Not only can a trusty pickup truck assist in all your home improvement projects, but thanks to an on-demand method of freight called "hot shot trucking", it can also provide a lucrative business opportunity. Hot shot hauling is a type of trucking that can be accommodated by a standard heavy-duty pickup truck and doesn't require a CDL license. A hot shot trucking business is relatively easy to start up with a capable pickup truck being the key capital investment. Learn the ins and outs of hot shot trucking, and see our top 3 recommendations for the best hot shot trucks you can buy. 

What is Hot Shot Trucking?

hot shot trucking chevy silverado 3500
Hot shot drivers could haul construction equipment one day, and appliances the next. (image: GM)

According to Truckstop, hot shot trucking involves hauling smaller, time-sensitive loads within a specific timeframe, usually to a single customer and location. Typically, the loads encompass construction materials, machinery, appliances, heavy equipment, or farm materials. While hot shot deliveries tend to be more local than traditional freight, some may require a trip across state lines or even across the country.

Trucking Truth states that hot shot trucking does not require a commercial driver's license if you're hauling loads under 10,000 lbs, but you will need to obtain a Motor Carrier Authority Number and meet the physical requirements for driving to get approval from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Hot shot truckers operate as owner-operators and will take on jobs from load boards which serve as marketplaces for transportation professionals to post quick, small load jobs for willing drivers. 

CDL License hot shot
Unlike traditional trucking, a CDL license is not required for a hot shot business.

Starting a Hot Shot Trucking Business

Before deciding to start a hot shot business, it's a good idea to consider all the expenses involved. Other than the cost of the truck itself, you'll need to factor in maintenance, trailers, commercial liability and cargo insurance, and all the other costs associated with owning a small business. For example, commercial liability and cargo insurance can cost as much as $5,000 annually. As for hot shot trailers, a popular option is a bumper pull which is easy to use, less expensive than a  gooseneck trailer and is well-suited for loads under 10,000 lbs. 

The nature of hot shot trucking allows the driver to set his own rates, making it possible to earn good money. Generally, drivers will negotiate rates by the mile driven, with the average around $1-$1.25/mile. Other benefits include lower start-up and fuel costs than you'd find driving larger trucks and more time at home since deliveries are usually regional. Online Hot Shot load boards make finding jobs simple. 

Top Hot Shot Job Load Boards

Best Hot Shot Pickup Trucks

Ram 3500 HD

Hot shot trucks are typically medium-duty to one-ton trucks that fall into Class 3 (10,001-14,000 lbs), Class 4 (16,001-19,500 lbs), or Class 5 (19,501-26,000 lbs). Loads under 10,000 lbs don't require a CDL which means Class 3 trucks will accommodate most drivers. Since one-ton trucks are also the most practical for personal use, we'll focus on these in our list. In addition to towing capability, you should make sure the truck you choose handles well under heavy loads, is comfortable for long drives, and has advanced safety features.

1. 2021 Ram 3500

ram 3500 hd hot shot truck(image: Ram)

The Ram 3500 is the best HD pickup for hot shot trucking thanks to its power, size, comfort, and easy driving manners. We found Ram's one-ton truck to be a good balance of capable and comfortable. The truck's standard engine is a 6.4-liter V8 for 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. This engine offers excellent throttle response and acceleration given the truck's large size. Also available is a 6.7-liter Cummins diesel inline-six for a maximum 400-horsepower and a staggering 1075 lb-ft of torque.

Ram 3500 models that come with the high-output diesel get an impressive towing capacity of 37,100 lbs., but it comes at the expense of handling due to the extra weight of the engine. To make towing safer and easier, Ram offers safety tech like Trailer Reverse Guidance View, Trailer Tire Pressure Monitoring and an available Adaptive Forward Lighting System to help with nighttime towing. In addition to its capability and safety features, the Ram 3500 has a comfortable cabin filled with premium materials that will help the miles fly by. 

Max Towing Capacity: 37,100 pounds

Starting MSRP: $35,795

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2. 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD

2021 Chevy Silverado hot shot truck(image: GM)

Thanks to its powerful engines and advanced trailering technology, the Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD is a smart choice for a hot shot trucking business. Although the cabin isn't as premium as the Ram's, this workhorse will give you confidence when towing heavy loads. The Silverado 3500HD is available with two engine options including a base 6.6-liter V8 gas engine that makes 401-horsepower and 464-lb-ft of torque, and an available 6.6-liter Turbo-Diesel for 445-horsepower and 910-lb-ft.

While the base engine can tow up to 17,000 lbs. (which should be sufficient for most hot shot jobs), the turbo-diesel can take on loads up to 36,000 lbs. The maximum towing capacity increases 500 lbs. from last year's model thanks to suspension updates and packaging changes to the wheels. To make hot shot jobs easier, Chevy has enhanced the 2021 Silverado HD with advanced trailering tech. Along with a standard trailering package with hitch guidance and an available surround vision camera, Chevy offers new features like Trailer Length Indicator, Jack-Knife Alert, and a Rear Trailer View with Trailer-Angle Indicator which has assisting guidelines when backing a trailer into place.

Max Towing Capacity: 36,000 pounds

Starting MSRP: $36,100

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3. 2021 Ford F-350 Super Duty

ford f-series super duty hd(image: Ford)

With the title of "best-selling" truck in the U.S., you won't regret choosing the Ford F-Series as your hot shot sidekick. The Super Duty lineup offers plenty of models and trims so you can customize your truck to fit your needs. For example, there's a Super Duty Tremor package for off-road fun when you're off the clock. The Ford F-350 will be a capable option for towing nearly any hot shot load thanks to its powerful engines. Most notably, the Power Stroke Turbo Diesel produces 475 horsepower and a class-leading 1,050 lb-ft of torque. The F-350's base engine comes in the form of a 6.2-liter V8 which makes 385 horsepower and 430 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Towing prowess is one of the Ford Super Duty's strong suits. The truck gets a best-in-class gooseneck towing capacity of up to 37,000 lbs. along with a best-in-class maximum conventional towing of 24,200 lbs. Towing safety features outlined in Ford's helpful trailer and towing guide include the Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera System, Trailer Reverse Guidance, and Trailer Brake Control. 

Max Towing Capacity: 37,000 pounds

Starting MSRP: $35,745

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