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What is Hot Shot Trucking?

Ever wonder what hot shot trucking is? Come discover how this trucking industry can allow you to become your own boss.

5 minutes readNovember 14, 2022

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What is Hot Shot Trucking?

One transportation industry that has got a lot of attention lately is hot shot trucking. If you're currently a driver and looking for a change, hot shot trucking may be the right combination of premium pay and day-to-day new challenges to overcome.

What Is Hot Shot Trucking?

Hot shot trucking is all about hauling time-sensitive smaller loads to a single customer or location. Most loads require medium-duty trucks complete with a flatbed trailer. You may need to travel a short distance or across the country, depending on the job at hand.

We're going to take a look at the three key features that hot shot trucking involves, which are LTL loads, time-sensitive deliveries, and single customers or locations.

LTL Loads

LTL loads, known commonly in the trucking industry as less-than-truckloads, are comprised of relatively small quantities of freight and other small loads. These loads involve moving smaller batches for a variety of businesses that wouldn't be able to fulfill a large shipment on their own.

When it comes to hauling LTL loads, they come in a variety of weights. It's imperative that you check the load to ensure that your truck can safely haul it. For example, your load may be live animals which can be extremely heavy.

Time-Sensitive Deliveries

A lot of hot shot trucking has to do with delivering time-sensitive items. For example, a construction company that needs a particular piece of equipment ASAP will post it to a load board as a hot shot load. These time-sensitive loads are intended to help reduce project delays, downtime, and lost revenue for the business.

Single Customers or Locations

Hot shot trucking loads can be done for a single location or multiple locations. In the latter instance, there are typically multiple stops along a particular load route where certain cargo gets unloaded.

Hot Shot Trucking

Hot shot trucking is when your medium-duty truck pulls cargo on a flatbed trailer. Get all the hot shot tips you need get you started in this lucrative trucking business.

Equipment Needed

Most hot shot truckers utilize a one-ton pickup with a pull flatbed trailer. One-ton pickups are technically considered medium-duty trucks by the Federal Highway Administration. While traditionally, these trucks are classified as non-commercial vehicles, you can change that with the following requirements.

Operating Authority

Operating authority simply means that you have the government's permission to get paid to haul freight. This particular authority is issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They will provide you with a motor carrier (MC) number. It's important to note that you may need to obtain both interstate and intrastate authority depending on where you plan on hauling freight.

Liability Insurance

Insurance is a must for any trucking company. You not only need to ensure that your vehicle and trailer are properly insured in the event of a collision, but you'll also need to insure your business and the cargo. General business liability insurance can help to provide coverage for unexpected issues. Cargo insurance is typically a requirement of most companies in order to haul their loads.


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DOT Number

DOT numbers, also known as USDOT numbers, are issued by the Department of Transportation. Any truck or combination gross vehicle weight of 18,000 pounds or more will need to apply for a DOT number. This is a unique identifier that must be affixed to the exterior of your truck for safety identification purposes.

Registered Business

Most states will require that you have a registered business to haul freight. You can apply for a business license through your Secretary of State. Many states allow you to do this online and require a filing fee to be approved. You have four entity options, which include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. If you pay employees or want to establish a retirement account, you'll need to get an EIN number from the IRS website.

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Hot Shot Trucking Weight Classes

Hot shot trucks tend to be classified under three main vehicle weight classes. These are Classes 3, 4, and 5. You'll need to know what weight class your equipment will be in so that you can obtain the appropriate commercial driver's license.

Class 3

Commonly known as your heavy-duty pickup trucks, these vehicles are comprised of Ford F-350s, Ram 3500s, Chevy Silverado 3500s, and GMC Sierra 3500s. These trucks have a weight limit of 10,001 to 14,000 pounds. Class 3 trucks are typically used for hot shot logistics and last-minute delivery drivers.

Class 4

Class 4 pickups are comprised of Chevy Silverado 4500s, Ford F-450s, and Ram 4500s. They're a step up from Class 3 trucks and offer a weight limit of 14,001 to 16,000 pounds. Class 4 trucks are ideal for hauling larger hot shot loads than Class 3 trucks can safely handle.

Class 5

Class 5 medium-duty trucks have a weight limit of 16,001 to 19,500 pounds. They're comprised of F-550s, Ram 5500s, and Chevy Silverado 5500s. Some light commercial trucks also fall into the Class 5 category, which includes the Peterbilt 325, International TerraStar, and Kenworth T170.

Check out this infographic from a report by Fleming et Al.
Trucking weight classes infographic

Hot shot trucks can utilize a variety of trailer setups to haul loads. It's likely that you're going to start with just one trailer, so you want to ensure it's the right size for the type of loads you anticipate hauling with your chosen truck.

Bumper Pull Trailers

One of the most basic trailer setups out there is the bumper pull trailer. This trailer attaches right to the hitch on your truck. These trailers do tend to be smaller and lightweight.

You won't be able to haul more than 10,001 pounds without compromising stability.

However, bumper pull trailers are relatively inexpensive to obtain. They're also fairly easy to learn to drive with and can fit in relatively confined spaces. Bumper pull trailers are great for quick and spontaneous hot shot loads.

They are relatively lightweight when compared to other options like goosenecks.

Before you hook up any bumper pull trailer to your hitch, it's important that you understand your truck's towing capacity. You can find this information in your owner's manual or on the driver's side door frame.

You'll need to ensure that the trailer's weight alongside its load will be equal or less to your truck's rated towing capacity.

Gooseneck Trailers

Another option for hot shot hauling is a gooseneck trailer. This type of trailer is connected to a fifth-wheel hitch inside the truck's bed.

You'll need to ensure that your truck has a fifth-wheel setup in order to use this type of trailer for your hot shot loads.

Goosenecks are great for handling larger and heavier loads as compared to bumper pull trailers. It's important to note that goosenecks are going to require a heavier-duty truck that has a higher towing capability.

Due to the way that the gooseneck connects to your truck, it creates a stronger connection.

There is less sway while you're traveling down the roadway, which can be a big safety advantage.

Tilt Deck Trailers

Tilt deck trailers have the major advantage of being able to tilt heavy cargo at an angle for easy loading and unloading. These trailers require hydraulic systems to lift the loads, which means they're going to need more maintenance than other trailer styles.

These trailers can be a great option for moving hot shot loads from locations that don't have any loading equipment.

However, realize that they're going to be more expensive to purchase due to their added equipment when compared to bumper pull trailers.

Lowboy Trailers

If you're interested in hauling some of the heaviest loads out there, then you're absolutely going to need a lowboy trailer. This type of trailer sits very low to the ground, which gives it a very low center of gravity.

They're especially helpful for transporting tall loads where height restrictions can be a problem.

Lowboys do have minimal deck space. They're designed as a semi-trailer that has two drops in the deck height. The first drop appears after the gooseneck connection just behind your rear wheels.

The height will increase again to go over the back wheels of the trailer. When you unhook from these loads, the trailer will simply sit on the ground.

Dovetail Trailers

Dovetail trailers are typically reserved for hauling loads that have wheels, like vehicles. This fairly affordable trailer option allows you to easily drive onto the trailer for placement.

Dovetail trailers come in a variety of sizes and attachment setups. You can get a dovetail that hooks up to a truck's hitch similar to that of a bumper pull trailer, or you can opt for a fifth-wheel dovetail attachment.

It's important to note that ball hitch dovetail trailers can drag at the back on steep inclines.

For a visual on the key differences between trucking trailers, check out this infographic from MyMoto:

Types of Trailers for Hot Shot Trucking

Expedited Shipping vs. Hot Shot Trucking

As you learn about hot shot trucking, it can become easy to mistake it for expedited shipping. While hot shot trucking can involve time-sensitive cargo, that doesn't mean that it's classified as expedited shipping.

Rather, expedited shipping is its own sector of freight hauling. This sector deals with rush orders that need to be transported both domestically and internationally.

Expedited freight haulers are comprised of motor carriers that have a variety of pickups, tractor-trailers, and even vans on standby to deliver rushed goods.

Hot shot trucking, on the other hand, is comprised of freelance owner-operators who apply for jobs on load boards.

Instead of companies using expedited shipping, they will simply post the loads onto an online load board where a hot shot trucker can apply for it.

Insurance for Hot Shot Trucking

To legally operate as a hot shot trucker, you'll need to have adequate insurance coverage. There are four main types of insurance that you'll need to obtain. These include:

Truckers General Liability Insurance

Truckers' general liability insurance coverage is meant to cover the cost of damages and injuries that could occur as a result of your business's activities. It's important to note that truckers' general liability insurance only covers activities not related to operating your truck. For example, if you damaged cargo during the delivery process or someone slips and falls at your place of business, this type of insurance will cover you.

Auto Liability Insurance

Auto liability insurance is all about covering others from any damage that may occur in direct relation to operating your truck. For example, if you hit a sign that needs to be replaced or you damage another driver's vehicle, auto liability insurance will cover the damages up to your maximum coverage limit.

Cargo Insurance

Cargo insurance is a must to ensure that any items in your load that are damaged during transport are covered. This damage could be due to a fire, collision, or even the striking of a load. The maximum coverage you get for your cargo insurance will determine which types of hot shot trucking loads you can qualify to transport.

Collision and Comprehensive Insurance

Lastly, collision insurance is there to protect you in the event that you unintentionally damage your truck or equipment.

Comprehensive insurance coverage pays for any damage to your truck or trailer that is considered non-collision related.

For example, weather damage, theft, and fire damage all fall under the main insurance category of comprehensive insurance.

Some of these insurance coverages are required by federal law, while others may be necessary in order to be approved to transport a hot shot load. Many companies want to know that their cargo will be insured in the event that there is any damage to it while you're driving.

It's a good idea to sit down with a CoverWallet agent to determine the specific type of insurance coverage that you need and the recommended limits for the type of hauling that you want to perform.

Trucker trucking

Hot Shot Trucking: Wrapping Up

Hot shot trucking can be a great industry to get into if you want to work as a freelancer. By obtaining the right equipment and insurance from CoverWallet, you can start taking hot shot load jobs soon.

Our agents can walk you through your options and make sure you are not getting insurance that you don't need. Call (646) 844-9933 today for a free consultation and quote.

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