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  • Writer's pictureshane wallace

How to Maximize Your Hot-Shotting Income

Maximizing your earnings on each hot-shot trip can be a challenging endeavor. Several factors contribute to this, so let's discuss some of them.

One issue that some of us encounter is being our own worst enemy on the road when it comes to accepting loads. Often, we find reasons to turn down loads, citing concerns like expensive tolls in certain areas, poor fuel mileage in mountainous regions, heavy or tall loads, or reluctance to backtrack for partial pickups.

Let's analyze some numbers, as they don't lie, in hopes of shedding light on why accepting more loads can lead to higher profits. Consider driving 500 miles, with 100 miles of that journey through mountainous terrain.

Assuming your truck gets 9 miles per gallon on flat ground and 7 miles per gallon in the mountains:

On flat ground: 400 miles / 9 mpg = 44 gallons

In the mountains: 100 miles / 7 mpg = 14 gallons

Total: 58 gallons

This scenario costs an extra 2 gallons of fuel, totaling $8 at $4 per gallon.

Now, let's reverse the terrain:

In the mountains: 400 miles / 7 mpg = 57 gallons

On flat ground: 100 miles / 9 mpg = 11 gallons

Total: 68 gallons

This results in an extra cost of 12 gallons, totaling $48 at $4 per gallon.

Despite the difference in terrain, the added cost shouldn't deter you from accepting mountainous routes, as it's a negligible expense compared to potential profits. Play with your numbers as your mileage may differ, but as you can see, the extra cost is no reason to deny loads that go through the mountains based on your profits.

How about weight? Well, weight does not affect me much as long as it is low profile. Sure, you will see a decrease in the mountains or stop-and-go traffic, but it is just not a major factor for me. The major factor that affects me is height. Because hot-shots usually do not have the roof fairings like a semi, everything on the trailer grabs the wind while running the roads. I once hauled 2 sets of boiler tubes that were flat U-shaped. The weight was less than 2k pounds. So that is a very light load, yet I only got 5 MPG due to the 4 uprights spaced along the trailer and a strong headwind. The wind would hit the first upright then the following uprights behind it. I was not able to run over 60 mph as it was too much strain on the truck. I was stressed the whole trip as I just knew I was not making money. I do not remember the distance, but let’s say it was 1000 miles. If that was a low profile load with little weight, I would get 10 mpg but as I described I only got 5 mpg.

1000/10= 100 gallons

1000/5= 200 gallons

Extra cost of 100 gallons at $4 is $400 dollars.

So when getting a load like this it better pay the extra for a profit. Fortunately, this load was paying extra to compensate. This was also the worst example of all the tall loads I have done. Most are not near this extreme. Usually, a high cube container knocks me down a few MPG. When we are dispatching we always get the height and width to make sure our drivers are covered for this. Tall and narrow will not grab much air, tall and wide sucks! But if it pays I will run it!

I always say there are three things you need to make top pay: the correct rig, good dispatching, and good time management.

Let's go over time management as this is a major problem for some drivers. To start, we are all self-employed, manage your time as you wish. Just do not complain when you are not making the top pay. It is real easy to figure out how to make the top pay. The more miles you run loaded the more money you make. If you’re thinking, "I want more loaded miles a week but how do I get it?"

Most shippers and receivers load and unload between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm. Always call the receiver to make sure of the receiver hours. I have on many occasions found out they were open 24 hours or on the weekend. If all possible get as close to your drop as possible before stopping for the day. This way you make your drop early the next day. Hot-shotters need to be unloaded early when possible to allow deadhead and load time before the cutoff time at the next pickup. Semis do not deadhead; they usually have so many loads available to them that they do not have to travel far to get the next one. Hot-shotters not the same; we deadhead to keep rolling.

If you drop in the afternoon and cannot make the cut-off time for the next pick-up, then deadhead as close to it before calling it quits for the day. This saves you lots of time for the following day and gives you the whole next day to get loaded and running. Do not burn your next day hours deadheading. By doing these simple things you will be able to get one or two more loads in a week. If you are averaging $1200 a load and you're able to squeeze in another load due to good time management that is a huge difference in your weekly gross.

Good dispatchers can help with this scheduling as well. They should know how long it takes to run the loads they book and should be looking for the next load accordingly. If you're not able to make your pickups on regular then two things are happening, either your time management is off or your dispatcher is booking too tight of a schedule. Dispatchers will figure out how you run and should adjust accordingly. My outlook is to book tight as I will make it happen; I try to make as much money as fast as I can so I can get back home. Some guys like to travel slow and not push it; I have seen guys travel 500 miles max a day. Either way, it's your choice as it's your business. Just won’t make as much of a weekly gross.

Let’s go over cost; below are two charts showing your constant monthly cost and your daily running cost. I am using realistic numbers but change to fit your own cost.

Constant Monthly Cost

Truck note:


Trailer note:




Apportioned plates:


IFTA Taxes:


Misc fees: ELD, UCR, Etc.


Total Monthly


Running Cost



Maintenance and break downs






Total Daily


So our constant monthly expenses $3350 and our daily run cost is $505 a day. I usually run around 17 days a month with 2 resets. That allows me 17 days to pay off my constant monthly expense. So I take that $3350 and divide it by 17 days. Then add my daily expenses based on 3500 miles a week.

$3350/17= $208 + $505 = $713 daily running cost if running all day.

So, worse case if I am running all day it is costing me $713 a day. I figure $100 a day for maintenance and breakdowns. By doing this you will have the money for the repairs when your truck or trailer goes down. This also gives you the money to pay the bills while down. Once you have a worse-case savings of say around $20k you can drop this amount to just cover your maintenance as your worse-case cost is covered. Ask your mechanic how much to replace a motor and how long it will take. This is pretty much worse-case scenario for me. I figure about 4 weeks down and $20k to replace a motor.

If I drive all day I will get over 700 miles a day, this puts me about $1 a mile. This and last year I am not content unless my minimum mile pay is $2 a mile. If I run 700 miles at $2 a mile this pays me $1400 with a profit of $700 for the day. Am I happy with this pay? It’s okay, I have made way more in a day and I have made less in a day. You will not make money running short runs at mediocre rates. Example if you run 400 miles at $2 a mile that $800 dollars. Now figure cost against that at 9 MPG $3.50 a gallon.

Pay: $800

Cost: $613

Profit: $187

You barely cover your daily overhead on short runs unless it pays a high rate per mile. At $3 a mile that same load has a profit of $587. Will I run this? Heck yes, I will have a nice short day and make $587 for the day. These are the things your dispatcher should know and be working on. Do not just take loads because it meets that $2 a mile standard or whatever your standard is.

You should be realistic with your standard as well. I know people that have unrealistic standards on their rates and will choose to sit and wait for days for the load that meets their minimum standard. Okay well, it's around $350 a day if in a hotel waiting. Wait a couple of days and you will have zero profit on your next load. This is why I say it is a grind; you have to take the bad with the good. I am not saying take a load with no profit! This I would never do! But maybe I only make $500 profit one day, yet it gets me in a good area and I make $2000 profit the next day?

Another way to increase profits is to run as many partials. When you get loaded, measure how much space and weight you have remaining and let your dispatcher know. If they can fill that space with something on the way that's all profit. Do not over analyze every load, just get them and go. I can always find something wrong with a load, especially when I am tired and just want to finish out my day. I have to tell myself just go and get that money so we can get home faster.

If you have good dispatching, a good rig setup, and good time management you will make higher profits.

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