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Considering Starting Your Own Hot Shot Trucking Business?

We get lots of calls from guys considering starting their own business so a blog post on the subject of hot shot trucking seemed like a perfect idea.

Over ten years ago this was me, I was purchasing a Ford F350 out of Texas and thought it would be cool to make money with it. Having family in the trucking industry I picked their brains and after hiring someone to facilitate obtaining my Canadian and US authorities and leasing my first flat deck I was in business.

I had no idea at the time but you cannot dip your toes in the industry to make a few bucks with your truck. The system is such that you will be required to establish all the same authorities and operating structure as the big trucking companies. With that said your overhead will not be covered by running a few loads per month.

So what’s involved in hot shotting?
  • If you operate in Canada you will be required to obtain an NSC # or National Safety Code. If you will operate in the US or cross border you will need a USDOT# and MC# plus a SCAC code.
  • You will need insurance in the way of a cargo and liability coverage plus Worksafe coverage.
  • Your truck and trailer will also need to receive a CVI or Commercial Vehicle Inspection annually.
  • Your insurance will need to cover commercial transport. In British Columbia that means your rate class must cover you for the distance you plan to operate and the provinces or countries you plan to travel through. Your GVWR will also need to be registered on your policy.
  • Your drivers license will need to be upgraded to a commercial license. Likely a Class 1 or at least a heavy trailer endorsement.
  • Even if you have experience pulling trailers and are a good highway driver you will need to learn hot shot load securement. If the freight don’t make it you won’t make it.
  • A marketing plan specific to the transport industry and hot shot loads; website, SEO, Google Adwords and load boards as well as connecting with shippers and load brokers
  • Of course you will have to establish the normal things any business must do such as registering your business name, getting registered for things like GST as well as an accounting system for billing and bookkeeping.
What’s the downsides?

Well you haven’t likely had spending like this until you start operating equipment long distance and in harsh environments. OTH trucks are made to run 7 days a week for a million miles but still require lots of maintenance. Your pick-up truck will require a lot more.

It may be rated to tow 30,000 lbs but if you use it as a hotshot hauler towing max weight across the Rocky Mountains week after week your truck is going to require substantial upgrades and repairs. They were designed for people towing their fifth wheels around and engineered to produce specs that compete with the other two light duty truck manufacturers and then throttled with emission controls that keep the environment safe but blow up engines prematurely.

It’s pretty routine to spend $4000-5000 in maintenance in a month. Your new truck will run through it’s warranty and have some blemishes in no time at all. Trailer tires might need replacing every 6-12 months and if you are smart and run dedicated snow tires with soft rubber they might last 2-3 months on your truck and a dually needs 6 tires.

Fuel is a huge factor and you should have a float in the amount of probably $3-5000 each month. Your customers often will have a 30 day pay period so it could be 45 days before you get your money to pay that fuel bill.

You will miss loads while you are driving and you will get tired so next you will consider hiring hot shot drivers and maybe getting a second truck. Drivers will never treat your equipment like you do and how they drive will affect your safety rating. A bad driver can cost you a $7000 transmission or losing your safety rating can cost your ability to operate.

You also won’t be able to run those big mud terrain tires and 6” lift as they won’t pass inspection and if you plan on “rolling coal” you will get shut down when you go through the scale.

What’s the upside?

The upside is what you already are aware of and why you are thinking of getting into business.
  • Being your own boss (also a downside)
  • Paid travel seeing places you wouldn’t normally have the time or money to visit.
  • Driving a nice comfortable truck and getting to outfit it with all the stuff your wife wouldn’t normally let you buy.
  • Meeting challenges and succeeding in a time sensitive endeavour.
A good fit for a hotshot hauler
  • Able to operate under pressure and stress
  • Being a problem solver. This is absolutely the biggest part of the job
  • Driving stamina
  • Good negotiator
  • Friendly personable and good at sales
  • Adaptable
  • Good communicator
  • Attention to detail. Second biggest asset
  • Available on your phone immediately and always
  • You have good credit
  • You back into parking spots, always
Not a good fit
  • You need direction and being told what to do and where to go
  • You like to have your day and week planned ahead of time
  • You have family commitments that are set and require your regular planned presence
  • You are not a good planner, organizer or manager
  • You put off routine maintenance of your equipment and feel visiting the mechanic is a sign of weakness.
  • You have poor credit or no access to funding help
  • Your cell phone is always misplaced and batteries are dead all the time
  • Your pride, attitude and mannerism are such that business transactions are adversarial
  • You pull nose first into parking spots
What do we recommend?
  • You might want to try driving for someone a few times to get a feel for the business and demands of commercial driving.
  • If you want to use your truck see if someone needs an owner operator
If this all sounds like it’s right up you alley skip these steps and get cracking on your own hot shotting company. There’s always loads for professional friendly and honest hot shot carriers who do what they say and say what they do.