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Careers In Hot Shot Trucking

by Jake Tully - Published: 7/07/2017
3.9 9 votes

When a customer mentions that they need a delivery fast, they may sometimes be exaggerating. For store retailers, restaurateurs or other small business owners, the need for expediency is often something that they would like rather than something that is necessary.

Very few freight customers actually need cargo quickly as much as they would enjoy having a delivery come sooner than later. Such is the way of the trucking industry and those who operate within it.

A typical trucking job may see a driver take a multiple loads at a time, or, at the very least, call for a run that may force a driver to weave their way through a large state like California and take their time safely making their way down the coast.

There are, however, a small niche of customers in trucking that find themselves in a situation wherein there is a true need for freight delivery that is necessary ASAP. For these instances, some individuals rely on “hot-shot truckers” – drivers who deliver freight for a single client who is in dire need of a delivery.

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Defining Hot Shot Truckers

Many agree that hot shot trucking was initially developed decades ago in Texas, where oilfield work often dictated a sometimes immediate need for a part or piece of machinery. Due to the fact that there were few outlets in which a project manager could request equipment as soon as possible, they were sometimes up the creek and had to wait until the company delivered the desired freight or had to send a team to retrieve a specific item.

The need for this sensitive cargo created a niche in trucking for commercial drivers who could dedicate their time and the totality of their truck driving job to a customer who needed immediate service. For the oil field manager, the construction site boss or conceivably any other individual that required a part, they also required a driver to deliver it – that’s where hot shot truckers enter the picture.

The term “hot shot” may derive from the concept that these drivers are coming in “hot,” an on-demand driver who is ready to go at a moment’s notice, and “shot,” a driver who devotes a specific and expedient route to a client.

To boil it down to its essence, these drivers are ready to serve one client as soon as possible in whatever capacity their needs may require.


How Common Are These Drivers?

Though hot shot truckers are among the least common trucker jobs in the country, their numbers do not diminish their presence on the road.

While there are no hard and fast figures for hot shot truckers as a class of drivers, there are over 350,000 registered owner-operators in the United States, a class in which hot shot truckers belong.

Truckers across the country report that they do not operate as hot shot truckers one hundred percent of the time, as they often find themselves fulfilling other owner-operator duties in order to stay gainfully employed. In other words, many truckers who make define themselves as hot shot drivers are not always on call, they may work with a company certain days of the week or months of the year, leaving other availability to complete more stable runs.

There are, however, a small class of truckers who are truly on demand at any given moment. These individuals may be retired drivers who have some financial stability to fall back upon. They may also be drivers who have established a solid client base in their delivery area, perhaps to contractors they know in Missouri, or something of the like.


How Do You Become a Hot Shot Driver?

As stated earlier, the top requirement in becoming a hot shot trucker is to first be an owner-operator.

This may seem simple enough, but not every owner-operator automatically transitions into becoming a hot shot trucker. One of the main factors in succeeding in this special class of drivers is having the network to sustain yourself with frequent loads. Though one may be able to find work for a local contractor, unless it is consistent it will not prove to be a worthwhile career path for a trucker.

To become this type of driver, one needs to be somewhat infamous in their area or have a team of people giving out recommendations per their skills. It may even help to advertise in some fashion in order to promote a driver’s special service, or to reach out to other industries that may require one’s assistance for jobs. 

Hot shot trucking will not do the work and personal marketing for you – it takes a great deal of effort and cultivation in order to see success.

Drivers who pursue this line of work are rarely without endorsements of some kind. Many times a load that needs immediate transport may be hazardous or require specific qualifications from a driver.


Benefits of Hot Shot Trucking

One of the primary benefits of hot shot trucking is that drivers have the ability to be their own boss. Since there are no fleets that deal exclusively with hot shot freight, these owner-operators have the ability to take on loads at their leisure.

Drivers in this class can also charge their own preferred amount per load or per mile depending on what they are hauling. Since there are so few hot shot drivers in the U.S. a driver can often charge a rate that works well for them.

These drivers frequently find themselves in a peculiar niche where they are often the only operators who can handle oversized, time-sensitive or fragile freight within a short time frame, making them a go-to for customers who need their quick services.

How Much Money Do Hot Shot Truckers Make?

Pay for hot shot truckers depends on a wide variety of factors. Chief among these factors is the location wherein a driver will be delivering the majority of the loads. Some drivers find a great deal of prosperity mining a small operating area. Others, such as those who run throughout a large and highly differentiated area such as Florida may find that they have a more difficult time establishing a customer base.

For those who can make a go at it, drivers often see pay that falls somewhere between $0.90 cents per mile to an astounding $4.00 per mile. To that end, drivers generally charge by mileage rather than a fleet fee or per hour. This is due to the fact that there are almost always unforeseen circumstances that may cause a driver to take a longer route than anticipated. Drivers, like any other professionals, want to be compensated fairly for their time, and will keep a record of the miles it takes to securely transport a load.


Personal Cost of Hot Shot Trucking

Even hot shot truckers who find that business is booming will still have to contend with some costs that come with being your own boss.

As owner-operators know, it’s important to look at one’s cost of trucking even when the loads seem to be coming in. This type of trucking sees drivers who are constantly examining their finances, ensuring that the runs they take on are, in fact, lucrative and beneficial to the driver.

Like anyone in the trucking industry who is self-employed, one must think about the cost of maintenance and upkeep for their rig. Those who frequently take on hot shot loads may find themselves contending with frequent maintenance and upkeep that comes with a truck that sees a great deal of miles. Like Uber drivers who operate in the non-commercial driving world, too many jobs may eventually become burdensome on one’s equipment.

Another factor these truckers must consider is the work-life balance that one must contend with Popular hot shot truckers might always have a load to take, but in doing so they may not have time to properly manage their personal lives in accordance with their work schedule.

A driver who takes on these last-minute loads may find that they are struggling to find time to connect with their families, relax in their downtime, or simply enjoy the splendor of having a well-deserved break from work. These drivers frequently see incredibly hectic schedules and may find that their personal lives are negatively impacted by their time on the road.


Is Hot Shot Trucking A Good Career?

Whether or not hot shot trucking will prove to be an effective career choice truly depends on the individual. Highly skilled drivers with a great deal of free time and a love of the road are generally those who find the greatest success in this field.

Hot shot trucking can see an individual make a great deal of money, while it may also be a costly endeavor to those who are not on top of their personal finances.

No matter the circumstances, this type of driving is perhaps the most unique career avenue one can take within the world of trucking. Hot shot trucking truly shows the important role that commercial drivers play in the country, and how the expediency of drivers can make a world of difference for those who are in need of a delivery.

Drivers looking to make a change and perhaps even save the day in certain occasions should research the viability of working for themselves and providing fast service to those in need.


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