The Best Laid Plans of Mice and… hmmm, Hotshots…


One of the big things a hotshot has to do is to route properly.  Because our loads are “get it there yesterday” types of freight, we can’t afford to miss a delivery time even if we’re just 5 minutes late.  Late is late, and being late is a business killer.

This point was high on my mental list of things to think about this past week because I had a run to Houston to pick up a load that was ready at 1 pm, and had to get it back to Oklahoma between 7 and 8 pm the same day.

Now, this sounds easy if you believe the mapping sites that tell you it takes 6.5 hours for the one-way trip from my part of Oklahoma to Houston.  But that’s 13 hours round trip, and we’re allowed to drive 11 hours in one day.

So, to start with, to do this run legally, I had to leave the night before, get close to Houston, then swoop in and get my freight, and hi-tail it out of there asap.   I got down to Fairfield, Texas where I spent the night, and by 8 am I was heading in to Houston to pick up the load.  I was about 2 1/2 hours out of Houston and it looked like clear sailing.  For the first 2 hours, it was.  I had plenty of time to stop for breakfast (Starbucks) at Huntsville which killed about half and hour, then I headed on down I-45 just minding my own beeswax and trying to avoid all of the goofy drivers that were out that morning.

Now, in theory, I figured I had 5 hours from the time I left Fairfield to get to Houston by my 1pm pick up time.  Of course, I was counting on getting the truck loaded long before 1 pm, and getting the heck out of Dodge early, which would have put me back in Oklahoma before my delivery deadline.

In practice it was pretty squeaky close.  Murphy’s Law took over, and what could go wrong did.

What a day it turned into.  Yikes!  I had two big rigs slide over into my lane while I was passing them.  I don’t know if it was the wind, or just inattentive drivers, but whichever it was got my adrenaline flowing.  Thankfully they both pulled it back into their own lane before anything bad happened, and I got on past them as quick as I could.

And then it happened.  That thing all drivers with a deadline hate.  Good thing I was paying attention or the car in front of me could have turned into my hood ornament.  Without any warning traffic just stopped dead.

Now, this is where I kick myself for not having the CB turned up, as I would have had warning if I’d have been listening.  At any rate, I-45 turned into a parking lot and backed up for about 6 miles due to two big rigs smashing each other up at about the 92 mile marker.  And the highway was closed down for a long while.  It took me nearly an hour just to get to the first available exit, on which I did exit, and squirreled my way around to 75 and took the back way the rest of the way in to my pick up location.

Without the traffic I would have been there for my pick up at 11:30 am.  As it was, I pulled into their lot at 12:15.  I was still 45 minutes early for my 1pm pick up, but they got me loaded by 12:45, and I headed back out.  I had the sneaking suspicion I would need that extra 15 minutes to get my load delivered on time, as traffic around Dallas had been bad all the week before…

And I was a little leery of I-45 at that point, but headed back north on it anyway.  I didn’t want to eat up all of my travel time piddling around on back roads, and sure didn’t want to be late for my delivery.  All went pretty well for the first 100 miles, (aside from stoopid drivers, I was darned near rear-ended twice, had numerous little cars cut over in front of me too close for comfort, etc.) then bam!  Another wreck up ahead stopped everything north bound and I-45 was once again nothing but a big parking lot.

Now, I’m not the most patient person, and didn’t want to sit again in traffic burning diesel for nothing for the next hour.  I noticed that there was a little blacktop road running along the interstate, and there was a pull-out at the side of the interstate that left about 5 feet of grass to cross to get on the black top road.  So I took it.

Now, had I not had a good visual of where that black top road went on my GPS that might have been a bad move.  But I could see it continued north and dumped out on a highway.  And it proved out do do just that.  So I took that highway on in to Corsicana, stopped for a quick pit stop and cup of coffee to go, and ran 287 on up into Fort Worth….

Where I hit yet another parking lot where I-35 and 820 converge.  Gaaaak! Not that this was any surprise, I’d seen this every trip into Fort Worth for the past week.  But I didn’t have the time or patience left to deal with sitting in bumper to bumper stop & go traffic.

By now it was 4 pm, and I was 3 hours from my delivery.  Another hour stuck in traffic would have made me l.a.t.e., so again I hit the detour button on the GPS and found another way around the stoppage on the interstate.

Yes, my GPS has a detour function that comes in very handy when I hit unexpected stoppages.  It’s a little hard to trust it fully, (you should never fully trust your GPS) but on the occasions I’ve needed to detour it”s served me well.

It was frustratingly slow getting out of Fort Worth, as I was only one of about a million drivers trying to head north out of town, but I finally did get past the problem spot, made it back to 81, and made my delivery with a slender 5 minutes to spare.  Yep, delivered at 7:55 pm on the dot.  Which was cutting it way too close for my liking.  But at least I was still officially “on time.”  And I had just enough time left on my clock to get myself home for the night.

Which all illustrates that even with good planning and allowing plenty of time to get from point a to point b, you still need a backup plan in the event of unforeseen problems along your chosen route, and you have to be flexible.  Anything can happen, (and some days, everything that can happen does happen) and you have to find a way around it to stay on schedule, and to stay legal.

And sometimes it just works out.  Luckily for me, this was one of those times.

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11 thoughts on “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and… hmmm, Hotshots…

  1. Hello , my a name is David. I live in pasadena tx. I just bought a ford f 250 and I am jumping into hot shotting blind. I have read a lot of negative comments and some that are encouraging. I was wondering if you had any advise you could give me.

  2. Hi David,
    Not to be a wet blanket, but that F-250 is not beefy enough to be a long-term hotshot truck. It might last you a couple of months, that’s if you can get anyone to hire you with it. Many companies out there won’t sign with you if you drive anything less than a Dodge 3500. Even those have rear end issues within a year or two of being used for this line of work.

    I sure don’t recommend jumping in blind! You’ll have a lot better chance of success if you spend some time learning as much as possible about what hotshots do, who we run for, and what types of loads we haul. You’re in a pretty good location, which is a big plus, but if you don’t have a plan and plenty of money backing you to get started I won’t put much faith in your getting very far.

    My recommendation would be to talk to local guys in your area, get their recommendations for the proper equipment, what loads are available for you, get your CDL-A and learn to properly keep a log book, and then, and only then, sign on with a company that’s already established and getting loads so you can get some experience under your belt. (I mean find a company that needs a hotshot driver and try it out with their equipment.) At least as a paid driver of someone else’s hotshot rig you will actually take home a paycheck while learning instead of footing the bill to move someone else’s freight.

    Best of luck to you!

  3. Have you ever heard of United Visions Logistics. I took a drug screen and a physical for them today. Do you think someone can make it without pulling a trailer / just using the pickup.I am not trying break the bank but I was hoping to bring home a grand a week after gas . Is this thinking reasonable.

  4. Yes, I know of UVL. ACME is another big outfit you can check with, but I’m pretty sure they won’t take your truck.

    As to can you make that kind of money with a little pickup only? The short answer is I don’t know in your neck of the woods. The catch is that without a big enough truck and a trailer, you are so very limited as to what loads you could even begin to think of hauling. If you have a regular pickup bed on and not a flatbed, that limits you even more.

    In general, if you can get a company to accept your truck, and they give you enough miles at a good enough rate, then yes. But can you get the miles? There’s the question.

    I’d do some checking locally and see how things are, I know it’s been slow lately in TX and OK, but a big outfit like UVL should be able to give you some firm information on what they have. Theoretically they should have more work than us little independents, although for the past 2 months guys I know with them and ACME have also been slow for loads…. so they might be in the same boat the rest of us are, and their proven guys will get loads before new guys with little trucks get called in unless it’s something nobody else wants to take. (translates into very infrequent, low paying loads for newbies or so the guys down in TX have been saying lately…)

    Glad to hear you have your CDL, if at all possible you would do well to eventually upgrade to a class A. It gives you a lot more options including driving a big truck if the hotshot work slows down for too long.

  5. I figured i would have to take some low paying loads for a while but in time it should balance out I hope. Thanks for your time and I am sure I will bugging you again. When I talked to the guy on the phone I made it clear i had a pickup and was not in the position to haul a trailer. He sounded like he was not looking for that. They asked me to come in tomorrow and fill out some more paper work. My friend has been a dispatcher for a long time and has given some advice too. He said get with a company and stay away from an agent. I am worried about not knowing if someone is taking advantage of me.

  6. Well, anytime you want to ask anything feel free. If I don’t have an answer (yep, happens!) maybe I can point you in the right direction at least on who to ask.

    As to getting taken advantage of, that’s a very tricky question. There are so many out there who specialize in taking advantage… that said, my general rule of thumb on that is this: If you aren’t keeping 1/2 to 2/3 of the load pay after expenses, you are probably being screwed. That percentage depends on what type of cargo you haul, some pays a lot more than others.

  7. I have been signed on since friday and i have taken only 1 delivery and it was a baby load. They told me they would not hire me if they could not keep me busy. At this rate I’m gonna owe them money come pay day. Things are not looking good.

  8. From the grapevine I’m hearing that UVL has been losing owner/operators. Right now most companies seem to be getting fewer loads, and the word is that the companies are holding their breath until after the election to see what they’ll have to deal with as far as costs. It’s pretty slow everywhere from what I’m seeing, so I’m not surprised. That’s the part of hotshotting that gets stressful, you can go for weeks with no work, then it can get extremely busy without any warning.

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