How To Find The Best Hot Shot Truck Loads – 9 Actionable Steps

find hotshot trucking loads
Pipeline load in Montana

Hotshot truck loads aren’t hard to find, but the best ones require a little more focus and skill to find and book. Furthermore, it takes the commitment of a pro to haul for that same customer, over and over. Although you’re most likely finding most of your loads through a load board now, this certainly isn’t your goal for the long run. Your goal should be to find your own customers and bill them directly.

The following steps will help you find the loads that pay the best in the lanes you want to run.

1. Identify your unique selling proposition.

2. Know Your Numbers.

3. Focus on hotshot freight, but don’t overlook LTL.

4. Find the freight that requires more skill.

5. Find the loads that ship to end-users. Can a semi even get there?

6. Ask every shipper if they book direct.

7. Search the surrounding area for customers. Pass out business cards.

8. Always do more than the average hotshotter.

9. Post Your Truck.

Hotshotting And Your USP

USP is your unique selling proposition. What makes you stand out? What makes you more unique and better equipped to handle their freight? This is usually a mix of equipment and training.

For example, you may have experience in oversized loads and higher cargo insurance coverage. You also have all the signage, equipment and permitting expertize to get the job done. Also, you have the ability to deliver to job sites that could be off limits to a tractor-trailer combo.

Nearly every large industrial business or factory can handle a big truck. But when they’re adding on or renovating, all bets are off. In fact, the factory I service as a trucker has a good share of their equipment and materials used for expansion delivered via hotshot. You can get a semi to the docks, but there’s just not enough room for a big truck to maneuver when delivering that new piece of machinery to the building it’s going into.

Don’t overlook modern technology. If you’re that hotshotter that lets them track their freight, you may be the only one talking about it. Think about this: A shipper has one load and 4 bids. The bids are nearly the same, but he knows exactly where you and the product are at all times. This could seal the deal, and be the reason you get the first call on the next load.

Find that niche that’s underserved. Define yourself, your truck and trailer as the solution.

Know Your Numbers

I truly get tired of hearing this line. Not because I don’t believe it, but because most shippers don’t care. The brokers don’t care either. The only one who really needs to be on top of your numbers is you.

The hard part of numbers when it comes to trucking is that it’s so dynamic. You have a lot of fixed costs. Your truck and trailer payment remain the same. Your phone bill, monthly insurance and others also remain static, or the same from month to month.

What about fuel, out of route and deadhead miles? They do change from week to week, but you’ll need to start somewhere and establish a base. Then you can adjust for the dynamics and know exactly what it costs to run each mile.

Is your maintenance fund overfunded or underfunded? Are you setting enough aside for taxes? Knowing your own numbers allows you to know exactly where you break even, and how much profit each load will bring in.

Knowing these numbers will also come into play when figuring out the cost of detention, or waiting a day for a great load. That load might have paid more, but was it worth waiting for?

You’re Looking For Hotshot Freight, But Don’t Overlook LTL

LTL (less than load) freight intended for big trucks might find it’s place in your hotshotting business, but it’s certainly tougher to get top rates.

For example, a broker may post a load requiring 12 feet of a 48 foot deck. You can bet they want to pay less than 25% of the lane average for that 12 feet. If you’re running a 36′ trailer, that 12 feet just tied up 1/3 of your capacity.

On the other hand, you may find a couple pallets, a car or some other partial that fits in with your main haul. If the stop is a jobsite, all the better.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when you fill that empty space with LTL:

  1. Be sure the shipper and receiver know the load is shipping on a hotshot truck. You don’t want to arrive, only to be rejected because your trailer is too low for their dock.
  2. Calculate the out-of-route miles. I’ve talked to more than one hotshotter who said they barely broke even because of the low rate and the out-of-route miles.
  3. I’m a big believer in the old saying, bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered. Don’t put your money load at risk. If that LTL is putting your most profitable customer at risk, pass on it.

Find Loads Requiring Skill

Hotshot truck hauling helicopter
Another hotshot load in Montana.

I’m not suggesting you take on livestock, but it’s a great example of a load requiring skill. How you drive, when and how long you stop, and your ability to load and unload your freight can greatly affect the value of the delivered product. Shippers know this and are willing to pay more for the skillset.

Products and equipment that are tricky to tie down, require ramps or other equipment most hotshotters don’t carry make you more valuable. Any bonehead can haul alfalfa, but it takes a lot more skill to tie down, haul and deliver a helicopter.


Loads That Ship To End Users – Can a Semi Get There?

You may not be able to haul 48,000 pounds, but you can get into spots a semi truck and 48-foot trailer can’t. It might be weight or length restrictions, but more often it’s just maneuverability.

Even with a 40-foot deck, your trailer axles are farther forward than a 48-foot flatbed. The simple geometry of your setup make you more maneuverable. You also have the advantage of clearance. Even a flat-top sleeper truck sits quite a bit higher than your hotshot setup.

Ask Every Shipper If They Book Direct

This is seriously low hanging fruit. It’s especially effective if you really know you have something unique to offer. C.O.D., blind bills or any freight that require more skills than the average driver provide you the opportunity to own the customer.

Again, your equipment could play a hand it this, but it’s not necessary. If it’s a shipper you’d like to have as a direct customer, just ask. The worst they can say is no.

Search The Surrounding Area For Customers

Again, this is easy, low hanging fruit. If you’re in an industrial area, look around. Check out the few blocks around you with Google Earth. Find 4 or 5 businesses that look like they could be hotshot shippers, then drop off a card.

Business cards are dirt cheap. You can order them online, design them yourself and have them in your mailbox in a few days. If you live in a decent sized city, you can probably get them made the same day.

I recommend the following:

  • A picture of yourself, and your equipment
  • Phone number and email address
  • Your DOT number
  • Your USP, if you can keep it down to a few words. Printing your USP on the back of the card is also a great option.

Always Post Your Truck On Loadboards

Full disclosure here. Trucking After Hours has an affiliate relationship with Trucker’s Edge. When you subscribe, we receive a small commission.

If you don’t already have that next load booked, be sure to post your truck on Trucker’s Edge® or whatever load board you use. Seriously, let the brokers see who you are, and what you have to offer.

  • Don’t wait until you’re looking for the next load. Post your truck as soon as you are empty, or at least know when you will be. You can always update.
  • Post where you want to go. Leaving your target destination out is a guarantee your phone won’t ring.
  • Use the comments section to detail your equipment, availability time and USP.

We’re quite proud of our relationship with DAT and Trucker’s Edge. They’re the largest loadboard in the country, and the most experienced. You can use our link and try any of their plans for 30 days, for free. Give it a shot. We’re sure you’ll love what they have to offer.