Do you want to make more money in your hot shot trucking business?

Well, who doesn’t? That’s the goal of any business after all — to make a profit. By applying these 14 strategies, you’ll earn more money from your truck (or trucks if you own more than one). But you need to treat hot shot trucking as a real business instead of just another job. Here they are:

1. Buy a Tire Gauge and Use It

Check all your tires at all times and keep them properly inflated. Doing this will keep them healthy and can make them last at least a month longer. This will add up to more money in your pocket. Check the owner’s manual for the ideal operating pressure of your truck’s or trailer’s tires. Usually, it’s 100-110 PSI. This allows maximum payload capacity while keeping resistance to a minimum. Check the tire pressure every time your truck stops for fuel or while at the dock.

2. Buy Your Own Truck

Perhaps not immediately, but eventually. If you want to make serious money in this industry, buy your own truck. Don’t lease from one of those mega companies. The way they’re set up, it will be nearly impossible to pay it off. You can’t leave that company if you want to keep your truck.

3. Do Preventive Maintenance Every 3 Months

You’ve heard it: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s true. Make timely oil changes, part replacements, and repairs. Be religious about it. Don’t do what most others do — just “keep driving until it breaks.” Instead, keep your eye on everything.

As soon as you notice anything amiss — like a trailer tire going bad — take action immediately. Going to a shop and paying $30-$60 bucks for a tire is better than paying $200+ for roadside assistance or risking a ticket driving to a truck stop.

When buying a used truck, spend a little bit of money on ECM adjustments, injector cleaner, and new belts. These are relatively cheap and can save you thousands of dollars from having to pay a shop in a remote area who rescued you from the side of the interstate at 3 AM.

Do 99% of the work on your truck at home. If you can schedule your PM’s with the same shop or mechanic, you and he will get to know current and potential issues with your truck/trailer.

4. Do Simple Repairs and Cleaning Yourself

You can save a lot by doing many simple things yourself — like replacing bulbs, greasing, etc. If your batteries go dead and your truck is disabled, there are places that will charge $800-$900 for the convenience of having them change them for you. But if you want to save money, simply take a taxi to AutoZone and buy them for $300 or so, clean up the wires, and put them back in.

But if you really need a mechanic while on the road, spend time calling around, and use Google Maps to find shops around instead of looking for truck stops. Truck stops will easily charge you $270-$300 for used tires, without labor, taxes, supplies etc. On the other hand, you can just pay, say, $250 for two good used tires with labor included by calling a little guy to help you out.

You can also save money by doing your own cleaning. Always keep a good broom, not the cheap kind that breaks. After every single delivery, go in the trailer and sweep it out. This will prevent the build-up of dust, dirt, etc. That will save you $30-$40 in washouts. Plus a little bit of physical activity is good for your health (See Point 14).

5. Don’t Take Cheap Freight

Try to pick the best loads. A certain trucker we know of doesn’t move for less than $2 a mile. There’s another strategy called “1 Truck, 3 Trailers — Drop and Hook.” This takes a little work, but it pays off in spades. You will be able to recruit a better quality of drivers for your trucking company. First, get on the phone or hit the streets and get dedicated runs directly from shippers. Second, have at least three trailers available per truck when you hit the streets. Third, make sure you have a few backup drivers or trucks in case one or more guys don’t show up for work. By having dedicated runs, you as the fleet owner or manager can actually plan for the future instead of relying on one-way loads from brokers.

6. Drive at a Steady Pace

“Slow and Steady Wins the Race.” Don’t speed and don’t brake hard (unless it’s to avoid an accident). Maintain a safe and relaxed pace. Instead of driving over 70 MPH, save the money by keeping your speed at 62-65 MPH and only giving it throttle when you need to pass a truck.

7. Find Jobs Yourself Than Go Through Brokers

If you’re an owner-operator, use mobile apps to find jobs quickly and maximize your profits rather than going through a broker, who’ll probably take a cut.

8. Fuel Strategically

This requires good planning. For example, if you have 200-gallon tanks, a price at $3.35 a gallon in Seattle will cost you $670. By making sure you fill up in Montana where it is only $2.45, you would spend only $490. That’s a $180.00 difference. Let’s say you typically fill up once a day when running, which if you run 6 days a week turns into an average of $1,080 X 4 weeks = $4,320. Of course, if you have bigger tanks it’s even better since you get to fill up more for cheaper, but anytime you can save that extra .90 per gallon it adds up to a good chunk of change when you’re getting 6 miles to the gallon. That can cover cargo insurance for example. Filling 100 gallons will mean an extra $90 in fuel costs if you did it in Washington. This leads us logically to our very next point. Aside from saving on fuel, you can decrease fuel consumption.

9. Increase Your Fuel Economy

This is probably the single biggest thing that you as an owner-operator can do to maximize the profitability of your truck. There are many variables that contribute to a truck driver’s fuel economy. Below is a list of some of these variables to keep in mind. Some things the driver can help improve while others are outside the driver’s control:

  1. If you want to maximize your profit, try finding loads that are lighter.
  2. Hills and routes with more stop-and-go traffic will decrease fuel economy.
  3. Equip your truck with the proper rear end gear ratios for the freight you typically haul.
  4. Your motor operates a little more efficiently in colder temperatures.
  5. Too much idle time can rob an owner-operator of precious fuel.
  6. Using winter fuel with anti-gel additives typically decreases fuel economy.
  7. Strive to reduce rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag to lower your fuel costs.

10. Manage Your Time Efficiently

We all know that time is equal to money. So the less waiting around, the better. To maximize profit, use your time very efficiently and productively. One practical strategy is to plan to arrive at your receiver the night before you deliver. Be ready for another load first thing in the morning.

11. Only Pay Tolls For Convenience

Going east coast the load should pay extra for tolls, and it does, but does that mean that you shouldn’t keep that money by avoiding them as much as possible? That’s another way to save.

12. Optimize Your Routes

Plan your delivery routes to reduce drive time and fuel usage. If you’re driving through a major city at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, guess what — you will be sitting in rush-hour traffic. So unless you absolutely have to drive through rush hour, reroute or pull over and wait until 6:30 or 7:30 at your favorite truck stop — and turn the truck off! This leads us logically to the next point.

13. Reduce Idle Time

Every drop of fuel that is not used to haul a payload is wasted money. So consider buying a gas-powered personal generator for your truck to run accessories like TV, a fridge, microwave, small space heater, and small portable A/C unit instead of leaving the truck idling for power when stopped. If you are a fleet owner/manager, you can use a GPS tracking solution to help you monitor your guy’s idle time and driving behavior.

So get on the road as much as possible. That’s the only way you can get the money back from what you paid for your truck, and to take advantage of the freedom you have.

14. Take Care of Your Health

There’s a balance to trucking where profits and comfort are often at odds. Idling your truck wastes a lot of fuel, but if it’s hot and humid outside and you can’t sleep, it’s often better to go ahead and run the truck so that you can operate at your peak efficiency the next day. There’s nothing worse than being sick while you’re out on the road so driver comfort and health are essential. You are just as important as your equipment. But it’s still best to buy a generator!

The Bottom Line

If you want to maximize the profitability of your truck, follow these 14 practical strategies: Buy a tire gauge and use it; buy your own truck; do preventive maintenance every 3 months; do simple repairs and cleaning yourself; don’t take cheap freight; drive at a steady pace; find the jobs yourself; fuel strategically; increase your fuel economy; manage your time efficiently; only pay tolls for convenience; optimize your routes; reduce idle time; and finally, take care of your health.

If you’ll follow these tips, you’ll make more money both as a trucker and as an owner-operator.