How to get started in hotshot trucking in 2020

Hotshot trucking has been a hot topic of discussion, as many interested in getting started in the trucking industry have considered it a feasible option. 

As defined by Trucking Truth, Hotshot trucking can be described as “a type of trucking that carries relatively smaller, time-sensitive loads to accessible locations.”

While the niche can be a viable option for making money in the trucking industry, it does require taking big risks and a giant leap of faith. Ultimately, you must prepare far ahead of time if you want to avoid insurmountable debt and future headaches.

It’s important to remember that when you’re getting started as a hotshot trucker, you’re essentially an owner-operator. Though you can lease under a company, they may only be able to provide you with limited resources for being successful. 

Because of this, you must learn how to function autonomously, as you’re basically starting your own business. This means that you need to make smart business decisions and use your time and money wisely. 

It’s important to note that there is no perfect formula for getting started and being successful, however, there are ways to make sure you at least give yourself a good chance to succeed in the long run. 

Getting started as a hotshot trucker is a long process that requires, above all, immense patience. Consequently, the process of getting started is likely going to be the most difficult.

Not only will you have to research regulations and what kinds of loads you want to haul, but you’ll have to find the best deals for finding all necessary equipment, including your truck.

Finding the right truck for you is extremely important. The first decision you’ll have to make is whether or not you want to work with a new or used truck. Remember, to make money, you’ll hopefully be on the road more often than not, meaning you’ll be putting tens of thousands of miles into the truck right away.

Used trucks, for the most part, can be a hell of a problem, as they’ll be more vulnerable to breakdowns. However, they can also be a more cost-effective solution for people who need to get started right away. They can also be beneficial to folks who want to do work locally. 

By acquiring a used truck, you’re most likely paying it off in cash or paying it off on a monthly basis with the dealership or through a loan. While you may be facing debt, it won’t be as dramatic as if you were to get a new truck.

Nevertheless, owning or doing a long-term lease on a new truck may also be a better option for those who want to work OTR, as they’ll likely deal with fewer breakdowns and they’ll have warranty options available to them.

To own your truck, you’ll either need to pay it off cash, pay on a monthly basis with a dealership, or get a loan and pay that off, just as you would any other vehicle. This means you’ll either have to spend savings or go into substantial debt.

If you’re interested in doing a long-term lease, then you’ll likely be charged per mile. Depending on the contract you agree to, you may also have services available to you in case of breakdowns as well. If you feel like the cost per mile can be factored into your earnings without hurting you, this may be the best option. 

Once you’ve made a decision between a used or new truck however, you can begin to research which truck you want. There are several manufacturers that make trucks perfect for hotshot trucking and finding the right one for you is paramount. As a starting point, finding truck reviews from fellow drivers online is probably the best way to go.

The next step will be finding equipment, but with this, you’ll also have to choose what you want to haul. If you want to make your money primarily hauling vehicles, then you may need to invest in a car-hauling trailer, which would allow you to haul multiple cars at once.

If you’re looking for something more versatile, you can invest in a 20 to 40-foot trailer. With this, you’ll be able to haul full loads, multiple partial loads, and even a vehicle or two. The possibilities are endless. 

As a hotshot trucker, you’ll want to also be clear on your weight limits by checking DOT regulations. Generally, the most weight that can be hauled is between 12 and 20,000 lbs, according to Freight Monster, though that depends on if you have a CDL or not.

In addition to a trailer, you’ll need other crucial equipment such as tarps, chains, binders, and ratchet straps.

The next issue you’ll need to consider is how to find loads. Here you’ll have many options, all of which come with a multitude of pros and cons.

If you want to be completely autonomous, and you’re someone who enjoys freedom, the best route for you might be finding and booking your own loads. Self-dispatching can be difficult as well, so if perhaps that becomes too tiresome, you can always hire a dispatcher to help.

If the entire process becomes too difficult, however, you can always try to lease under a company that takes care of the entire thing. All you have to focus on is getting loads where they need to go. 

Nonetheless, none of this is ultimately possible without legal documentation. While you can still build a successful operation by being a non-CDL hotshot trucker, That Mother Trucker suggests that all non-CDL hotshot trucking is not worth it.

“Think of a good reason why someone wouldn’t have a CDL,” they said in a blog post. “There’s really only one reason that doesn’t have a CDL—they have a bad driving record.”

While that may not be necessarily true for all non-CDL hotshot truckers, it’s going to be a decision you’re going to have to make, so please do as much research as possible on the pros and cons. Ultimately, each decision will have its restrictions, so choose wisely. 

According to Go Share, hotshot truckers will also need a USDOT and MC number before getting started. 

To get your USDOT number, you must register online via the Unified Registration System. And for your MC number, you must first get your USDOT number and then you must complete the appropriate motor carrier operating authority forms (OP-1 series).

Overall, getting started as a hotshot trucker requires a lot of risks, but can ultimately pay off big if you play your cards right. So, was this article helpful? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

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