Hot Shot Trucking Basics: Comprehensive Product List for Hotshot Trucker

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In the trucking industry, you will find that there are many different types of loads truckers may be asked to haul. However, what happens when shipping companies have smaller, heavier loads which need fast and safe deliveries that flatbed truckers simply can’t do? They will call upon hotshot truckers!

Hotshot trucking differs from expedited shipping and traditional trucking because these haulers can deliver cargo with tight deadlines in the time it would take you to wait for a company to take a truck off standby. Hotshot haulers also have specific vehicles and equipment needed for hotshot trucking like vans, tractor-trailers, and even pickup trucks! They do not tend to drive heavy-duty trucks like Class 9 semis.

The term “hotshot” is almost directly related to the purpose of this niche industry – it’s all about speed. Hotshot truckers try to deliver their loads as quickly as possible, with their most common cargo being that of construction and agriculture equipment and industrial/heavy machinery. However, with the variety of the market, there is now a wide range of materials for hotshot haulers!

hotshot trucking

Hotshot hauling can be a very lucrative business as a good, responsible hotshot trucker in a good location can bring in anywhere between $60,000 to $120,000 gross income a year – and you have the opportunity to become an owner-operator which is a luxury few can afford with traditional trucking. Below, we will go into more depth about the details of hotshot trucking rigs, the pros and cons of hotshot hauling, and must-have hotshot trucking equipment!

Types of Hotshot Trucks:

Though both hotshot truckers and expedited haulers’ goals are to get their cargo delivered quickly and safely, hotshot truckers can deliver smaller loads in smaller trucks that normally fall in Class 3-5 truck categories:

  • Class 3 (10,001–14,000lbs): Includes GMC Sierra 3500, Ram 3500 and Ford F-350
  • Class 4 (14,001–16,000lbs): Includes Chevrolet Silverado 4500HD, Ford F-450, and Ram 4500
  • Class 5 (16,001–19,500lbs): Includes Chevrolet Silverado 5500HD, Ford F-550, Peterbilt 325, and Ram 5500

If you’re unsure whether your truck falls into any of these categories, the Federal Highway Administration dictates you are legally allowed to pull hotshot loads as long as you follow the following guidelines:

  • Have proper liability insurance and operational authority.
  • Have an updated DOT identification number.
  • Abide by all federally mandated hours of service regulations (HOS).
  • Possess a CDL when moving a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 26,000 lbs.

Types of Hotshot Trailers:

When it comes to the types of trailers you should have for hotshot hauling, try to choose the type that will be the best fit for your vehicle and the type of loads you want to haul. The two most common types of trailers in hotshot trucking are the Gooseneck and Dovetail hotshot trailers.

1. Gooseneck Hotshot Trailer:

These trailers are a favorite amongst experienced hotshot truckers! Goosenecks are favored for their stability and tight turning radius which make them ideal while on thin roads. Gooseneck trucking rigs are normally designed to be 40 feet long, though longer trailers may provide the ability to haul more cargo. Be sure to check any state laws or regulations about the legal amount/size/weight of the cargo you can haul. It’s important to remember Gooseneck trailers are considered commercial trailers, and therefore require specific training and license to operate! You will also need to invest in a special hitching system for them, as they will not attach to the bed of a pickup truck.

Gooseneck Hotshot Trailer:

2. Dovetail Hotshot Trailers:

Getting their name from its rear ramp that makes these trailers appear to have a dovetail, these trailers are the underdogs of the hotshot trucking rigs. Useful when hauling self-propelled cargo like construction machinery or tractors, these are the best hotshot trucking rigs if you need to haul small equipment or cars. The shorter ramps make it easier to load cargo at a gradual angle onto the trailer without much risk of damage happening to your load or trailer. However, they are not as versatile as Gooseneck trailers.

The type of trailer you decide on will ultimately come down to preference, cargo type, and vehicle type. If you are using a pickup truck or van for your hotshot hauling but don’t want to invest in the hitching device needed to hook up a Gooseneck trailer, then opting for a Dovetail will be more beneficial for you! Also, consider the size of the trailer you’re thinking of purchasing. While most trailers will be anywhere between 30-40 feet in length, remember that a 40-foot hotshot trailer isn’t suited to haul any freight that weighs greater than 16,500 lbs.

Hotshot Trucking Pros and Cons:

Like with anything, there will always be pros and cons with hotshot trucking. While there are plenty of advantages to investing in this industry, there are considerations one should think about before committing fully to hotshot hauling.

Advantages of Hotshot Trucking :

  • Bigger Cargo Pool: Hotshot trucking can increase the number of cargo hauling you can choose from. If you or your company have hotshot vehicles and haulers on standby, you can more readily agree to smaller deliveries with quick turnaround times!
  • Cost-Savings: A full-length flatbed, step-deck, or semi-truck can be pricey so utilizing the vehicles that fall under Classes 3-5 saves you the money and the need to buy a bigger truck. Hotshot trucking rigs offer great service at more cost-effective rates!
  • Visibility: With larger trailers, it can be harder for a shipper to track the vehicle’s transit. This can be an annoyance at worst and reflect poorly on the shipper if the cargo is delayed or late to the destination. Hotshot hauling can remove this barrier since each delivery has a dedicated trucker and hauler whose goal is to get the cargo to the location on time and safely!
  • Time-Saving: When a deadline for delivery is approaching and you or your clientele cannot afford to wait for a larger truck, hotshot trucking can be a lifesaver! The sizes and versatility of these hotshot trucking rigs almost eliminate prolonged loading! And remember: speed is in the name! Additionally, hotshot trailers are easier to maneuver through tight roads or towns that larger freighters would struggle to fit through.

Hotshot hauling is a convenient option for shippers that have tight deadlines to meet, smaller loads to haul, or who want to save a bit of money!

Disadvantages of Hotshot Trucking:

There are three big disadvantages that come with hotshot trucking:

  • Freight Capacity Restrictions: Hotshot trailers usually max out at 40 feet in length, which means they are limited in the weight they can legally carry – 16,500 lbs. Shippers who have cargo that exceeds this weight need to understand that – no matter the size of the load – hotshots are no longer an option for delivery. Additionally, cargo that is nearing the weight capacity of 16,500 lbs will still put stress on the trailer. There may be hotshot haulers that refuse to risk damaging their only means of transportation and finding hotshot drivers who will haul cargo of that weight is slim.
  • Freight Capacity Restrictions: While it’s becoming a more popular alternative to traditional flatbed hauling, hotshot hauling is still a niche industry. There is a very limited amount of cargo a hotshot hauler can deliver, and oftentimes a shipper may need to put more work into finding a hotshot trucker that meets specific requirements compared to purchasing or using a flatbed or semi-trailer.
  • Competition: Hotshot trucking is an industry that is niche and easy to get into – so, you’ll be up against a lot of competition as well. To ensure you are either choosing the best hotshot trucker or want to BE the best, quality of service regarding the speed and safe delivery of your cargo should always be your top priority!

Of course, when it comes to delivering your cargo safely and in a timely manner, you can only do so much without the proper equipment.

Must-Have Hotshot Trucking Equipment:

As previously mentioned, Hotshot trucking rigs differ from traditional trucks because of the type of trailers and vehicles considered to be hotshot trucks. Your options range from pickup trucks to flatbed hotshot trailers, but this variety of choices also may require different or new equipment for hotshot trucking with your vehicle.

Below we list some of the most basic equipment necessary for hotshot trucking, but remember to always do your proper research before investing and/or purchasing specific equipment:

  • Hotshot Trailer – the two common trailers mentioned above, Gooseneck and Dovetail, are essential for your hotshot trucking business. Without a trailer, your options for what cargo you can haul dwindle. And depending on the size and type of your trailer, your options may yet change. Choosing the right hotshot trucking rig for your vehicle, including ensuring you can properly attach the two, is integral to getting started in the hotshot trucking industry.
Hotshot Trailer
  • Tarps – an essential tool for every trucker, tarping is a skill that you should invest in no matter what vehicle you use or cargo you haul. Being able to keep your loads dry and protected in extreme weather conditions only provide more benefit and increase your chances of a safe, scratch-free, dry delivery!
  • Certificates and Licenses: If you’re trying to go all out and start a Hotshot hauling business, you need to make sure all your ducks are in order first! Having certificates like your EIN (Employer Identification Number), a DOT physical, a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), and having your motor vehicle record are important and required before you can start hauling. While a CDL isn’t required for hotshot trucking, there will be situations you are barred from without one – like trying to operate a vehicle or haul cargo that exceeds 26,001 lbs – and equipment you will be unable to purchase or use. Having these certificates on file and easily accessible could save you headaches and possible legal fines down the road!
  • Tie-Down Equipment: while it feels self-explanatory, having the proper tie-down equipment ready to go, like your chains, ratchet straps, winch straps, or bungees is necessary for all haulers. It is recommended for hotshot truckers to have at least twenty ratchet straps available and four 20’-long chains. With a typical hotshot trailer measuring up to 40ft in length, having between two to four 20 foot chains or straps will ensure you have tie-downs that fit the length of your trailer. On the off chance that you end up hauling cargo nearly the entire size of your hotshot trailer, you’ll be thankful to have enough tie-down length to work with!

Our Hotshot Trucking Equipment List:

If you’re unsure where to even begin looking for hotshot trucking equipment, here are some of our recommendations:

(1) 20 foot long, G70 Transport Chains

(2) 20’-30’ long Tow Straps

(3) 30 foot Winch Strap with Flat Hooks

(4) 30’-40’ Ratchet Strap with Flat Hooks

(5) V-Bridle Straps with RTJ Cluster Hooks

(6) Strap Heavy Duty Bands

(7) Corner Protectors

(8) 27 foot long tarps

(9) Side Mount/Lasso Straps

(10) Tow Dolly Wheel Nets

(11) Wheel Chocks

(12) “Oversized Load” Banners

(13) Two 20 foot long, G70 Transport Chains with Lever Binders

(14) Star Warning or Towmate Lights

Our Hotshot Trucking Equipment

How to Find Good Hotshot Trucking Loads:

When you’re just starting out as a new hotshot trucker, you can’t exactly sit around and wait for jobs to find you. Hotshot hauling is a time-sensitive task, and suppliers are constantly seeking out truckers close by to collect and deliver their loads. The best place to find new hotshot trucking loads is to seek load boards, which are the most efficient method for hotshot haulers to find cargo-specific for this industry!

Initially, it may be very tempting to use smaller load boards especially if you’re seeking work that is local. However, larger (and higher-paying) loads will be on larger boards, such as the DAT’s load boards. DAT’s load boards are one of the most comprehensive trucking networks you can use and they make it very easy to find hotshot trucking loads. Their system allows you to save specific routes and to find loads in specific locations or areas. Additionally, you can set up alarms to be notified when a new cargo that fits your specifications comes up!

Though traditional flatbed trucking isn’t at risk or in direct competition with hotshot trucking, hotshot haulers are a unique and niche group of truckers in the industry. If you are interested in getting involved with cargo hauling but aren’t sure where to start, starting your own hotshot hauling business could end up being a very profitable venture so long as you have all the necessary hotshot trucking equipment.

It’s important to recognize that you will get the best loads when you have a good network system. For hotshot truckers, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is a great place to start making the connections you may need to find or maintain a hotshot trucking business! As mentioned briefly above, the DAT One Platform is also an incredibly helpful, all-in-one tool for independent truckers. It provides load boards and factors in services, tracking, and fleet compliance tools which may come in handy while out on the road!

Hotshot Trucking Loads

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to do hotshot hauling – just responsible or irresponsible methods. Hopefully, this article has helped lay out the important tools, equipment, and tips necessary to help propel you on your hotshot trucking journey!

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