I see a lot of new hotshots out there with the same type of setup I started with, i.e. a 1 or 2 ton Dodge and a 40′ flat goose neck trailer. Now that’s the modern conventional hotshotting setup, no doubt about it.
Just pay attention when you’re out and about, 9 out of 10 hotshots you see will run this equipment combo. And it’s no mystery why they do, it’s what they’re told they need to do to be successful in hotshotting.
I don’t agree with the conventional wisdom, however, and truly believe if you want to maximize your profits and minimize your operating costs, it pays to think outside the box.
Just the start-up costs involved using a 40′ trailer can be daunting. A good deal on a used trailer can be as much as $9000, and that will no doubt require either repairs or new rubber, or both. A new 40′ can go from $10 K on up, depending on the axles, the frame, etc., but most suitable to hotshotting average in the $12-13K range.
That’s a lot of cabbage…
For the first year I hotshotted I ran that standard combo of equipment. And I learned a few things I’d like to pass on to you.
The biggest lesson for me was that many of your shippers will consistently try to overload that 40′ trailer; some will try to put as much as 30K on a rig permitted (most hotshots anyway) for about 36K.
FYI, (most of you know this but some new to hotshotting may not realize it) that 36K on your permit includes the weight of your truck, trailer, and cargo, not the amount of weight you can put on the trailer….
So it’s essential before you ever take a load to get an accurate weight of your rig, fueled, and with all the gear you normally carry as a starting baseline. And you need to know what those goofy looking pieces of equipment they want you to haul weigh so you’ll know when you’re near or at your upper weight limit.
You also need to know how much weight your truck is designed to haul, and how much you can put on that trailer. Stickers on both truck and trailer will have those limits listed. If you go over these limits, permitted or not, you can be in hot water.
In hotshotting, it’s often a little harder to get from your pickup location to a scale than it is for big trucks that run standard trucking routes, but you need to make the extra effort. If your trailer is overloaded, you have several problems.
One is with the DOT when you cross their scale. Another is with the structural integrity of your trailer. And then there is the wear and tear on your truck, not to mention the safety factor of overburdened brakes.
My truck and 40′ trailer combo weighed in at just under 20K with me and fuel on board. Because I run a bigger truck, a 5500 two ton, I got permitted for a maximum of 45K pounds. That left me 25K for freight.
After hauling that much a couple of times, the light bulb went on in my head (as the money flew out of my pocketbook)… Hauling that heavy on a little truck combo runs up your operating expenses exponentially and your profits down.
After a couple of trips through Texas Hill Country dragging that big boat anchor and getting 5 mpg doing it, I decided that light loads were the way to go, and much less of a headache to deal with. Also, after a friendly visit with a DOT officer in Texas, I also decided that 40′ trailer was going to be a problem for me as it put me 2′ over the limit on length allowed without a special permit due to the length of my truck. This is something that people don’t normally find out until they too get to have the same type of friendly visit with the DOT, and why I urge folks to know the combined length of any trailer/truck combo they may be thinking about using.
At any rate, that was the day I decided to sell the 40′ and get a little 20′ to replace it. And it’s been well worth the little bit of trouble I had to go through to get it done. And guess what… although I may run 50% less taking strictly light loads, my profit margin has increased and I make more money working less. It’s crazy, I know.
Of course it was a difficult transition, figuring out where to get those little loads, but now, nearly a year into running only light stuff, it’s getting a lot easier for me. I made contacts everywhere I could, and ran whatever there was available to run until I had established myself in this particular niche of hotshotting.
So some “out of the box” ideas you might want to think about are these…
Think about doing power only runs. You pull someone else’s trailer, equipment, etc. One of the common oil field applications for power only is pulling pumps and light towers. You can also do this as a combination run if you have enough bed space to stick a small pump or tower on the back of the truck and tow the second one. You still have to know your weight limits, but most of this stuff is considerably lighter than any 40′ gooseneck with a load on, and most of it is a whole lot less of a headache to move.
Look for short hotshot loads, under 20′. There are a ton of them out there, and oddly enough, people still routinely stick them on 40′ trailers. I think this is simply due to habit, not necessarily that they have anything against shorter trailers. Let your broker know your maximum length and weight. You might be pleasantly surprised at the loads you get this way. And from my experience, a 20′ trailer load pays the same per mile hotshot rate as a 40′ load.
The same goes for truck only loads, some of my best paying trips have been hauling one small item at hotshot rates. It’s like running without a load and the profit margin can’t be beat.
The point is, think about what’s out there to move, what’s available in your local area, and customize your operation to exploit the local market. Don’t just blindly follow convention, because in some cases, the conventional wisdom is simply not all that wise.