Hot Shot Trucking – The Cost of Entry

We’ve had quite a few questions and comments since we did our hot shot episode. If you haven’t listened to it, you should go back and catch it. Follow this link to Episode 40. I thought it would be a good idea to follow up with a little more information about the subject. This post will focus on the get-in costs. I want to focus on four areas of the cost of entry.

Hot Shot Trucking, What You Need

  1. A Truck.
  2. A Trailer.
  3. The Business End. Authority, Insurance, Compliance, Etc.
  4. Paying Freight.

Certainly, there’s so much more to it than these four, but let’s start with these basics.

Buying a Truck

Whether you’re buying a semi or a one-ton dually, if you spend more than $15,000 on  your first truck, you’ve spent too much. Sure, a typical one-ton dually diesel hot shot truck will set you back 45 to 60 grand if you buy new, and a new semi is double that, but that’s not how to start out. Somewhere around that 15 grand mark should get you going.

Look at websites like There are plenty of Freightliners with Detroit 60’s in our starter price range. Yes, they have some wear and some miles, but those trucks are easy to maintain and can get great fuel mileage. They might not be your dream truck, but they will get you started.

Look at one-ton diesel trucks for around that same target price. You can cherry-pick a Ford 7.3 or a Dodge 5.9 in that same price range easily. You may pay a little more for a 4×4, but you can still find some deals. You’ve got lots of options. I don’t recommend the older Duramax engines, or the newer Fords. It may be a subject for another post, but start out with what’s proven.

The Trailer Question

The trailer is where it get’s tricky, and where traditional trucking may have an advantage. You can lease on to a carrier and pull their trailer. Sure, you will be paying a small amount to use theirs, but it’s an initial expense you don’t have to come up with.

The trailer is a different story when it comes to hot shot trucking. If you’re hauling campers, you don’t need a trailer. Camper haulers also have the advantage of great mileage on that bob-tail return trip. If you’re thinking of a flat bed trailer and loading two trailers at a time, I would highly advise against it. The weight might be okay, but the aerodynamics are awful. The wind resistance will cause way more drag than the truck was ever designed to take.

If you’re hot shotting anything other than pull-behind RVs, you really need to know what you’re planning to haul before you buy a trailer. You also need to have a good idea of the empty miles for your business plan. If empty means dragging several thousand pounds of trailer behind you, it’s an expense that can eat up all of your profits, fast.

The Business End of Things

The big difference here will depend on weather you are leasing your truck on with a company or going with your own authority. If you’re leasing on with a carrier, 18 wheels or hot shot, they usually have a lot of help with things like base plates, cargo insurance and your vehicle liability insurance. Leasing on is a great way to go unless you really know what you are doing, especially your first time out.

Hot shotting on your own? This is the area where a mentor can really save your bacon. If you know someone successful, and willing to show you the ins and outs of the business, you may be okay. You’ll find that the insurance companies aren’t sure just what to do with you. You may also have a little trouble finding the freight that pays well. Remember, those cheap and heavy loads really wear on your equipment.

Freight That Pays

I really struggled with this one. It belongs at the top as far as what you do first. You find the freight, then truck, trailer, etc. If you live in Texas or Oklahoma, and you plan to service the oil fields, you need a dually and a flatbed. You can see what others are using, then do the same. I hauled RVs, and served southern Canada. That dictated a 4wd, and the 50% deadhead rate dictated 3.62 gears.

If you’re buying a big truck, you need to know their lanes and their average weight. Who wants to get 5mpg when you could be getting 7.5 or more? If you’re going to pull flatbeds, you probably don’t want a condo cab. A flat-top or mid-roof would be better suited for the freight.

If you’re going into this for the first time, you can always start with that budget Freightliner and lease on to a carrier. From there, you can learn the business and talk to people in other segments. If you decide hot shot freight is for you, start out with your big truck. You can trade off for the smaller ride when you find your niche. Hot shots drive a whole lot more that one-ton dually pickups.







18 thoughts on “Hot Shot Trucking – The Cost of Entry”

  1. I have a 05 f350 and I’m thinking about getting in to the hotshot business and buying a 32 ft gooseneck. My question is 1. Do the year of the truck matter? How big of a trailer can I get before I have to get a Cdl?

    • First, you will need a CDL and a medical card. Just get them and be done.
      As for the year of the truck, it will only matter if you’re leasing on to a company that restricts the age of your truck. The newer trucks tend to have higher GVWR and GCWR numbers, but come with a higher price.
      Finally, the only thing to watch with the length of your trailer is that magic 65 foot mark. If your total length hits 65 feet, you can’t use a pickup. You have to use a “power unit.” The only difference is the bed of the truck. If it has a standard bed, it’s a pickup. Remove the bed and you have a power unit.
      We’ll talk a little more about this in episode 160.

  2. Hi I’m looking to get into hauling full time I’m gona get a 1 ton dulley and maby a flatbed gooseneck that will hold 3 cars or what ever else fits. And also maby start out hauling campers for dealers. I’m looking to get work lined up and need gualidance any thing will help thanks.

    • Narrow it down. Haul RV’s, Cars or flatbed work. Not all 3. One at a time, Don and I will talk about it in episode 159.

  3. Hello, I’m looking into becoming a hotshot. I just wanted to get your opinion on what you think would be a good cargo/load and type of trailer I should consider with the type of truck I have?
    It’s a 2000 Dodge 2500 V10 4×4 extended cab, long bed, with the automatic tranny. It does have trailer brake control and rear air bags for towing. Low miles at 102k.
    Whatcha think? Thanks!

    • That V10 will cost you. If you’re serious, you will want to swap that truck for a 5.9 CTD. You just can’t beat the fuel mileage.

  4. great Article!! I’m a newbie and doing a lot of searching before deciding if LTL/hotshot is for me. I talked to Landstar they offer 62% of total revenue + 8% for trailer. Also base plate and permits deducted over 18 weeks. Escrow $500 over 15 weeks. witch is not that bad.
    ELD $27 a month +another $5,44 on other charges. You keep 100% of FSC.
    Now one question is… How much freight for Flatbed HShot/ltl is in GA?
    Other than research I look around for this small trucks and I have seen several car haulers. Do I need to concern if I don’t see a lot of business for 12K flatbeds? just wondering if there is market out side the OIL fields. Thanks!!!

    • Don and I will be talking about this in episode 152. That 62% is steep. I’m not sure how much meat is going to be left on the bone after that.
      Let us know what you decide.

  5. I want to start hauling RV’s. Do you know any companies I can lease on with in the Dallas, FT Worth area?

    • I’ve only hauled out of Indiana, but I’m sure there are companies serving Texas. Also, an Indiana company with a large Texas market would be worth considering. Don and i will talk a little more about it in the next episode.
      Thanks for asking.

  6. I’m looking into Hot shot but transporting cars… 3 car hauling trl. Will the above info be the same for car hauling… If there more to know?

    • I know the least about car hauling, but I love the concept. One major difference between car hauling and RV hauling would be that 26,000 pound mark. I would definitely go with a 450 or 4500 truck and IFTA for 36,000 pounds. The ability to haul 5 cars certainly gives you more options.
      Thanks again for commenting.

  7. Question, since I have another job but off on weekends, can I do small hot shot jobs to see if I like it 1st?? Also, if I can–who do I contact? I live in BatonRouge, La–would love to drive back & forth to Houston (4hr drive)

    • You certainly can work weekends, as long as you don’t go over the HOS limits. The question of who has weekend freight is another story. We’ll bring it up on the next show. Thanks

  8. I’m looking to start hauling hotshot loads but have a question about the insurance that it takes. Do I need $1,000,000 of insurance for my truck or 1,000,000 business insurance?

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