Loading, Unloading, Driving, and, Oh Yeah, Paperwork!

I’ve been busy lately and that’s a very, very good thing.  Now that I have a day off to kick back a little I thought it would be a good time to go over typical hot shot operations.

Now, obviously this isn’t rocket science, still, there is a lot to hot shotting and it’s not all about driving.  But there are some things I’ve learned along the way that really have increased my productivity.

I always try to get as much info as possible on an upcoming load.  This includes weight, what type of freight it is, exactly where it’s going.  The more I know about it, the quicker I can get it moved once it’s on the trailer.

I spend a lot of time looking at close up satellite shots of shippers and receivers yards, making sure I know ahead of time how best to get in and out again.  Case in point… this week I had a shipper with a little yard, and the road access had two concrete culverts with curbs set close to the road.  Getting in was no big deal, but getting out was tricky.  It took a little jockying that trailer around and using both driveways, but 40′ of trailer can’t turn 90 degrees with concrete curbs and deep ditches in the line of trajectory.

I do a lot of thinking about tie downs too.  Chains or straps, corner protectors to keep the metal from chewing through straps, super heavy rubber padding to keep chains from tearing up the paint on the freight.  And making sure once that freight is tied down it won’t walk around.  My latest thing is to take some blocking, a hammer and nails along to make sure things don’t move at all.

Unloading is my favorite part of the process aside from cashing paychecks.  I’ve gotten a lot better at getting straps and chains off fast.  I also learned early on to always roll up and check my strapping as part of my unloading process.  I’ve caught a couple of bad straps that way and let me tell you, it sucks when those straps break while you’re on a mountain road in a construction zone, and you have to stop at the first wide spot to re-strap the thing.

The driving is probably the easiest part of the job, although a lot of the time it’s the most tiring mentally.  I’m always watching the trailer and the load, and try to stay real alert.  When it gets to the point where my attention starts to wander, I know it’s time to find a place to stop and get some rest.  Some days I do a lot more miles than others, but if I can’t stay focused I’m not risking my load or my life by driving tired!

Between the other stuff I have to think about, I also have to plan fuel and motel stops.  You just can’t stuff a 40′ trailer into most gas station lots, so I have to know where my best truck stop fueling stations are, and when I’ll need to re-fuel.  I’ve had a couple of close calls by passing by a good spot and then not seeing another one until the situation was getting critical.  Running on fumes is not a good feeling when you’re 1000 miles from anyone who might care enough to come rescue you.  So I try to avoid that scenario at all cost.

And finally, there’s the required paperwork.  Each load has driver daily logs that have to be meticulously kept, load paperwork that has to be signed at both ends of the trip, bills of lading that have to list the load specifics, and which also have to be signed by the consignee and the receiver, fuel receipts, toll receipts, and motel receipts.

I keep an envelope for each job listing the details, when it is done, where I pick up and where I deliver, all of the IFTA mileage/state info, plus I log all fuel, motels, DEF fluid, repairs, and any other costs associated with the trip right on the envelope.  At the end of the trip I note my cost to do the job and subtract that from the trip pay so I have a ready total on the profit for each job.  All receipts go into the envelope with my copies of all of the trip paperwork, and I file them when I get home.  My theory is that this will help me come tax time by keeping things organized and none of my paperwork will go missing.

The main thing I’ve learned over the past 7 months trying to get a handle on this business is that you don’t necessarily have to run 7 days a week to make a profit.  It takes a good contact for decent paying loads, and good time and money management.  Luckily, I now have a good broker (I know, I used to be anti-broker, but that was after dealing with a not so good broker) and I’m working on average 1-2 trips per week.  And making darned good money doing it.

Now, I have to admit that I’m not actually trying to build an empire here, just trying to make a decent living, and having a lot of home time to enjoy that living.  So it’s working out very well now, after several months of struggling and running way too much for way too little.

At any rate, these days I really can’t complain as it’s all falling into place.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will stay that way!



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