Hotshot Trucking Jobs: What Is Hotshot Trucking, Salary, Pros and Cons (2024)

If you’ve been looking at getting started as a truck driver, hot shot trucking may be an ideal way to test the waters and begin your career. Learn all about hot shot trucking, including what equipment you’ll need, some of the pros and cons of the work, and how to find hot shot trucking jobs.

What Is Hot Shot Trucking?

Hot shot trucking is using smaller vehicles to carry small loads on tight deadlines. Unlike some expedited trucking jobs that may require you to drive a large semi-truck with a full load, hot shot loads are typically smaller and use a medium-duty pickup truck and a flatbed trailer. Shippers and brokers utilize hot shot drivers to transport loads that wouldn’t be economical to haul in a larger vehicle.

There are two fundamental ways of working as a hot shot driver: the first is to lease on with existing companies as a hot shot driver, and the second is to run your own hot shot trucking business and find your clients and loads on a load board. Although it’s not as common, if you’re new to trucking as a career or are still experimenting with the types of trucking jobs you enjoy best, working with existing trucking companies as a hot shot driver may be the wisest option.

Delivery turnaround times for hot shot trucking loads are typically short, and routes are often local, but regional loads may require interstate or long-distance travel as well.

Hot Shot Trucking Equipment

Due to the nature of the loads and the vehicles, drivers also need adequate equipment to keep loads secured, such as straps, tarps, and chains.

Types of Hot Shot Trucks

Hot shot trucking uses medium-duty pickup trucks with flatbed trailers rather than heavy semi-trailer vehicles. Hot shot trucks are generally class 3, 4, or 5 pickups with the following weight limits:

  • Class 3: 10,001 – 14,000 pounds
  • Class 4: 14,001 – 16,000 pounds
  • Class 5: 16,001 – 19,500 pounds

In contrast, many standard trucking jobs require a class 7 or 8 semi-trailer vehicle with higher weight limits.

Types of Hot Shot Trailers

Four types of trailers are particularly popular for hot shot trucking. Trailers used for hot shot trucking are usually between 30 and 40 feet long and between 3 feet 4 inches and 3 feet 6 inches above the ground.

Bumper Pull Trailers

Arguably the most common type of hot shot trailer, bumper pull trailers are shorter and lighter than other types of trailers and usually only haul loads below 10,000 pounds. This makes them more suitable for drivers with less driving experience.

Gooseneck Trailers

These typically measure 40 feet in length and are very stable, so they are ideal for larger hot shot loads. They are relatively easy to drive on the open road and through tight turns and are favored by more experienced drivers.

Dovetail Trailers

These trailers are best for transporting tractors or construction machinery.

Lowboy Trailers

As the name suggests, the center of gravity on these trailers is low. This makes them well suited to hauling heavier loads and helps them meet many states’ load height restrictions.

What Do Hot Shot Truck Drivers Haul?

Hot shot trucking loads are most commonly machinery of some kind, such as farm equipment or construction machinery, along with vehicles and building materials.

Pros and Cons of Hot Shot Trucking Jobs

As with all jobs, hot shot trucking has its pros and its cons. As you evaluate the career, it’s important to remember that what might benefit some people might feel like a disadvantage to others.

Pros of Hot Shot Trucking:

  • Great starting point: Hot shot trucking is a good way to get started as a truck driver. You don’t always need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) as a hot shot driver (although it’s recommended in many cases), but you can still get a sense of the truck driving career.
  • Lower entry and operating costs: Truck payments and fuel costs are much lower for medium-duty pickups than for class 8 semis.
  • Quick timelines: Loads are expedited, so you won’t waste much time waiting around.
  • Good pay: Pay can be lucrative, comparable to that of driving a class 8 vehicle.
  • Ample home time: Loads often only need local delivery, meaning you have more time at home.

Cons of Hot Shot Trucking:

  • Inconsistent: Demand can be patchy with hot shot trucking. You can’t guarantee you’ll have work on a particular day.
  • Fees can be high: If you work with a dispatching company and get hot shot jobs from a load board, you’ll have to part with some of your pay in commission.
  • Competitive: Because there’s a potential for high pay and hot shot trucking is easier to get into than traditional trucking, you’ll have lots of competition for loads.

Is Hot Shot Trucking Right for Me?

Only you can know how hot shot trucking stacks up against other forms of truck driving when it comes to your career goals. Here are what some experienced hot shot truckers say about their work on Reddit.

“I come from a trucking family… I try to never work a weekend and rarely have a day less than 14 hours. Rolling in money. … $2k a week on average after all expenses. Trust me, I’ve had terrible weeks too. Trucking sounds easy but it’s not for everyone.”P5U1992

“I drive hotshot for my company. Dodge 5500 with a 30-foot gooseneck. I love it, but then again, I’m not the one paying for the insurance/fuel/registration. About a year ago, my company gave me the green light to look for outside loads to haul, when we weren’t hauling our own things. I was having a really hard time finding viable hotshot loads. Most loads on load boards are going to be too heavy/big for hotshot capacity. If you do manage to find a load to pick up close by, then it’s hard to find a return load on the way back, or vice versa.”ptk77

What Is a Hot Shot Trucking Load Board?

A load board is essentially an online job board for truckers/trucking companies and the people or companies that need loads hauled. Load boards are also sometimes called freight boards, and they facilitate communication between brokers, shippers, and owner operators. Some load boards are specific to hot shot trucking, while others are more general.

Types of Load Boards

Some load boards are free, and if you want to keep your costs low, you can start with these. But as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. You may be competing with more people on free boards and might not get the best pick of the jobs out there.

Other load boards charge a monthly subscription fee for access. This fee varies depending on whether you’re a carrier or a broker and the level of detail you want to go into with your load board searches. Subscription boards tend to vet their users further than free boards, so you may feel more confident using them.

How to Start Hot Shot Trucking Work

An advantage of hot shot trucking, as opposed to other forms of trucking, is that it’s relatively beginner-friendly. These are the steps to follow if you want to start a career in hot shot trucking:

  1. Get your CDL. This isn’t always essential (see more below), but not having one will limit the types of jobs you can take.
  2. Purchase insurance, set up an LLC, and get a tax number (EIN). These are the basics of doing business.
  3. Get a U.S. Department of Transport (USDOT) Number and Motor Carrier Number so you can legally work interstate.
  4. Understand the Hours of Service rules. If you’re responsible for finding your own jobs and working with tight turnaround times, it’s especially important that you understand these and can follow them.
  5. Choose a vehicle to purchase or lease. Hot shot trucking is usually done with class 3-5 vehicles, and each of these classes has different weight and load parameters and restrictions. Figure out what kinds of loads are most common in your area or which you would like to specialize in hauling. Then, lease or invest in a vehicle appropriate to that. Leasing will be the best option if you don’t have the start-up capital to buy or are still figuring out whether hot shot trucking is the best for you.
  6. Search the load boards for jobs.

Do I Need a CDL for Hot Shot Trucking?

Many pickup trucks for hot shot trucking can also be used for non-commercial purposes. You don’t need a CDL to drive these vehicles, but not having one could seriously limit the jobs available to you on load boards.

If your gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is 26,001 pounds or more, and the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds, you need a CDL.

While some drivers break the rules and carry loads they’re not legally permitted to carry without a CDL, there’s a good chance they’ll be caught and fined, and this will affect their employability further down the road.

How Much Do Hot Shot Truck Drivers Make?

Hot shot drivers get paid per mile, and this dollars-and-cents amount will depend on the value of the load. Drivers typically make between 25% and 85% of the load revenue. This is a big range, so there’s the opportunity to make more (or less) as a hot shot driver, depending on the types of jobs you take.

The per-mile rate for hot shot drivers is usually between $1 and $2. It’s up to you to negotiate the pay rate or accept or reject jobs you find on load boards, depending on whether you’re happy with the pay. Experienced hot shot drivers suggest aiming for a starting rate of $1.50 per mile.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a hot shot truck driver is $55,320. However, some experienced hot shot truckers have reported earning around $2,000 per week. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which includes all heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in one category—a broad category that might include some hot shot truck drivers but also includes over-the-road (OTR) tractor-trailer drivers and other truckers—lists the median pay as $47,130 per year.

Hot Shot Trucking Company Jobs

Ready to get started in your hot shot trucking career but aren’t quite ready to find your own loads? Check out these hot shot trucking companies that you can lease on with. Note that these operate nationwide, but you may be able to find more companies operating in your state or area.

ACME Truck Line Hot Shot Company
One of the leading trucking companies in the U.S., ACME operates nationwide.

USA Truck
This company offers some of the best benefits for drivers out there.

Hot Shot Logistics
This Texas-based company operates across the U.S. and into Canada, too.

Hotshot Trucking Jobs: What Is Hotshot Trucking, Salary, Pros and Cons (2024)
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