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How to Run a Successful Hot Shot Business

Do you own a hotshot business and you need ideas to grow it successfully? If YES, here are 10 strategies and tips for running a hotshot business.

Maybe you have always wanted to be a truck driver. Maybe you are or have been an OTR driver for a trucking company and are tired of not being home more. Maybe you have always wanted to have your own business, control your own schedule, and be home most nights.

You could leverage that desire and/or experience and start operating your own hotshot trucking business. While truck drivers will always have to go where the loads are, starting and running a hotshot business gives you more control of what you carry, where you go and in short, gives you more control of your schedule—and income.

Hotshot trucking, according to reports, has evolved in the early boom days of oil rigs and wildcatting. A broken part on an oil drilling or pumping rig meant expensive down time, and it was impossible for riggers to sustain a complete supply of spare parts.

So a group of entrepreneurial small truck owners would standby at machine shops and oil field suppliers, and when a call came in for a part, these early hotshots would pick up the piece and rush it to the oilfields.

Note that this process worked for everybody, drillers knew they could get parts in a timely manner, suppliers could maintain enough inventories to supply a large area of the oil fields, and a group of entrepreneurial truck owners was cashing in on the demand for delivery services.

Today, the concept has expanded nationwide to include pickup and delivery of smaller, Less-Than-a-Truckload (LTL) of items.

Hotshots, notably, provide “expedited” shipping compared to Class 8 OTR trucks that travel from terminal to terminal where products are off-loaded and held for pickup or transferred to a local delivery service.

Hotshots are business LTL time machines and almost anybody with access to a capable pickup truck, say a Ford F250 (or larger) or equivalent, can start it. As long as people have a demand for products, moving freight will be necessary for years to come.

Couple that with the ongoing driver shortage and increased rates, this could be a great time to start your own trucking business.

Tips and Strategies To Run a Successful Hot Shot Business

  1. Find jobs yourself

If you’re an owner-operator, then consider using mobile apps to find jobs quickly and maximize your profits rather than going through a broker, who’ll more or less take a cut.

  1. Fuel strategically

Note that this requires good planning. For instance, if you have 200-gallon tanks, a price at $3.35 a gallon in Seattle will cost you $670. By ensuring you fill up in Montana where it is only $2.45, you would spend only $490. That’s a $180.00 difference.

If you typically fill up once a day when running, which if you run 6 days a week turns into an average of $1,080 X 4 weeks = $4,320.

Notably, if you have bigger tanks it’s even better since you get to fill up more for cheaper, but anytime you can save that extra .90 per gallon it adds up to a good chunk of change when you’re getting 6 miles to the gallon. Filling 100 gallons will mean an extra $90 in fuel costs if you did it in Washington.

  1. Increase your fuel efficiency

This is more or less the single biggest thing that you as an owner-operator can do to maximize the profitability of your truck. Note there are various variables that contribute to a truck driver’s fuel economy. Below is a list of some of these variables to keep in mind. Some things the driver can help improve while others are outside the driver’s control:

  • If you want to maximize your profit, try finding loads that are lighter.
  • Hills and routes with more stop-and-go traffic will decrease fuel economy.
  • Equip your truck with the proper rear end gear ratios for the freight you typically haul.
  • Your motor operates a little more efficiently in colder temperatures.
  • Too much idle time can rob an owner-operator of precious fuel.
  • Using winter fuel with anti-gel additives typically decreases fuel economy.
  • Strive to reduce rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag to lower your fuel costs.
  1. Manage your time efficiently

In this line of business, the less waiting around, the better! To maximize profit, it is imperative you use your time very efficiently and productively. One practical strategy is to plan to arrive at your receiver the night before you deliver. Be ready for another load first thing in the morning.

  1. Only pay tolls for convenience

Going east coast the load should pay extra for tolls, and it does, but does that entail that you shouldn’t keep that money by avoiding them as much as possible? That’s another way to save.

  1. Optimize your routes

Always plan your delivery routes to reduce drive time and fuel usage. If you’re driving through a major city at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, then you will be sitting in rush-hour traffic. So unless you precisely have to drive through rush hour, reroute or pull over and wait until 6:30 or 7:30 at your favorite truck stop — and turn the truck off!

  1. Reduce idle time

Have it in mind that any drop of fuel that is not used to haul a payload is wasted money. So always consider buying a gas-powered personal generator for your truck to run accessories like a TV, a fridge, microwave, small space heater, and small portable A/C unit instead of leaving the truck idling for power when stopped.

If you are a fleet owner/manager, you can use a GPS tracking solution to help you monitor your guy’s idle time and driving behavior.

  1. Always take care of your health

Indeed there is equilibrium to trucking where profits and comfort are often at odds. Idling your truck wastes a lot of fuel, but if it’s hot and humid outside and you can’t sleep, it’s often better to go ahead and run the truck so that you can operate at your peak efficiency the next day. You are just as important as your equipment. But it’s still best to buy a generator!

  1. Do simple repairs and cleaning yourself

To save a lot, do many simple things yourself — like replacing bulbs, greasing, etc. If your batteries go dead and your truck is disabled, there are places that will charge $800-$900 for the convenience of having them change them for you.

But if you want to save money, simply take a taxi to AutoZone and buy them for $300 or so, clean up the wires, and put them back in. However, if you really need a mechanic while on the road, spend time calling around, and use Google Maps to find shops around instead of looking for truck stops.

Truck stops will easily charge you $270-$300 for used tires, without labor, taxes, supplies, etc. Also, you can just pay, say, $250 for two good used tires with labor included by calling a little guy to help you out.

Also, note that you can save money by doing your own cleaning. Always keep a good broom, not the cheap kind that breaks. After every single delivery, go in the trailer and sweep it out. This will prevent the build-up of dust, dirt, etc. That will save you $30-$40 in washouts. Plus a little bit of physical activity is good for your health.

  1. Don’t take cheap freights

Always strive to pick the best loads. There’s a strategy called “1 Truck, 3 Trailers — Drop and Hook.” Note that this takes a little work, but it pays off in spades. First, get on the phone or hit the streets and get dedicated runs directly from shippers.

Then, have at least three trailers available per truck when you hit the streets. Third, also make sure you have a few backup drivers or trucks in case one or more guys don’t show up for work. Remember, by having dedicated runs, you as the fleet owner or manager can actually plan for the future instead of relying on one-way loads from brokers.


Starting any business is not a walk in the park — a trucking business is no different. Always have it in mind that anything worth doing needs a good plan, but you also need to work that plan.

But if you are consistent and persevering, you can grow a profitable trucking business. So use all tips mentioned above and you will see how much faster you can get your business off the launching pad.