New Carriers

Your Guide To Starting your HotShot Trucking Business

Published on
May 22, 2022
min read

If you’re looking to start a trucking business but don’t want to spend six-figures getting started, you’re in luck. A hot shot trucking business involves hauling smaller, time-sensitive loads to destinations in your area or across state lines. 

When starting a hotshot business, you’ll have to know the ins and outs of what hot shot trucking really is, how it affects your business model, and what requirements you’ll have to meet before you can legally operate as a commercial trucking business. In this guide, we’ll offer a complete rundown of hot shot trucking for beginners. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect: 

What Is Hot Shot Trucking?

Hot shot truckers pick up time-sensitive jobs, usually through load boards, and use their vehicles to haul equipment or cargo that needs to reach its destination in a short period of time. Hot shot truck drivers are owner-operators who set their own rates and pick what jobs they take. You have total control over who you choose to haul for, but the time sensitive nature of the business can be a challenge at times. 

You’ll have to be comfortable with tight deadlines, working under pressure, and be available to take a good job at a moment’s notice. Hot shot trucking businesses operate with vehicles smaller than 18-wheelers. Most of them are heavy-duty pickups by Ford and Dodge that you’re already used to seeing on the road. 

There are three main types of hot shot trucks you’ll encounter: 

  • Class 3 trucks: Vehicles weighing between 14,001 to 16,000 pounds.
  • Class 4 trucks: Vehicles weighing between 16,001 to 19,500 pounds.
  • Class 5 trucks: Vehicles weighing between 19,501 to 26,000 pounds. 

Before you can determine what type of insurance and truck you’ll need, you need to consider how you’ll haul cargo or equipment as well. Let’s take a look at the different types of hot shot trucking. 

Types of Hot Shot Trucking Trailers

Bumper pull

These types of hauls weigh under 10,001 pounds, so you can haul them with your pickup without needing a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This is the only type of hot shotting you can perform without going through trucking school according to FMCSA guidelines.

Gooseneck trailer

These 40-feet long trailers are ideal for heavy hauls, and despite they’re length, they’re sturdy, easy to move, and less likely to tip over during transit.

Deckover trailer

Spacious and good for equipment, vehicles, and other types of large cargo, deckover flatbeds are decks mounted over trailer wheels. This offers more square footage for larger hauls without making them more difficult to load and unload.

Lowboy trailer

If you intend to haul construction equipment or farming machinery, then you’ll likely need a lowboy. These are specialized trailers for oversized or heavy hot shot trucking jobs. Also called low-bed trailers, they’re flat and close to the ground to make loading, securing, and transporting heavy gear easier.

Dovetail trailer

For hot shot truckers who want to move other vehicles, then you’ll need a dovetail trailer. Dovetails can be difficult to get used to if you’re new to hauling as they extend quite far from the truck and are prone to dragging.

What Do You Need to Start a Hot Shot Trucking Business?

Before you can start operating, even without a CDL, you’ll need to register your vehicle for commercial use. You’ll also have to register a business with your state.

A limited liability company (LLC) is the most common type of business for hot shot truckers. You’ll also need to acquire the proper insurance. This will vary depending on the class of truck you drive, the cargo you haul, and your CDL. Anyone who wants to haul more than a bumper pull trailer has to complete CDL training and get authority from the FMCSA. 

Your own authority provides you with a USDOT number and MC number, which allow you to legally transport cargo across state lines. You’ll also have to get set up with an ELD and understand how HOS logbooks work. Maintaining compliance as both a driver and business owner will always be top priority. 

One of the biggest reasons earning a CDL is so useful is that it teaches you how to handle cargo properly. As a novice, you likely won’t understand how to safely load, secure, and transport equipment off the bat. Moderate driving experience with hauls don’t prepare you for a full-time job as a hot shot trucking business. 

To increase your earning potential and boost your reputation with potential customers, you should aim to earn a CDL and get your USDOT authority.


You can start a hot shot trucking business with your own pickup if it meets requirements, but you might want to buy or lease a new one. You can also buy or lease trailers depending on the loads you’ll haul. 

But what kind of load should I haul?

It all depends on your region, skills, experience, and budget. Check some load boards and see what kind of hot shot trucking jobs are available in your area. It wouldn’t be beneficial to set up an entire operation for a niche that doesn’t have a demand near you. 

Long, one-way commutes aren’t ideal as they result in deadheading. That’s trucker talk for winding up driving with an empty trailer. Financing your hot shot trucking business can range in cost, and your credit score and equipment will impact how much capital you need. On average, it costs between $15,000 to $50,000 to start a hot shot trucking company.

In addition to paying for your CDL training, you’ll have to pay for your USDOT number, MC number, truck, trailer, equipment, insurance, and any software that you’ll use to make running your business easier.

Next Steps

Start doing industry research to learn more about commercial trucking, building a business model, and hot shot trucking jobs near you. This takes time, especially as you budget for licensing, business registration, your truck, trailer, and insurance. 

Once you get set up, Truckbase is an easy tool for new hot shot carriers to manage their loads, documents, and cargo photos. It can keep you organized and help avoid costly disputes if you have time-stamped photos of the cargo appropriately secured when picking up loads. Learn more by scheduling a demo today!

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