7 Hotshot Trucking Niches You Could Rock At

This post is about 7 hotshot trucking niches you can enter and rock at. Some of these are categories I’ve worked in. Others, I either have friends working them or talked with drivers on the road.

Some of these are regional plays. Others are more lane dependent. It’s up to you to decide whether or not a niche is available in your area. So let’s get going with 7 hotshot trucking niches you could rock at.

1. Pipeline Service

Don and I have talked many times about working in the pipeline industry. This industry uses big trucks and straight trucks. They also use hotshot truckers extensively. Since most of the trucking is subcontracted, both company drivers and owner operators are used.

The good:  Many of the hotshot jobs are intrastate, never crossing state lines. This means drivers under 21 should be able to find good jobs in the oil fields. These jobs also tend to pay well, and many allow you to sleep in your own bed every  night.

The bad:  Oil field jobs revolve around a few states. Here are a some of the biggest.

  • Texas
  • California
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  •  Oklahoma

Be prepared. Some of these locations are remote, and you may be commuting home every week or two. But you can earn and keep some serious money.

The ugly:  It’s totally dependent on oil prices. When oil prices drop below making it worthwhile, domestic drilling slows down. Sometimes it slows way down.

For the most part, the hotshot equipment you’ll need can easily be used running irregular lines and brokered freight. You just need to know how to hustle and find your own freight. At the very least, you need to be willing to learn.

2. RV Hauling

The good: RV hauling is easy to get into. You need at least a 3/4 ton truck, a CDL and a valid health card. Most companies will require your truck to be 5 years old or newer, but many will take older rigs. The industry offers a few great benefits.

  • If you’re plan is to lease on and stay under the 26k GCWR, you have some unique tax advantages.
  • You have total control of your schedule and routing.
  • A large share of the RVs you’ll haul are relatively light, under 7k.
  • Taking the scenic route home is always an option.
  • With a passport and no criminal history, you can deliver in Canada. Depending on the company, this can mean a higher rate per mile and longer runs. You may also receive a little better treatment from your dispatcher.
  • Never deal with loading docks, lumpers or other usual trucking nuisances.
  • No invoicing or factoring. Most companies pay at least half up front, and the rest upon the completed delivery.

The bad: Living in Indiana isn’t required. However, you do want to live near a major lane. I lived 500 miles from where I picked up the RV’s, but I was almost directly in the lane between Indiana and the Pacific Northwest. This makes it easy getting home enroute to and from Oregon, Washington and the western Canadian provinces.

Your gross earnings are somewhat limited:  So  it’s all about how cheap you can run. Buying the wrong truck can be fatal to your success. Watching your fuel economy, fuel prices, truck repairs and other costs are key.

The ugly:

RV sales slow down with the economy, sometimes way down. You may be looking for something else to haul in a recession. It’s always good to know a couple trucking companies you can go to work for to wait out a slump.

Hauling an RV in winter storms is nothing like driving a loaded semi. It takes gonads to get this job done in the winter, especially when you’re north of the Canadian border. Your loaded weight will usually be between 16 and 25K. And you could still be pulling a 36′ or longer trailer. That’s a far cry from 780K in a big rig.

3. Livestock Hauler

This is another area where I’ve spent several years as a company driver for livestock buyers. Pulling a 32′ gooseneck with a double deck, I was able to deliver up to 185 bull calves at a time.

Success in the livestock delivery business is based on character. Whether you’re hauling for a broker, farmer or buyer, you’ll build value by building trust. In some cases, they may even be buying livestock sight: unseen, based on your assessment of the animals.

Cleanliness is also critical. Scraping out and disinfecting the inside of your trailer regularly is a must. No one wants to ship their stock in a dirty trailer. A good first impression is everything in this niche.

There are more points of transfer for livestock than most people realize. Here are a few.

  • From farm to auction, or auction to barn
  • For livestock buyers, growers and brokers
  • In and out of stockyards
  • Delivering and picking up at feedlots
  • To and from dairy farms

The good: Customers will pay for character.  You’re hauling a living, breathing product. They could be buying or selling. Either way, they’re more emotionally involved with your cargo than nearly any other freight.

Trust me on this one. Word gets around in the livestock business. If you’re good, your phone will ring. I’ve been out of the business for over 3 years, and I’m still getting calls for work.

Everyone involved is generally excited to either get you loaded and rolling, or quickly unloaded. It’s not unusual to have the whole family up and waiting to load or unload your truck, regardless of the type of animals.

One final note on the good, cops don’t like being around a loaded livestock trailer. If they do pull you over, it’ll be a quick stop. If you’re in an agricultural area, they know the importance of getting the animals delivered without stopping enroute.

The bad: The longer runs tend to be night runs. The animals stay cooler and there’s less traffic to slow you down.

As of this writing, livestock is still exempt from the 30-minute break requirement. This is because it’s 30 minutes of no air passing through the trailer. Without that moving air, a loaded trailer is filling with body heat, causing the animals to overheat. Obviously, you limit your stops.

You’ll have a different issue when: temperatures are below freezing. The humid breath of the animals will condense on the walls and ceiling of the trailer, then drip down on the animals. As you can imagine, nobody wins with wet, cold animals.

Once you’re loaded, you’re committed. If there’s a bad storm, you’re driving through it. I’ve run through more than my share of blizzards, windstorms and otherwise. It’s just part of the job.

The ugly:  Bulls kick, pigs bite, and your trailer will need a good cleaning after delivering. This is a dirty business. It can be hard and dangerous work at times.

 4. Shed Delivery

How often do you see those freshly painted sheds for sale. They’re everywhere. No credit check, rent to own and easy financing signs tell you there’s a big market for these things. They have to be delivered somehow.

This is a great niche for someone who wants to stick close to home. You also need a little patience and some great customer service skills. You’re not going to deliver the shed to the driveway. You’re going to put it exactly where the customer needs it to go.

The good: Most of the work is close to home. Many of these sheds are oversized, and the pay reflects the fact. In some cases, the pay is based on the selling price of the shed within a territory. You could collect a pretty good check for a 50 mile round trip.

The bad: Shed delivery is usually done with a specialized trailer. Depending on the features you need, you can easily spend over 50K on the trailer alone.

The ugly: The customer doesn’t want a shed delivered to his driveway. You’re going to be backing into some tight spaces.

5. Car Hauling

I’ll stay out of the good, bad and ugly on this one. Although I know a few RV haulers who’ve found cars or trucks for backhauls, I don’t have any inside connections with this one.

Depending on the amount and weight of the vehicles you’re going to haul, you may need something bigger than the average 1 ton dually. I’ve seen several 5500 cab and chassis trucks pulling 5 car trailers across the midwest.

In talking with some of these owner operators, I’ve learned where several find their loads. Doing a little research online should net some results in your part of the country. Here are a few of the common ones.

  • Auto and collector car auctions
  • Rental car industry
  • Employee relocation companies
  • National companies with any kind of fleet
  • Auto transport brokers
  • Dispatch services

6. Home Improvement Centers And Contractors

You probably have more than one big home improvement store near your home town. Many of these stores contract the delivery of everything from appliances to building materials.  Many of these building material loads are delivered via pickup truck and a roller-deck trailer.

You could lease on to one store, or independently contract with several. If you’re willing to invest in a cargo trailer along with your open deck, you’d have even more options.

This is more of a last mile delivery play than anything. It’s close to home, but you could end up hand carrying anything from sheetrock to appliances to the end user.

Honestly, I would only get into this if I wanted to own several pieces of equipment and hire a few employees. I’d also want the ability to use my trucks outside of their customer base when things were slow.

7. Dually, Gooseneck And Trucker’s Edge® Pro

Full disclosure here. The Trucking Podcast has an affiliate relationship with Trucker’s Edge. That means we get a small commission from DAT for each sale.

I’m going to be brutally honest here. Load boards are a great way to stay loaded, and to get up and going, but you have to begin searching for your own customers. You can search Trucker’s Edge and other load boards for hotshot and LTL freight. You can also use these customers to find your own accounts. Follow the links below to learn how to find and negotiate better paying loads.

Follow the link to try any of the Trucker’s Edge plans free for 30 days.

Give the customers great service. Find out who’s in charge of their transportation and ask if they ever book direct. If they like you, they may be willing to use you instead of posting everything with a broker.

Side note: If you’re using brokers, you should take the time to read these posts.

There you are, 7 hotshot trucking niches. I know there are others, but your success depends on picking one and mastering the niche. Leave a comment and let us know how you’re doing.