Do you really need a CDL to make really good money?

That is the question. Some people think semi trucking is the only right way to go. In this article, we will do a case study of Alex of, and answer four common questions, such as:

  1. Is non-CDL hotshot trucking worth it?
  2. How much work do you have to put in to have the best possible year?
  3. How much money can you possibly make on that best, record-breaking year?
  4. How does 2018 compare with 2019 in terms of profitability?

1. Is Non-CDL Hotshot Trucking Worth It?

In short, yes — absolutely. But here’s the thing. It’s not for people who are lazy. It’s not for people that are faint of heart. It’s not for those who are looking to get rich quick. If you’re one of those people, this is not for you.

When 23-year-old Alex decided to get into hotshot trucking, the most he had ever made before hotshot was $47,946.99. That was his best year before hotshot trucking. When he started hotshotting, he grossed $129,571.29 on his very first year. So he concluded that hotshotting is way better than any job he could have had. While that amount was gross (before expenses), being able to make over $100,000 on his first year was enough to get him hooked and committed to grossing the highest amount of money possible.

2. What Does It Take to Have the Best Possible Year?

Just like for many other people in the transportation industry, Alex’s best year was last year, 2018. And just like with everything else in life, two factors played a role:

  1. What you can control — preparation
  2. What you can’t control — opportunity

The year 2018 was the start of Alex’s third year in the business. He wasn’t a rookie anymore — he wasn’t making rookie mistakes. He and his wife wrote down the goals they wanted to achieve. They mentally prepared for the upcoming sacrifices. In 2018, Alex was on the road several times for over eight weeks at a time. That’s hard work. But these are the things you can control — going out there, working hard, and hustling hard. That’s preparation.

Now, there are things you can’t control. In 2017, Donald Trump was, and is, our president. Say what you will about him, at that time, the economy was doing okay.

But on December 22, 2017, Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. One of the things in there was it lowered the U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. When 2018 came, all of a sudden these businesses — all the major companies in America — had a bunch of money that they were planning to set aside for taxes. Instead, they can reinvest it into the business, which means more loads. But that’s not all…

The year 2018 was already supercharged — it was off to a great start. Then on April 1, 2018, ELD became mandatory. That means small little partials were paying close to Full Truckload rates. And what did Alex do? He takes three of them.

3. How Much Money Can You Realistically Make?

In 2018, Alex grossed $351,021.71. That means he averaged $29,251.80 a month. That means his average weekly gross — every single week, 52 weeks out of the year — was $6,750.41. That number is actually higher since he took a couple of weeks off throughout the year.

But how much did he actually take home in 2018? He was leased under the entire year. So after you deduct the company percentage — after you deduct fuel, insurance, etc. — plus truck or trailer payments, truck or trailer maintenance or breakdowns, etc., he was paid $214,547.28. His average monthly take-home was $17,878.94. His average weekly take-home was $4,125.90.

This is probably the highest gross out there. If your numbers are higher, please share.

4. How Does 2018 Compare With 2019 in Profitability?

In the first six months of 2018, Alex did 61 loads, grossing $164,903. That averages out to $2,703.32 per load. In the first six months of this year, 2019, he hauled 65 loads, grossing $152,200. That averages out to $2,341.53.

This year he is averaging $361.79 less per load compared to 2018. That means that this year is only 86.62 percent as good as 2018. In other words, this year he took a pay cut of 13.38%. So he literally did more work (65 loads versus 61) for less money.

Will we have another 2018 anytime soon? Will the corporate tax rate go down again anytime soon? Probably not. If Donald Trump wins re-election, will our economy continue to do good? Perhaps. But who knows? Some believe we’re due for a correction. But let’s not go down that rabbit hole of sadness, depression, and doom-and-gloom.

The Bottom Line

There are two things we need to clearly understand:

  1. You don’t need a CDL to make good money. You need hard work — that’s preparation — and you need opportunity. When that contract comes knocking, when that introduction comes, when you meet the right dispatchers — whatever it may be — hard work will bring the opportunity and you need to be prepared for that.
  2. Be patient. You’re probably going to have a record-setting, life-changing, amazing, high-grossing year. It just won’t be your first. So don’t expect that.

And one more thing. One really good year doesn’t make up for two really rocky rough start years. That’s why you need to keep working. Keep at it, and hopefully, the long-term hard work will result in something that’s much greater than the individual years on their own.