Double the Profits of Your Hotshot Trucking Business with 5 Simple Steps!

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated July 1, 2024

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Use these tips for increasing the income of your hotshot trucking business.

So you’ve been working as a hotshot truck driver for some time now and you’re ready to take your business to the next level. You have the communication and driving skills, plus the motivation and work ethic to get it done. Unfortunately, you’re at a loss — what tricks and techniques can you use to increase your business revenue and possibly even take on some of your own hotshot truckers?

1. Lower Your Average Cost Per Mile

Many successful hotshot truckers have impressive gross earnings. The most profitable hotshot trucking business owners know how to cut down on costs — both fixed costs and variable costs. Of course, it’s impossible to completely eliminate these costs, but there are ways to cut down on the amount you’re spending both on the road and between loads.

Fixed Costs

Fixed costs are those which you’ll need to pay on a monthly or annual basis. While there are some ways to cut down on these costs, for the most part they’re just part of the cost of doing business.

Insurance

In addition to standard auto insurance, shippers and brokers require that hotshot truckers carry the appropriate level of cargo insurance or commercial auto insurance. This is also required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Auto Financing Payments

You won’t need to worry about this if you pay for your vehicle in cash, but most hotshot truckers have a financing payment on their vehicle. A small or less powerful vehicle may have lower monthly payments, but you’ll be limited in the types of loads you’re able to take on. If you have a larger vehicle, you’ll be able to handle heavier loads, but it’s no guarantee that you’ll actually win those jobs.

Permits and Licenses

If you’re driving a Class A-C truck, you don’t technically need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a hotshot trucking business. However, many drivers opt to get a CDL because it opens the door to a more diverse range of hotshot jobs versus a non-CDL driver.

Variable Costs

There’s a lot more flexibility when it comes to variable costs. This is where you can find ways to cut down on your cost per mile. The less you pay on the road, the more your hotshot trucking business profits.

Fuel

Let’s face it: trucks need gas to go. There’s no way around fuel costs, though there are some ways you can save. Track your vehicle’s miles per gallon at all times — if you notice a sudden dip in performance, it may mean your truck needs maintenance (which we’ll discuss in detail below).

  • The easiest way to save money on gas is to improve your vehicle’s fuel economy. You can do this by paying close attention to your acceleration and braking habits. The optimal cruising speed is around 60 miles per hour — while it’s tempting to drive faster to cut down on travel time, higher speeds and erratic braking patterns lead to lower fuel economy. You may make the shipper happy by delivering the load slightly faster, but you’re also eating into your profits.
  • Limit your RPM when pulling a load. The more engine power you use, the more gas you burn. Check your owner’s manual to learn more about the optimum pulling RPM for your vehicle.
  • You can use apps to find the most affordable gas along your route. While there are specialized apps for the trucking industry, even using Google Maps can help you seek out the most affordable fuel. There are many reasons that careful planning and mapping help truckers maximize profits, and finding the least expensive gas stations is one of them.
  • Reducing your idle time is another way to be more fuel efficient. Consider an auxiliary power source to power your air conditioner and other accessories while you’re stopped for the night.
  • Investing in an auxiliary fuel tank is another way to maximize your efficiency. Some trucks come with a dual tank, but even if your truck doesn’t you can purchase one. With an extra tank, you can fuel up at less expensive gas stations and limit the number of stops you need to make.
  • You can make your truck more aerodynamic with roof fairing, trailer side skirts and devices that limit the space between your truck and trailer and limit the airflow below your rig.

Maintenance

Keeping your vehicle and trailer in tip-top condition is an inevitable part of being a hotshot trucker. Yes, maintenance is expensive but necessary. If you defer maintenance to save some money upfront, you may end up paying for it dearly when a larger issue arises.

Miscellaneous Expenses

You need to eat and stay hydrated while on the road, and most truckers need a place to sleep during overnight transports. You can save money on food and drink by purchasing provisions before you hit the road, so you spend less on fast food and save time but cutting down on stops. Some hotshot drivers have enough space in their truck and can sleep in the cab, if not, research budget hotels or even consider campgrounds near the highway.

2. Increase Your Rate Per Mile

The idea that charging more per mile for hotshot transport will increase your profits isn’t exactly rocket science. What’s difficult is finding ways to increase your rate without facing a decrease in business. There are a few ways that hot shot trucking businesses can increase their rate per mile.

When you’re just getting started as a hotshot trucker, you may have to take on cheap loads to establish yourself. But as an experienced driver, you can start to be a bit more choosy about what kind of jobs you’re willing to take. While it’s important to stay busy as a hotshot trucker, it may be worth waiting for primo-paying loads and skipping out on those that are high mileage with a low rate.

Direct Shippers

Another way to ensure you’re getting the best rate possible (and not losing some revenue to a broker or dispatcher) is to find direct shippers. That may require a little schmoozing with shippers, but it’s all worth it when you’re their go-to hotshot trucker. Check out the video below for some advice on direct shippers (and more) from an experienced hotshot:

3. Be a More Efficient Hotshot Trucking Business

You don’t even have to charge more to make more money while you’re out on the road. Higher efficiency can effectively increase your hourly income rate; there are several ways to accomplish this.

Reduce Detention Time

Just like you should be picky about taking low-paying loads, pay attention to the shippers that have a tendency to make you wait longer. Any time you spend waiting for a load is time you’re losing out on the road! Not only does this hurt your bottom line, it can cause you to be late for subsequent loads.

Use Technology

Use apps to track and find jobs — many load boards have apps and if you can master the technology, you can consistently be picking up and dropping off loads with less deadhead miles. Consider taking on less than truckload (LTL) loads to keep your truck consistently filled.

Stay a Step Ahead

You should always be tracking your routes and checking for upcoming jobs. Instead of arriving at a destination and looking for your next trip, constantly check apps and load boards for jobs. Staying a step ahead ensures every mile is a loaded mile so you’re always making more money and boosting your profits.

4. Understand Headhaul and Backhaul Markets

When you understand headhaul and backhaul markets, you can carefully plan ahead and maximize your hotshot trucking company’s profits.

Headhaul Markets

Headhaul markets have a large amount of manufacturing and little need for delivery, so hotshot jobs are plentiful. It’s easy to leave a headhaul market with a revenue-generating load. Generally speaking, you won’t need to worry about much downtime in a headhaul market.

Unfortunately, many loads that originate in headhaul markets end up in a backhaul market, where it’s much more difficult to find a load to get you back home or to another destination. With poor planning, you may find yourself deadheading out of a backhaul market, which can significantly eat into your profits.

Backhaul Markets

  • Backhaul markets are those which require a large influx of deliveries, which means there’s a concentration of drivers in the area.
  • This large concentration of drivers can make it difficult to get jobs that take you out of the area with a revenue-generating load.
  • Places with a lot of construction and fewer manufacturing hubs like Las Vegas and Florida are famously headhaul markets.

So in other words, backhaul = inbound dominated market, headhaul = outbound dominated market.

Keep in mind that seasonal fluctuations can affect whether a market is headhaul or backhaul. A great example of this is Southern California with its massive twin ports — the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles. In the fall months leading up to the holidays, SoCal becomes a major headhaul market with retailers around the country rushing to get their shelves stocked.

Stay abreast of these trends — the more you understand the ebb and flow of these markets the better positioned you’ll be to take advantage and increase your profits. Ultimately, you want to avoid down/detention time, limit deadhead miles and find the highest-paying loads.

5. Market Your Business Through Multiple Channels

Knowing how to effectively market your business is the fifth way you can increase your hotshot business profits. Social media is a great place to start — it’s free and doesn’t require a great deal of technical expertise. Use Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social media networks. Create a Google Business profile so shippers can learn more about you via search. If you’re more tech savvy, consider building a website for your hotshot trucking business, using content marketing approaches to improve your SEO.

Conclusion

Hotshot trucking is a fast-paced business that requires ingenuity, foresight, planning and of course hard work. However, the most successful and profitable hotshot businesses don’t just work hard, they work smarter. By decreasing your fixed and variable costs, increasing your per-mile rate through a variety of approaches, being more efficient by spending less time deadheading and working the headhaul and backhaul markets, and marketing your business, you can make your hotshot trucking business more profitable and competitive.