Is hot shot trucking just a stepping stone to get into a semi?

We’ve seen that a lot with other YouTubers and just people in the industry.

That might work for some. If you could get into hotshotting for a little less startup cost and then work into a semi, that might not be a bad route.

But not everyone agrees that bigger is always better. For example, David Shepard from the Humble Hotshot YouTube channel strongly disagrees with the notion that hotshotting is just a stepping stone to get into semis. In this article, we will discuss some of the differences (the pros and cons) he observed between hotshot trucking versus driving a semi truck.

“Semis and hotshots are really two totally different beasts. If you want to get into driving a semi and that’s your ultimate goal, perhaps you should just start as a company driver. Start using that equipment from the very start. Sure you’ll learn certain things that’ll transfer, but there’s no reason not to start in a semi if you either drive for a company or lease on.”

“We recommended that anyone doing this professionally — anyone making money out on the road — should have a CDL. That’s what makes you a professional driver. It gives you the training — all the regulatory and actual practical driving stuff, and even mechanical knowledge.”

“Getting a CDL is not that hard. It’s not that expensive. Yet it’s training that will stay with you and make you more valuable and hopefully safer out there.”

Here he explains some of the advantages of a semi truck and of hotshot trucking:

Advantages of a Semi Truck

1. You sit much higher up.

You can see a lot further ahead especially when traffic is slowing down suddenly in front of you. Since you’re sitting way up high in the semi, you could see 5-10 cars ahead sometimes and really give yourself more time to stop.

2. The equipment is stronger.

It’s made to be hauling all the time. You’ve got an exhaust brake and strong air brakes. You could usually stop a lot better than with a hot shot rig depending on the weights you’re pulling. Same thing with the engine transmission, the power — it’s just made to pull all the time. That’s what they’re designed to do. So there are definite advantages if you want to pull heavier loads.

3. It’s more comfortable overall.

The comfort level, whatever size sleeper you have in a semi truck, is gonna be a whole lot better than sleeping in the back seat of a pickup. In a hotshot, you are definitely going to be lacking for space. Anybody who hotshots in a pickup will tell you. You’ve got the bed back there. You’ve got our clothes hanging up. You’ve got your kitchen, computer bag, and office over in the passenger seat. And space is at a premium. That’s just the way it is with a hotshot. So keep that in mind. It’s not going to be the most comfortable thing in the world.

Advantages of Hotshotting

1. The overhead and maintenance is so much lower.

You know these guys that buy brand new trucks and brand new trailers and take loans out for them? They’re going to have a lot of overhead. But nothing compared to a semi truck. The repairs might be bad on these new diesel pickups. But again, nothing compared to a semi truck.

Tires, for instance. Most semi trucks don’t carry spare tires. They still spoon those tires on so you don’t carry a spare wheel. So you’re looking at a mobile call out pretty much anytime you even have a blowout and that could be 500 to 1000 bucks just for a one tire change.

For any small part that you could replace on a pickup and possibly do yourself, it costs a whole lot more for a semi truck. Your overhead, your maintenance, your fuel — all that is going to be much, much higher. Now you definitely have the opportunity to haul bigger, heavier loads. Not always better paying mind you — although that would obviously be the goal. But for some, it doesn’t make sense for what they want to do to take on that overhead and the maintenance nightmares of a semi truck.

2. You can be self-sufficient on the road.

There’s far less people that work on them, there’s far less people that are good at working on them, and you can’t run to NAPA on a Sunday and get a part and throw it in yourself on the side of the road. There are some things you can get at auto parts, but typically that’s not going to happen with a semi truck.

For some, it’s such a big factor just to be self-sufficient out on the road. That’s why they don’t see hotshotting as a stepping stone. They see it as a little niche in the industry. When you see people step up to a semi truck, oftentimes they like the allure of the big rig, the comfort that it brings, and the potential to make more money with it. But they don’t really understand what it costs to keep a semi on the road and — when something major or even something not so major does happen — just how much it’s going to cost to repair.

The Bottom Line

“There are more advantages with the semi, definitely. That’s why a lot of people run semi trucks. They are still the kings of the road as far as moving freight around this country and getting things done are concerned. Hotshotting is just a small tiny percentage of the trucking industry.”

“So if you want to get into driving a semi truck — if that’s your ultimate goal — you should just do that from the start. Be a company driver or lease on if you can’t afford the equipment. But just start in the equipment you want to work in. And if you’re a CDL hotshot and you’re maxing that out all the time, you probably should consider a semi truck.”

“On the other hand, with all the advantages of a semi, that’s something others are willing to forgo or sacrifice for the advantages of hotshotting. They want to stay as a lightweight little rig and keep their overhead low. That’s how they’re making things work for them. So they don’t have any plans of getting a semi-truck. They don’t plan on moving up; they don’t see hotshot trucking as a stepping stone — they simply see it as a different niche in the transportation industry.”