Hotshot Load and Trip Planning


There is more to hotshot trucking than just throwing stuff on the trailer and taking off in a cloud of dust and delivering your load really, really fast.  The most critical part of the job (aside from keeping the truck safely on the road) is in the planning that goes into each load.

Most of my loads are single stop deliveries, as in get it from point A to point B ASAP, and a lot of my planning is done on the fly for the typical one-stop load.  Many of these loads are to familiar locations where I already know the best motels, routes, and short-cuts I can make either with or without the trailer in tow.

Having said that, I still spend a considerable amount of time, particularly if it’s my first delivery to a certain location, looking at maps, choosing the best possible route depending on what I’m hauling and if there is a trailer involved, figuring out my probable drive time and keeping things within the 11 hour driving limit, scoping out likely motels along the route in the right spots with the right kind of parking, and finding out where I can get my trailer into any particular dock, and if it will be a problem getting back out again.

Googlemaps is a great tool for this part of trip planning.  I use it constantly to get a good view both from the air and street views.  If I’m heading to a new location I can get a good look at the street, verify that the business is where it’s supposed to be, and familiarize myself with the location so I don’t have to poke along worrying about missing a driveway.  I hate, hate, hate missing driveways and having to turn around and go back for a second try.  This is something I avoid like the plague.

One of the things I don’t place much stock in is the travel time given on these maps though.  My general rule of thumb is to figure 1 hour drive time per 50 miles of the route.  Some days I drive it a lot faster, some days it’s slower.  Everything depends on traffic volume, weather, construction, and what type of roads are involved.  I’d rather overestimate my drive time than to cut myself short and wind up late for my deliveries.

Multiple delivery runs require more thinking and more work on the front end, which  makes the whole run work more smoothly once I’m out on the road.   I’d much rather spend an hour or so working up a plan and making sure I’ve covered all of my bases before I leave the yard than try to fix an avoidable mistake out on the road.

Some of the things I think about and plan for with a multi-stop run is where my first delivery, second delivery, etc., will be, and what order I decide to make those deliveries in determines how I tie down my load.

For example, the load sitting on my trailer at this moment is destined for two separate locations, and there is a delivery for a third location in the back seat of the truck.

When I picked up the load last night, I just quick-like strapped it all down together just to get it to my yard and out of my customer’s hair.  Like most Friday pick-ups, it was an end of the work day, get it on the trailer and out of the yard so the guys at the customer could clock out for the weekend.  So virtually no planning went into that strapping job.  I already knew I had all day today to figure out what was going where, and to re-strap the load with a specific load delivery plan in mind.

After going over maps and figuring out my game plan, I zeroed in on a likely motel near the first delivery site that has enough room for me to get the trailer into the parking lot.  First thing Monday morning, I’ll be delivering the back seat box first, then get across the other side of the city to make a second stop for half of the load on the trailer, and finally, one last delivery a few more miles down the road of the remaining freight.

(With a quick Starbucks stop in between stops 2 and 3, since it’s convenient and has an alley where I can park the trailer while I dash in real quick.)

Based on that delivery plan, I specifically tied down the two parts of the trailer load individually.  When I hit the second delivery dock I can whip off those tie-downs without interfering with those on the third delivery, and the fork lift can easily get in under the first half of the load without any obstructions.

I won’t have to mess with re-strapping anything to get to my last delivery site, just roll and put away the straps off the second part of the load.  Then after my quick coffee fix I’ll get on over to the last stop, whip that off the trailer, tie down my dunnage, roll and stow the other tie-downs, and head on home.

Of course, there are always thing that happen that are way beyond my control, rush hour traffic, weather, kooky drivers, and other hazards to deal with or hopefully avoid, but at least I know where I need to be and in what order I need to do things to maximize my time and minimize fuel consumption, which makes the job less stressful and more enjoyable all the way around.

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8 thoughts on “Hotshot Load and Trip Planning

  1. Your spot on by giving yourself 50mph to get from point a-b.
    Hope your getting paid enough to load, drive, buy hotels, food, and unload. So many people think all you have to do is pay your truck, fuel and the rest is yours. But Time is money. Even if I have to sit a load on my truck for an extra day I try and get $400 to cover my equipment being utilized for that time.

  2. Hi Sue! we’re still at it at D&L Shipping…we had to regroup for most of September when our landlord decided out little business was doing good so he should TRIPLE our rent on the farm in PA…and my step-dad (86) fell and broke his leg in TX (all this within 2 days of each other!) so everything went in storage, horses got boarded, and I headed to Texas to help Mom – stayed 3 weeks while Dave went on the road between Texas and Pa. He said he sure doesn’t like it without 2 of us driving, talking, watching the map directions, etc… So everything is getting back to normal, and we are starting to base out of Tx with more runs….now to just find a small farm near Navasota to bring the horses down…but that’s another story…take care!

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