How to Start a Hot Shot Trucking Business in 8 Simple Steps

June 3, 2024

Team ACV




How to Start a Hot Shot Trucking Business in 8 Simple Steps

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A Hot Shot Truck tows up a load of vehicles

Hot shot trucking can be a great way to gain transport industry experience and start your own business with lower startup costs compared to traditional over-the-road trucking. 

But is starting your own hot shot trucking business as simple as it seems? For those who have the confidence to hit the road, it can be a lucrative venture, and the freedom is hard to beat. 

However, like any business, it requires careful planning and preparation to actually survive and succeed. That’s why we’ve put together our 8-step guide to starting a hot shot trucking business.  Read on to learn more about what it takes to compete in the hot shot trucking industry—and find a few tips to help you along the way!

What Is Hot Shot Trucking? 

Hot shot trucking involves hauling smaller, time-sensitive loads using a medium-duty pickup truck (typically Class 3–5) and a trailer.¹ 

Hot shot drivers often transport construction materials, vehicles, agricultural equipment, machinery, and other less-than-truckload (LTL) freight that needs to be delivered quickly to a single customer. This type of trucking is believed to have originated in Texas, with drivers delivering critical parts to oil drilling and pumping operations.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Hot Shot Driver?

  • Lower startup costs: Hot shot trucking requires less expensive equipment than semi-trucks, making getting started more affordable.
  • Steady income: There is consistent demand for transporting vehicles,  heavy equipment and LTL loads, often with higher pay for urgent deliveries.²
  • More home time: Since hot shot drivers often haul locally or regionally, they can enjoy more time at home than long-haul truckers. 
  • Access to valuable experience: Hot shot trucking allows you to gain driving experience, learn about federal regulations, and determine if a career in trucking is right for you—a great way to build a new career!

8 Steps to Starting Your Hot Shot Trucking Business

If you are ready to start building your own hot shot trucking business, let’s break down 8 steps that will get you started down the road.

1. Obtain the Necessary Licenses and Permits

To become a hot shot trucker, you'll need a minimum valid Class D driver's license. If you haul loads over 10,000 lbs. (including for leading companies, such as ACV) you'll need a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).³ 

You’ll also need to obtain a Medical Card from the Department of Transportation by passing a physical exam conducted by a DOT-certified medical examiner.

2. Create a Business Plan and Register Your Business

Before you buy a truck or hit the road, you’ll want to develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your target market, revenue goals, expenses (e.g., salary, equipment, insurance), and strategies for finding loads and growing your business. This is your roadmap for your hot shot trucking company and will be critical when seeking financing or investments.

Once you have a solid business plan, register your hot shot trucking business with your state to obtain a federal tax ID (EIN). This will allow you to open a business bank account and hire employees. Consider forming an LLC or corporation to protect your assets and provide tax benefits.

3. Obtain Operating Authority

If you plan to operate across state lines, you must apply for a USDOT number and operating authority (MC number) from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).⁴ The process involves submitting an application, paying fees, and providing proof of insurance. You may also need to designate a process agent for each state where you plan to operate.

4. Secure Insurance

Commercial insurance is a significant expense for hot shot truckers. You'll need primary liability, cargo, physical damage, and non-trucking liability coverage. Check out our blog on hot shot insurance here to see the options and the steps you should take to find the right insurance coverage for your hot shot trucking.

Shop around for the best premiums based on your driving record and experience. Some insurance companies specialize in coverage for hot shot truckers and may offer more competitive rates.

5. Invest in Equipment

Purchase or lease a reliable medium-duty pickup truck and a trailer suitable for the type of freight you plan to haul. This will become your trusty steed—and you’ll want it to last if you are going to turn a profit.

When selecting your truck, consider each model’s payload capacity, towing capabilities, and fuel efficiency. For trailers, consider a gooseneck trailer for stability and maneuverability or a tilt deck, lowboy, or dovetail trailer, depending on your needs. Don't forget to budget for additional equipment, such as straps, chains, tarps, and a dolly.

6. Establish a Financial System

Set up a business bank account and develop a system for tracking income and expenses. Consider using accounting software or hiring a bookkeeper to help manage your finances. 

Determine your rates based on your operating costs, desired profit margin, and market conditions. Be sure to factor in expenses, such as fuel, maintenance, insurance, and taxes. The more you can plan and budget for these costs, the better prepared you will be to stay profitable.

7. Find Hot Shot Loads

Utilize auto load boards (both free and paid) to find hot shot trucking jobs. Develop relationships with brokers, shippers, and other trucking companies to secure steady work. 

As you gain experience and build a reputation for reliability, you may be able to secure regular contracts with shippers. Don't be afraid to network at industry events and through social media to expand your customer base – you never know where you might find your next hot shot load.

Remember to consider distance, weight, and delivery deadlines when choosing loads. It's important to balance the potential profit with the feasibility of completing the job on time and safely.

8. Maintain and Grow Your Business

Stay on top of vehicle maintenance, as frequent repairs are common in hot shot trucking due to high mileage. Develop a preventative maintenance schedule and budget for unexpected repairs. 

As you grow, return to your original business plan and make any necessary adjustments to keep your business humming—and always make sure to avoid taking on more than you can handle. Remember, even one mistake or missed deadline can hurt your reputation and future opportunities for loads.

Become an ACV Transportation Partner and Grow Your Hot Shot Trucking Business

Now that you've learned the steps to start your hot shot trucking business, it's time to find loads and start hauling. One of the best ways to secure consistent work is by becoming a partner with ACV Transportation

As a trusted name in the industry, ACV Transportation connects hot shot truckers with thousands of new loads daily from its network of car dealer partners.

By joining the ACV Transportation Load Board, you'll have access to a variety of top vehicle transport jobs. See how you can take your trucking business further with ACV Transportation.


  1. Cover Whale Editorial Team. (2024). Hotshot Trucking: What It Is and How to Get Started. Cover Whale. Retrieved from
  2. Porter Freight Funding Editorial Team. (2024). Hot Shot Rates Per Mile: Everything You Need to Know. Porter Freight Funding. Retrieved from
  3. DAT Solutions, LLC. (2024). Hotshot CDL Requirements. Retrieved from
  4. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (2024). Do I Need a USDOT Number? Retrieved from