If you have a truck at home, you may be wondering what can you do with it to earn some extra money. This is where hot shot loads come in, and it could be a good way for you to earn some extra cash all the while driving your beloved truck. But what hot shot loads for pickup trucks can you haul?
This post will discuss everything you’d want to know about hot shot trucking. From what it is, how to get started, and of course, where to find hot shot loads for pickup trucks. Here’s our table of contents to help you navigate through our article and find the relevant information:
Hot Shot Loads For Pickup Trucks: What Is Hotshot Trucking?
In case you’re not already, let’s first get familiar with hotshot trucking. What’s hotshot trucking? What are hotshot loads? Well, hotshot trucking refers to trucking jobs that involve hauling relatively small loads that are time-sensitive. Often to a single customer and location.
The loads you carry are called hotshot loads. Hotshot loads are also often referred to as LTL (Less Than a Truckload) loads. This refers to loads that are less than the maximum load of freight or semi-truck, hence less than a truckload.
As mentioned, these loads are usually time-sensitive. In many cases, it may need to arrive on the same day or even within hours of ordering. Since delivery needs to be quick and doesn’t require a freight truck, smaller consumer trucks are ideal for the job. This means you can use your truck at home.
Why Is It Called Hotshot Trucking?
We’re not quite sure. But we think it has something to do with the time-sensitive and speedy nature of the job. And since “hot” is sometimes associated with speed and urgency, that’s why they call it hotshot trucking.
What we do know is how the demand for hotshot trucking came about, which has to do with drilling and rigging equipment. Many say that it came from the days of the oil rig boom. You see, parts of oil rig equipment can fail during operation. If a part fails and the operation can’t continue, this would mean costly downtime.
Delivering parts with a freight truck would not make economical sense since the loads are less than a truckload. Nor would it be quick enough to avoid the rig being dormant and losing money. Hence the need for hotshot trucking; quick same-day delivery, for a lot less than delivering with a freight truck.
Nowadays, almost anything can be a hotshot load. This includes oil rig parts and equipment, construction equipment, and even medical equipment. Some car dealers may even use hotshot services to deliver a car to its branch or a fellow dealer in a different area. As you can imagine, these loads don’t always require a freight truck.
Instead, they can be delivered by using a full-size consumer truck with the help of a trailer. The gooseneck trailer is often the trailer of choice. As for the trucks, hotshot truckers often use heavy-duty trucks such as the Ford F-250 or Ram 2500, although their light-duty cousins such as the Ford F-150 may suffice in some cases.
Sounds Good, What Are The Pros & Cons?
Interested? Before we go any further you need to weigh the pros and cons, here are the pros of hotshot trucking:
- Lower startup and running costs than being an operator of a freight truck. Since you can use full-size trucks rather than freight trucks, they cost a lot less. A freight truck’s price starts at $45,000 secondhand, while new full-size trucks start at $39,000.
- Better pay. Due to the time-sensitive nature of the delivery, hotshot loads usually pay more.
- It’s fun. You’ll be driving your beloved truck making money, that sounds fun even for us and we don’t even drive trucks.
Of course, hotshot trucking is not without its downsides. Here are the cons that you should be aware of:
- You’re in charge of your truck. Unlike driving for a trucking company, you’ll be in charge of your vehicle. So, you’ll need to pay for everything including maintenance, fuel, and insurance amongst other costs. Of course, if you’ve been an owner-operator, this isn’t a big deal.
- Jobs are not always available. Hotshot trucking is essentially freelancing. So, you might not always find a job, and you might even struggle to find jobs from time to time. This leads to the next drawback:
- You’ll need to make yourself available. Jobs can become available at any time, including on weekends and holidays. If you’ve been struggling to find a load to haul, or you don’t want to miss money-making opportunities, you’ll need to make yourself available at all times. Sometimes you’ll need to sacrifice time with your family.
Hot Shot Loads For Pickup Trucks: How To Get Started
So, still interested in hotshot trucking? Let’s discuss more on how to get started. The first order of business is to make sure you have the right truck for the job:
1. Hot Shot Loads For Pickup Trucks: Getting The Right Truck
As mentioned, you’ll need a full-size pickup truck. Your compact or even mid-size trucks such as a Toyota Tacoma are not powerful enough. And as mentioned, ideally you need a heavy-duty full-size truck. This includes the Ford F-250 and other Class 2A trucks or above.
Quick guide about truck classification, they’re classified by the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR. This is the truck’s maximum weight that includes the maximum payload capacity and determines the class rating.
Class 2A are trucks with GVWR that ranges between 6,001 – 8,500 lbs, which includes light-duty trucks such as the Ford F-150 and its rivals. Meanwhile, the Class 2B trucks have a maximum GVWR of 10,000 lbs, which includes certain models of the Ford F-150, and the F-250 and its rivals.
Meanwhile, Class 3 trucks have a weight rating between 10,001 to 14,000 lbs. This includes trucks such as the Ram 3500, Chevy Silverado 3500, and Ford F-350. As mentioned, Class 3 trucks are probably the most ideal for the job.
This is because Class 3 trucks are powerful and have high tow ratings, but still, have plenty of creature comforts for personal usage. Whilst Class 4 trucks and above don’t have this and are meant purely for commercial usage.
We recommend getting at least a Class 2B truck, as Class 2A may limit the type of hot shot loads for pickup trucks you can carry. Additionally, get a diesel variant. They often have more torque, which is what you need for hauling. And of course, they use less fuel which allows you to save money and increase profits.
We recommend taking a look at Ram vehicles; they’re powerful, comfortable, and often regarded as the most luxurious amongst its rivals. But really you can’t go wrong with Ford’s or GMC’s offerings either.
2. Get A Trailer
The next order of business would be to get a trailer to haul the loads. Consider these:
- Bumper pull trailers. They’re versatile and easy to use, but they’re mostly for smaller and lighter loads.
- Dovetail trailers are similar to bumper pull, the main difference is they have a slight inclination at the rear end. Convenient for loading loads that may require the angle.
- Tilt deck trailers can tilt down, which can make loading a lot easier. This will be very helpful to load cars with low ground clearance.
- Gooseneck trailers are suitable for hauling heavy loads. It’s still versatile and relatively easy to drive on the road, making them a very popular option among hotshot truckers.
Overall, a gooseneck trailer is probably the most ideal if you’re going to commit yourself to hotshot trucking. However, they are expensive, costing between $11,000 to $16,000 on average. Additionally, they require a specific hitching system on your truck as well.
Also, some states will require you to have the training and sometimes certification to haul gooseneck trailers across states. This brings us to permits and licenses:
3. Sorting Permits And Licenses
There are three things that you will need to sort out: commercial truck driver’s license (CDL), USDOT (Department Of Transportation) number, and MC number. You need a CDL if your truck and load exceed 10,000 lbs. Otherwise, you’re limited to loads that don’t exceed that.
A USDOT number is necessary if you’re going to haul loads across state lines. If you’re planning to only deliver loads in your current state, then you’ll need a state DOT number instead. Meanwhile, the MC number is your operating authority number. You’ll also need this if you’re going to cross state lines when delivering loads.
We recommend watching the video above to get a better understanding of what you will need to get started in this business and all the permits involved. The gist of it is if you’re planning to deliver loads across state lines, you should get both the USDOT and MC numbers. You can apply for them at the FMCSA website.
Other regulations that you should be aware of is that the Department of Transportation requires these things if your vehicle and load weigh more than 10,001 lbs:
- A driver’s logbook.
- The truck must have a fire extinguisher onboard.
- DoT license plate and load sticker.
4. Insurance And Other Documentation
In addition to the permits and licenses, there are other documents that you should have:
- Proof of insurance. Find an insurance agent that’s familiar with the trucking industry and consult with them about which plan might be ideal for you. Insurance will come in handy to protect you from potential losses on the road.
- Vehicle documents are obviously necessary, including title and registration.
- If you’re serious about the hotshot trucking business, it’ll be a good idea to open an LLC in your state and have your business license with you.
And of course, have all the USDOT and MC numbers with you whenever you’re hauling your hot shot loads.
5. Other Equipment
Right, after you got your truck, trailer, permits, and other documentation sorted out, it’s time to get some more equipment to keep you safe on the road and make sure everything goes smoothly. Here’s what we recommend you keep with you on the road:
- A phone with a stable cellular network.
- Stable internet access.
- GPS or satellite navigation, although your truck may already come with this. You can also use the satnav on your phone.
- Cargo straps.
- Basic hand tools and safety equipment, including a fire extinguisher.
- A laptop should you want to find loads when you’re on the move, although you may be able to do this from your phone.
That’s about it you’ll need tools that can keep you going on the road, and a phone should you need to call someone for help.
The Hot Shot Trucking Process
Okay, now you got all the necessary equipment and permits, how do you get started? Here’s what the process of hotshot trucking is like:
- You’ll need to find a hotshot load job. You can find them in load boards or via a local hotshot load agent or broker in your area. More on this later on.
- Should you accept the job, you’ll need to go to the pickup point of the load, probably at the shipper’s warehouse somewhere. Note that sometimes hot shot truckers bring a tag-along driver with them.
- After loading and finishing some paperwork, well, then you drive to the destination. A GPS will come in handy if you’re not familiar with the destination.
- Unload the cargo at the destination. Afterward, you can either look for another hotshot cargo nearby or return home and look for a job back at home. It’s up to you.
- Payment will usually be processed after you finish the delivery.
Note that the payment process differs depending on the load board you use, your broker, and the client as well. This brings us to the financial side of things:
How Much Money Will You Make?
Hotshot truckers are paid per mile; from the pickup point to the drop-off destination. On average, hotshot truckers earn around $1.50 – $2 per mile. However, rates may be as low as $1 to $1.25, but this is still acceptable. Urgent and specialized loads are usually between $2 to $2.50.
In some cases, you may be able to negotiate your rates. But load boards (we’ll discuss more after this) sometimes don’t allow for negotiations, but you can view how much the shipper will pay you, and often there’s a tool to see how much you’ll earn per mile.
To help you decide the minimum amount of money you should make per mile, add your total expenses and divide them by the total of miles you expect to drive per year. These expenses include fuel, maintenance, license and insurance costs, and supplies amongst others.
That’s the total cost of running your business. Afterward, you’ll arrive at your expense per mile, then determine how much profit you’ll need to make a living.
The video above suggests you can make anywhere between $1,200 – $4,500 of profit per delivery. It doesn’t explain how to calculate the rates you should charge in detail, but it’ll give you an idea of the money you can make out of hotshot trucking, as well as the costs involved.
Final note, you should be wary of deadheading. This is when you need to drive without cargo to pick up a load. Essentially you’re driving without being paid. We recommend reading an article on Truckstop about deadheading to learn more and how to avoid it.
Finding Hot Shot Loads For Pickup Trucks: Load Boards
So, the main question then is, where do you find hot shot loads for pickup trucks? You can find them in load boards, which are online marketplaces to find shippers and/or brokers. Here are some load board recommendations:
1. Hot Shot Loads For Pickup Trucks: Trucker Path
Trucker Path is a load board app where you can find hot shot loads to haul. They boast 800+ brokers and over 150,000 daily loads, and there have been well over 300,000 downloads.
You’ll need to send an SMS to download the app. And they’re available for both iPhone and Android phones. Note that they’re free, but there are limitations and you’ll need to purchase their membership to have certain features such as an ad-free experience and unlimited load views.
The membership starts as low as $199/year and goes up to $899/year. Check out their website to learn more and see if you’ll find the membership worth it. They also have an in-app GPS feature, although reviews say it’s not great.
One last thing to note is that they’re not specialized for hot shot loads. So, be sure that you’re looking at hot shot loads when browsing in the app.
Trulos is another free load board for you to find hot shot loads. Unlike Trucker Path, they’re completely free. However, we noticed that the site does have a lot of ads, which is understandable since it’s free. But it does make the site feel a bit cheap, and it’s generally not as nice to use as Trucker Path.
Trulos also doesn’t specialize in hot shot loads, but there are plenty of them on the site. They also have a live freight rate feature, which means you can browse loads while viewing the live rates for them.
3. 123 Loadboard
Unlike the other two above, this site only lists hot shot loads. Additionally, you’ll have to pay for a membership which starts at $35/month. And if you want features such as industry rates, mobile app access, and a load planner, you’ll need to pay somewhere between $45 – $55 per month.
Don’t worry, there’s a free 10-day trial included in the membership and you can cancel it if you’re not satisfied. But we can’t say just how easy or difficult the cancellation process would be.
4. Truckstop Load Board
Truckstop is another excellent site, although they don’t specialize in hot shot loads only. Similar to 123 Loadboard, you’ll need to purchase a membership which costs between $39 to $149 per month. But there’s a free demo available.
5. Other Sites And Hot Shot Load Agents
There are other sites worth mentioning for finding hot shot loads, but we’re not going to discuss the rest of them in detail. If you find that none of the sites we mentioned suits you, try these instead:
- Freight Finder.
- Free Freight Search.
- DAT load board.
If you’re still not quite happy with our recommendation, try searching ‘hot shot load boards’ on Google and it will return plenty of results. You can also find loads by searching for hotshot load agents and brokers near you. If you’re lucky, there might be a few near where you live.
The video above from Tow Piglet should give you an idea of what it’s like to find hot shot loads via a load board and then contact the broker. He records the phone call conversation and shows the process so you can understand better how it all works.
Hot Shot Loads For Pickup Trucks: Wrap Up
To summarize, hot shot trucking is delivering loads that don’t fill a freight truck and are usually time-sensitive. Hence the need for a smaller truck that can deliver it quickly to wherever the cargo needs to be. These loads are often referred to as LTL (Less Than a Truckload).
If you already own a pickup truck, especially Class 2B trucks or above, this can be a way for you to make money. Whether you want to do it full time, or as a way to earn some extra cash, you can consider hot shot trucking. It’s a great way to earn money while driving your beloved truck.
It’s also a great option for those who are struggling to find a job for whatever reason. You’ll be self-employed, and if you do it right, you can make a great living out of it.
Our final advice, if you’re looking to do this full time, get the CDL and other permits necessary for you to drive a truck and load that weighs more than 10,000lbs. This also allows you to deliver cargo across states, which allows you to take more jobs and make more money.
However, if you’re only looking to do this part-time, then those permits are probably not necessary. But note that you’ll be limited to smaller loads within your current state. In any case, we hope this has been helpful, and good luck!
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