It’s a niche part of the trucking industry that’s starting to boom: hotshot trucking.
Hotshot trucking, or hot shot trucking, is a pretty simple concept. A heavy-duty pickup pulls a flatbed instead of using a traditional semi-trailer truck.
Randy Eilerts has been in the hotshot game since October, but he’s been driving semis for years. He operates Tallgrass Trucking LLC out of Algona, Iowa.
“I have had this idea for several years now and when I was fed up with my day job I just jumped in feet first and did it,” Eilerts explained.
Eilerts runs a Dodge 3500 pickup truck that hauls a PJ 30’ low-pro gooseneck trailer with ramps. He and his hotshot rig move a wide range of loads all over the Midwest and as far south as Texas. His operation carries everything from heavy equipment and machinery to hay, lumber and building materials.
Companies typically hire hotshots if they need speedy deliveries or have smaller loads. The term originated in the oil fields of Texas where pickups would make a quick run for parts preventing the rigs from having to shut down. Now, you see hotshots hauling loads all across the country. More people are taking a shot at the business because it’s cheaper to start-up compared to traditional trucking.
Eilerts says most hotshots cost $50,000-$80,000 to get going. Big ticket items include obvious equipment needs like pickups and trailers. He says most hotshots use a 3500 to 5500 truck and a 40 ft. mini-float trailer.
Cargo control items like chains, binders and ratchet-straps are also necessary to secure the load. Eilerts keeps about ten of each tool on him, along with various sizes of tarp and many, many bungee cords. He’s purchases many of those items including 2” ratchet straps, strap protectors, chains and load binders from US Cargo Control.
Equipment costs are just half the battle. Starting-up also requires tedious paperwork.
“I did a lot of research beforehand so I kind of knew what to do, but there have also been some challenges and surprises along the way,” Eilerts said.
Those challenges include learning and fulfilling state and federal regulations. An article on Overdrive breaks down some of the requirements which include obtaining a U.S. DOT motor carrier authority, liability insurance, drug and alcohol testing membership, driver qualification filings and required hours of service.
A CDL, or commercial driver’s license, is also necessary for hotshot drivers with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 lbs. or more.
But for someone like Eilerts hotshot trucking is the way to go. He enjoys being his own boss and doesn’t feel like the typical trucker when he’s navigating from the cab of his pickup truck.
“I enjoy doing it because I like to work alone and I get to travel and see the country,” Eilerts said.