their limit when carrying hot shot loads.

Carefully weigh your options and budget to decide which type of truck will work best for your business. YouTube can be a great source for vehicle reviews. Depending on what type of truck you purchase, when combined with the cost of supplies and insurance, you may be able to begin hauling hot shot loads for as little as $50,000.

  1. Find Loads

You can use load boards such as DAT TruckersEdge to find hot shot loads to haul. Load boards can help you to develop relationships with customers you often purchase loads from. 123 Loadboard is another solution to finding freight. Many load boards have apps and mobile sites, so you’ll be able to have access to loads 24/7.

Why Become a Hot Shot Driver?

  • Low startup costs. Hot shot trucking has the lowest startup costs of any trucking niche.
  • Simple licensing procedure. If your hot shot truck hauls under 10,000 lbs of goods, you don’t need a CDL.
  • High pay rate. Income for hot shot truckers can be as good or better than those in Class 8.
  • Local loads. Because of the time constraints, most hot shot loads are local or regional, meaning you’ll be spending less time on the road and more time at home.

How can hot shot drivers find good rates for their services?

To find good rates for their services, hot shot drivers can employ several strategies. Firstly, they can utilize load boards such as Truckstop to search for loads that align with their specifications. These online platforms provide a vast database of available loads, allowing drivers to browse and select the ones that suit them best.

When starting out, it is advisable for hot shot drivers to set an average rate of around $1.50 per mile. However, as they gain experience and build a reputation, they can gradually increase their rates to fall within the $2 to $3 range. It is important for drivers to strike a balance between competitiveness and ensuring they are compensated fairly for their services.

In determining the best rates, hot shot drivers must take into account various driving costs. These costs include fuel expenses, factoring or dispatch services, maintenance, and insurance. By accurately calculating these expenses and subtracting them from the earned-per-mile rate, drivers can get a clearer picture of how much they can potentially earn.

Another effective way for hot shot drivers to secure good rates is by actively searching for loads that cover deadheads. Deadheads refer to the return trips without a load, which can result in wasted time and unproductive miles. By finding loads that cover deadheads, drivers can optimize their efficiency and avoid the loss of earnings that typically accompany this downtime.

Ultimately, by leveraging load boards, setting competitive rates, considering driving costs, and pursuing loads that cover deadheads, hot shot drivers can increase their chances of finding good rates for their services and maximizing their earning potential.

What are the pros and cons of hot shot trucking?

Hot shot trucking, like any other career or lifestyle, has its own set of pros and cons. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages, individuals can make informed decisions about pursuing hot shot trucking as a possible career option.

Pros of hot shot trucking:

1. Lower startup costs: Hot shot trucking typically requires a smaller initial investment compared to long-haul trucking. Class 3 trucks, which are commonly used in hot shot operations, are less expensive to purchase than class 8 long-haul trucks. Additionally, these vehicles are cheaper to insure, making it more feasible for drivers who want to start their own business without the burden of significant financial costs.

2. Potential for higher rates: Hot shot jobs often involve tight turnarounds, allowing drivers to charge premium rates for each load. As a hot shot trucker, you have the freedom to choose which loads to take and determine your own driving schedule. This flexibility allows you to maximize your earnings potential. Moreover, the quick delivery required in hot shot trucking can be challenging and rewarding, as you help customers meet tight deadlines.

3. Interesting and diverse loads: One of the exciting aspects of hot shot trucking is the variety of loads you get to haul. Instead of solely focusing on large loads, hot shot truckers often transport smaller, specialized items that require urgent delivery. This variety keeps the job dynamic and engaging, appealing to many drivers who thrive on fresh challenges.

Cons of hot shot trucking:

1. Potential instability: Relying solely on hot shot loads can lead to inconsistent work and income. Since hot shot trucking is paid per mile, drivers may not have the same level of financial stability as long-haul truckers with consistent owner-operator salaries. It is important to consider the potential fluctuations in workload and income when deciding whether to pursue hot shot trucking as a full-time career.

2. Uncertain scheduling and downtime: Hot shot truckers must be prepared to accept loads at short notice, which can disrupt personal plans and require flexibility. In addition, deadheading (driving without a load) is a common occurrence between different jobs, leading to potential downtime where no income is generated. Managing these aspects effectively is essential to maintain productivity and financial success in hot shot trucking.

3. Additional responsibilities and regulations: Hot shot trucking, like any other carrier activities, requires compliance with numerous regulations and responsibilities. Truck maintenance becomes the responsibility of the driver, necessitating knowledge and skills in vehicle upkeep. Furthermore, hot shot truckers must adhere to insurance laws, accurately record hours of service (HOS), and comply with drug and alcohol testing like any other carriers.

In summary, hot shot trucking presents various advantages such as lower startup costs, potential for higher rates, and diverse hauling experiences. However, it also comes with potential challenges, including potential instability in workload and income, uncertain scheduling, downtime, and additional responsibilities to comply with regulations. Ultimately, individuals considering a career in hot shot trucking should carefully weigh these pros and cons to determine if it aligns with their personal goals and priorities.

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If you need extra cash to fund your startup hot shot business, invoice factoring is a great solution. EZ Freight can help you secure low-cost funding to ensure your company’s success. Give us a call or fill out this form to get started today!

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