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How to Get Started in Hotshot Trucking
When companies need freight hauled and delivered in a jiffy, they often turn to hotshot truckers. These drivers quickly deliver time-sensitive loads using medium-duty Class 3, 4 and 5 dually pickups and cab-and-chassis vehicles. Hotshot truckers tend to make regional or local deliveries, and the shorter runs -- combined with low operating costs -- attract many truckers to this niche job market. However, Overdrive Magazine reports that drivers often mistakenly believe that entering the hotshot market is a breeze. In truth, says the magazine, drivers may face many of the same hurdles experienced in the heavy-duty truck job market.
To begin working in hotshot trucking, you will likely need to purchase or lease your own equipment. Over-the-road semis do not work for the kinds of freight hauled by hotshotters. Often, hotshot drivers use dually pickups. This variety of truck features two wheels on each side of the rear axle. The extra wheels can give the truck better traction, less sway on the road and increased hauling power. New dually trucks can cost as much as $55,000 new, according to Overdrive Magazine, and the heavy use can limit the life of the vehicles.
Licensing and Registration
To drive a medium-duty truck with a load, you need to have a Class A Commercial Driver's License or CDL. Each state sets its own procedures and regulations for CDL licensing. All states require you to pass a physical exam and drug-screening test administered by a DOT-approved lab. You can contact your primary health care provider to inquire about taking a DOT physical exam. You also must pass a written exam, which measures your knowledge of relevant subjects, and a road driving test, which includes a pre-trip inspection, a test on basic vehicle controls and a test of your on-road driving skills. Before you can take the CDL test, you will need to obtain a Commercial Learner's Permit, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This permit will allow you to sharpen your driving skills. With a learner's permit, you can drive a truck when someone with a CDL is seated next to you.
Hotshot truckers operate as their own businesses. Essentially, they are owner-operators. Therefore, they must purchase their own insurance. According to Progressive Commercial Insurance, truckers need liability coverage, which pays when truckers injure other drivers or damage their property. Truckers also need physical damage coverage to pay for damages to their own trucks. According to the Hotshot Carrier web site, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance. Cargo insurance, which covers any damage to the loads you haul, is no longer required, but some companies will not hire you to haul a load unless you have at least $100,000 in cargo insurance.
All companies that operate commercial vehicles transporting cargo need to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and you must obtain a USDOT number. This unique number identifies your company. The number is used to obtain and store the company's safety information and for necessary audits, reviews, investigations and inspections. According to the FMCSA's web site, you must pay a $300 fee when registering.
To track down hotshot jobs, you need exposure. You can gain this by advertising your business. Build a web site and send marketing materials to companies in your general area. You also can advertise your business well by word-of-mouth. Let other truck drivers know about your hotshot services. When others hear of a job opportunity they cannot handle, they may refer the business to you. According to Overdrive Magazine, the web site hotshothauling.com also features an interactive forum where drivers can communicate and share job information.
- Overdrive: Small Truck, Big Service
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: DOT Medical Exam
- Progressive Commercial: Owner Operator Insurance
- Hotshot Carrier: Get Your Own Carrier Authority
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: How Do I Get a Commercial Driver's License?
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: What Is the Cost for Obtaining Operating Authority?
Based in Central Florida, Ron White has worked as professional journalist since 2001. He specializes in sports and business. White started his career as a sportswriter and later worked as associate editor for Maintenance Sales News and as the assistant editor for "The Observer," a daily newspaper based in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. White has written more than 2,000 news and sports stories for newspapers and websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.
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