Do I Need A Dually For Hotshot Trucking?

Dually hotshot pickupToday we take on the age old question, do I need a dually for hotshot trucking? Hotshot trucking is a passion I’ve pursued, followed and been active in for years.

I’ll remind you right up front, I’ve delivered hotshot loads with both single and dual rear wheeled pickups, from heavy 3/4 tons to dual rear wheeled 1 tons, made by all the big three.

I’ve run them all and pushed them harder than most. I’ve had transmission failures, wheel and hub failures, as well as minor breakdowns.

Do you know what it’s like to break the crankshaft of a 3500 Duramax? Or, how about stopping at an intersection and watching a drive wheel and tire continue without you? I do. Push the truck hard enough and you’ll find the weakest link.

Do I Even Need A Diesel?

That diesel engine is going to cost you around 9 grand, assuming you’re buying a new truck. Unless you’re hauling light loads and keeping your annual mileage under 30,ooo per year, you want the diesel. Just remember, that diesel is more money up front.

It’s also more expensive to maintain. Although diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline, your economy and performance will more than make up for the expenses. And you’ll be much happier when pulling hills with any kind of load.

Let’s check YES on the diesel option and move on. If you’re hotshotting, you’re probably going to drive 10,000 miles a month or more, and you need to handle those heavy loads from time to time.

Adding an auxiliary fuel tank to a diesel powered pickup is also easier than the gas counterparts. Between the extra fuel and the better mileage of the diesel engine, your range between fill-ups can easily be 1,000 miles or more.

Do I Need A Dually?

The best answer is really simple, that depends on what you’re going to do. If you’ve found a great gig on really light loads, you could get away with something like a Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel.

With a tow rating just over 8,000 pounds, you could get lightweight freight moved, but you’d really be limiting your options. The trucks we traditionally call half-tons are certainly set up for better fuel economy.

Why My First Hotshot Truck Was A 2500

My first hotshot experience was hauling RVs. I went into it with a mentor, a good friend who was making money in the industry. As best I could, I cloned his truck, a 2001 Dodge Ram 2500HD.

The truck had the 5.9 Cummins, a 5 speed and 3.62 gears. Other than the color and a few details, our trucks were identical.

The thought process behind staying away from the dual rear wheels was simple. Fuel economy would be better, tire costs would be lower and it would be easier to handle in the snow and ice.

The 3.62 rear end gearing was the best choice for an operation that would be 50% bobtail.  Back hauls are rare in RV hauling. Also, most of the RVs I delivered were well under 7,000 pounds. That truck returned amazing mileage.

In hindsight, I wish I’d chosen the dually. The mileage gains were minimal, loaded or empty. As long as those tires are properly inflated, there just wasn’t much difference between single and dual rear wheels, towing or empty.

The stability while hauling would easily be worth the trade. The weight of the 5th wheel hitch and extra fuel tank added enough weight to offset the extra tires when bobtailing in snow and ice.

The tire cost savings also turned out to be false. Although the dually has 2 more tires, they lasted 50% longer when properly rotated. Yes, rotating tires on a dually is a little more work, but the dually would go 120,000 miles on a set of 6. My 4-wheeled hauler would go 80,000.

One other change I’d make today would be choosing a tire based on fuel economy and the weather conditions I regularly encounter. Buying a tire just because it’s going to last the longest may not be the best choice.

About a dozen of us used the same tires, from the same Goodyear store. We talked and swapped real numbers regularly. It helped each of us save more and spend less.

Dually Trucks And Heavy Loads

Six years of my hotshot experience was spent hauling livestock. I was an employee of a small business, but the only full-time driver. I delivered bull calves here in the Midwest. It wasn’t unusual to scale out over 32,000 lbs, loaded.

Even the empty trailers were around 5,000 pounds. You don’t slow down to save fuel when you’re hauling livestock. The sooner the animals come off the truck, the healthier they arrive at their new home.

The company’s owners preferred Chevrolet 3500 duallies, but owned all 3 major brands. They also owned a couple of single rear wheeled Chevy Duramax and 6.0 Ford diesel trucks. With several employees staying closer to home and pulling lighter loads, I was able to see what held up.

Since the point of this article isn’t to review pickups, I’ll save that for another post, but my experience with using single and dual rear wheels for light and heavy loads is what brings me to my recommendation.

The Breaking Point

There were two phases to the livestock operation. The days started early, with buyers traveling a section of the state to buy and bring back bull calves. These trucks ran a few hundred miles a day with several stops, but rarely saw much over 26,000 pounds.

Other than the Ford 6.0 Power Stroke engines, they all held up quite well. We even had one Ford with the V10 gas engine that went over 350,000 before being traded in.

The second phase of the operation was where I came in. I’d head out every evening with a bigger trailer and up to 33,000 pounds gross. The bigger breakdowns happened with the heaviest loads.

We ran the speed limit, sometimes 75 mph. The goal was never to save fuel. It was to deliver as rapidly as possible. Crossing that 28,000 lb mark seems to be the point of diminishing returns as far as truck wear is concerned.

You can pull whatever you want, and those GCWR numbers are going up on new trucks every year, but make sure you’re getting a little more money for those loads that take the biggest toll on your truck. You’ll need it.

When Single Rear  Wheels Are Best

The most substantial difference between single and dual rear wheels isn’t what you can pull behind you, it’s payload. Payload is how much weight you can put in that bed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s two pallets of bricks or the tongue of that 40′ goose-neck trailer.

If you know exactly what you’re going to haul and what truck will do it best, single rear wheels may be just fine. The singles may even be a requirement for tight places. Just remember, you could be turning loads down because of your choice.

For most hotshot trucking operations, the dually is the truck of choice. As I mentioned, the tow ratings are going through the roof. Look at these advertised numbers.

Keep in mind, this is trailer and cargo, and a two wheel drive version, specially ordered. Cab and chassis models may add a few hundred pounds more. We haven’t even touched 450 or 550 options.

The Bottom Line

Start with a dually, new or used. If you buy used, try to find that old man’s part-time RV hauler. His first 50,000 miles were probably a lot easier on the truck than most hotshot trucks. Take the VIN to a dealer and have it decoded to find out options and specs.

If you can, try to keep loads under 15,000 pounds to get the most out of your rig.

You may also enjoy Episode 40, The Hotshot Trucking Episode.

Other Show Notes

Early VW Bug windshield washers powered by air pressure in spare tire.

Also from Jalopnik, Trucker Looses Balls

Trucking News covers the story of Iowa DOT issuing tickets to 4-wheelers, mostly for speeding in construction zones. Unfortunately for them, they have no authority to ticket non-commercial vehicles.

[bctt tweet=”Hey Midland, Texas! We’ll just dump your freight in Dallas, oil field loads and all. You can pick it up yourself. #truckparking” username=”truckingpodcast”]

Also from, the jackassery coming from Midland, Texas continues around the topic of truck parking. Hey Midland, Texas! We’ll just dump your freight in Dallas, oil field loads and all. You can pick it up yourself.

The spot market is down. What’s your plan to make sure you don’t get bit in the butt next time?