Are you a semi truck driver thinking of getting into hotshot trucking?

Like in every decision, there are always pros and cons. But the question we would like to ask (and answer) is, should you switch from a semi to a hotshot? Are there any clear advantages? Here are five reasons that make sense:

1. Cost of Operation

In almost every category, a hotshot is much cheaper.

2. Maintenance and Repairs

Oil change in a semi usually averages about $400-500. In a hotshot, it’s about $120. If you need the fuel filter serviced or anything like that, maybe you’ll spend $315-320 tops. But if you’re in the Enterprise program, it’s free.

Another big expense is tires. You’re looking at $500-600 for a steer tire on a semi. You’re looking at about $400 for a drive, eight of those you’re looking at about $250 for eight trailer tires apiece. These are all position-specific, minus the trailer. You can get away with a few other things like retreads. You can throw the old steers to the trailer, things like that.

With a hotshot truck, you’re looking at four tires — six tires in a dually. None of them are position-specific. That’s just four to six tires, $200 apiece, and that’s a pretty good tire.

Think about your roadside. As far as breakdowns go, whenever you’re in a semi, you’re facing being stranded. You have to have someone come help you because you don’t have a torque wrench, you don’t have the impact, you don’t have a jack. And in most instances, to even start to do your own repairs on the side of the road, you have to have someone come help you out.

That roadside bill for just one tire could typically (on a good day) run you probably $400-500 — that’s a very cheap way out. This is not considering weekends or after hours. If you’re running super singles you might as well go ahead throwing the cost of a wheel, if you’re fully loaded. Not to mention everything that breaks off whenever the tire does blow, like mud flap hangers, mud flaps, battery boxes, toolboxes, APU — you name it.

If you do decide to go through Enterprise for your rental, everything is free, minus tires. You do have to pay for tires if it’s your fault. If it’s not a wear issue or a belt broke inside — if it’s not a specific issue with the tire if you blew it, you’re buying it. But what does that cost? Oh also you’ve got a spare on you — so can’t count the roadside out. You just bought a tire for $200.

3. Cost of Equipment

A new semi is going to run you $140,000-160,000. A one-ton dually is going to cost you about $55,000-$70,000 depending on what options you put on it. A new flatbed is going to be about $35,000 plus and that’s just a standard open deck. That’s not counting anything open. That’s not a step-deck, especially not a Conestoga or anything else specialized.

A new gooseneck is going to run you about $8,000 up for a non-CDL setup. Two or three axles single wheel, it’s going to be about $11,000 and up on a tandem dual wheel set up for a CDL hotshot. Your cargo control is going to run you about the same as far as your chains, straps, binders, tarps, all of that. The biggest difference is you’re going to want to run with more equipment, especially chains and binders in a semi because you’re dealing with more weight.

Now, where are you going to store that? A lot of trailers do come with boxes on but it’s far from ideal. So where are you going to store that? Now you have to buy a headache rack that’s only about a $1,500 basic and up accessory that you have to add on to your truck and can you do it yourself? Yes, if you have a forklift or if you can get a liftgate service to your house. And then you have a few friends and a hoist to help you get it on your truck. Or you’re going to be paying high labor rates for that too.

Let’s get into resale on that. You can take that one time when you’re done with it and take it to any car dealership and trade it in for either another one-ton truck that you want to continue doing this with or you can trade it down with a personal vehicle. For a semi, unless you’re buying another truck and using it as a trade-in, good luck selling it.

4. Supply and Demand

The majority of general freight semis feed the supply aspect. That’s why you’re always picking up from an industry or a stockyard and you’re taking it to a warehouse or another stockyard or you’re just feeding the supply. Nothing you’re really ever bringing unless it’s a job site that comes with its own fun. You’re really just feeding stock. Nothing’s really urgent. Nothing’s really needed. That’s why it appears that way whenever you pull up to a place and there are 12 trucks in front of you doing the same thing you’re doing. And you have to wait for them.

In the hotshot aspect, you’re feeding more the demand side of supply and demand. And that shows in the loads that you pick up. From the time you pick them up to when you deliver them. It’s needed. It’s urgent. The whole hotshot stems from expedited anyway and you’ll see that in the places you go to where you pick it up. The process is pretty fast — on top of the fact you’re only getting loaded with one or two things typically. And you’ll see it on the other end of the customer. You’ll see appreciation. You’ll get tips.

The semi world is wait, wait, wait. There’s no rush. There’s no sense of urgency and there’s no consideration for your time. And the funny thing about it is when you look at the differences in what the semis are feeding (supply), the hotshots are typically more so feeding demand its opposite on time.

Now usually, you’ve got a very strict time frame to either pick up or deliver or both in the semi world. To the point where if you can’t meet that timeframe, you have to reschedule, sometimes for an entirely different day. This isn’t urgent. They don’t need that. But the timeframes are so strict and when you do show up, you’re standing in line with everyone else that’s there. You’re at the leisure of the company. Whenever they feel like getting to you they’ll get to you. It’s not urgent. Yet the timeframes make it seem like it is.

Now on the hotshot side, you’re usually asked, when can you get it there? When do you want to get it there? You can usually pick it. Always do a broad search on the load board because typically if you find a load that picks up on a Wednesday and you call and say, “Hey, is it fine if I get there on Thursday? Can I pick this up Friday, even?” A lot of the times that’ll be fine. The windows are a whole lot more flexible in the hotshot world. And people are willing to work with you. Why? Because they need what you’re bringing them. It’s not stock. You’re bringing them items that were ordered for a reason.

5. Earning Potential

The earning potential starting out on the boards for general freight, whether you’re hotshot or semi without contracts and without a specialized setup is roughly the same. Roughly the same in a hotshot, if not more. There were over a thousand loads for a full-blown semi-truck but there were only about forty loads for a hotshot.

Well, out of those thousand loads that you were looking at for a flatbed, how many did you scroll through? You’ll scroll for hours, days, trying to find something worth hauling. And then once you find something that’s actually worth pulling, now you have to worry about where it goes because that’s your final destination.

With a hotshot, you’re not worried about a final destination. You’ve already got two or three loads on it. Instead of ending at that city, you’re passing through. And that’s key because there’s a lot of places you’ll go to in a hotshot that you wouldn’t touch in a semi, like Denver.

You’ll pass through Denver, the dead zones. Salt Lake City. These are typically dead zones, but they’re also now on the way to somewhere else. You’re like a bus and a hotshot. You’re constantly dropping off and picking up and leapfrogging your position the entire time you’re out.

In a semi, once you get to where you’re going with that load, you’re running at a loss. As soon as you go to pick up your next load there’s nothing else on your trailer. you can say that load pays all at once even if it’s only 20 miles away. Something only 20 miles away adds up in a seven-day week to 140 miles out of your route. Those aren’t free miles. Those do cost money to run — as small as they are.

Conclusion

So to summarize, this isn’t an industry for the lazy. You have to hustle every single day, no matter whether you’re in hotshot or semi. If you’re going to do this, either under your own authority or lease onto someone, you have to work hard. If you’re lazy, you will fail.

This isn’t a get-rich-quick plan. You can make great money, but you will have to earn it. This is not a plan to be home more. This is a plan to grow a business.