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How much do hotshot loads pay?

There are numerous opportunities for trucking positions within the industry. Whether you choose to work for a traditional trucking employer or start your own business, there is no right or wrong. 

But before you make a decision on a career change, having all the pertinent data will help guide your choice – which is why you’re here. Hotshot truckers deliver time-sensitive loads. Continue reading to learn more about what you can expect a career in hotshot trucking to look like and the amount of income you can expect to make.

And when you’re finished, check out the other articles in our ‘Hotshot trucking’ series:

What is hotshot trucking?

Hotshot trucking is when a truck driver delivers time-sensitive loads to a customer. There are many reasons for the expedited service, but the rush delivery is part of the appeal to many drivers. No one day will be identical to the next. 

Hotshot drivers tend to haul smaller, LTL loads to a single customer or location. Once the job is complete, they are on to the next. Hotshot trucking is not a full-time employment position. Instead, drivers act as independent contractors, which has its pros and cons depending upon what you’re looking for in a career. 

How are hotshot rates calculated?

There are many factors that have to be considered when calculating hotshot rates. Things like urgency, load size, location, and type of load all play a factor in calculating rates. Some rates are even lower if they’re considered a partial load as well. 

Many people like to gauge their payment off a pay-per-mile rate. In order to calculate this figure, you should take the rate that you’ll be receiving for the entire delivery then divide it by the mileage you’re expected to drive. 

This will give you a pay-per-mile freight rate. Once you have this number, you’ll be able to determine if the rate is on par with what you’re expecting and industry standards. Just remember, a smaller load that can be delivered with only a small truck will pay differently than a large load that requires the use of a Class 8 semi. 

How much do hotshot loads pay per mile?

As we mentioned above a time or two, hotshot loads do not have a flat pay per mile. Instead, each load is based on the factors outlined above. However, to help guide you to determine if a load is a good opportunity or not, we’ll explore the industry averages. Again, these are just averages to give you an example, and nothing is set in stone. 

Generally, hotshot load rates sit around $1.50 per mile. Jobs that are more complex or more urgent can pay up to $2 per mile. And, of course, jobs that are easier to complete sometimes pay a minimum of $1 per mile. 

How much should I charge for my hotshot services?

There are many factors that you should consider before determining what to charge for your hotshot service. First, start by finding the going outbound rate for hotshot services in your city. 

Compare all the highest and lowest rates to determine the average in your area. Once you’ve determined how much others are charging, you then need to look at how much it costs to operate your business. 

You don’t want to offer your services so cheap that you can’t return a profit. If you only run a 3,500 dually, your costs will be lower than if you run a semi. Be sure to take all these and other overhead factors into consideration before determining how much to charge for your service. 

How much money can you make as a hotshot driver?

If you were to talk to 100 different drivers, they would all tell you a different figure for how much they earn for their hotshot services. The earning potential relies on factors such as load type and size, but also how frequently you work. If you are constantly hustling and on the road, you have the potential to be a top earner. However, if you want the freedom to pick and choose when you work, your income could still be comfortable but less than top performers. 

All that being said, on average a hotshot trucker makes between $60,000 to $120,000 in gross annual income. Keep in mind that hotshot trucking does require you to pay for your own expenses as well. Fuel, maintenance, insurance, licenses, fees, food, tolls, ELD, and more all come out of your pocket, which will impact your overall income. 

How to find loads for hotshot trucking?

There are a few ways that you can find hotshot trucking loads. The first is the good ol’ fashioned way of contacting potential clients directly. Pick up the phone and call manufacturers, auto dealers, or other professionals who can help you. 

This requires a lot of extra work but can provide you with a trusted relationship with your clients where they turn to you time after time.

The second and most common option is to use hotshot trucking load boards. These load boards do require a fee for their service, but they are able to match your equipment and desired routes with the current needs of clients to help you find a match quickly. 

Factors to consider with hotshot trucking rates

As we explored above, there are factors that you should consider when determining what an appropriate hotshot trucking rate should be. 

Size of freight

What are you hauling? Is it a small load that can be completed with just a truck, an LTL load, or a full truckload? There’s the possibility that the load could be oversized or hazardous as well. 

All of these factors should be considered when determining the trucking rate. A smaller or LTL load will pay less per mile than a full truckload or oversized load. 


Location is also an important factor. Getting the freight from point A to point B can tell you how many miles you’re expected to drive and the timeframe, but the location is more than that. If your home base is in a location where there is a high demand for hotsshot truckers, the price you can charge will increase. 

It’s all about the availability of quality drivers and the demand for them. If you’re in a competitive market, you might be forced to charge less to keep active. 

Distance traveled

Here’s where it’s important to figure out what is required to get from point A to point B. How many miles will you be traveling? Are there any tolls on this trip? How much fuel is required? 

All of these questions are important to address before determining how much to charge for the hotshot rate. There are times where you’re able to negotiate a return fee for your load, but that’s not always the case. Be sure to factor in all the variables. 


Urgency in just about every industry costs a premium, and hotshot trucking is no different. Customers expect to pay more to get their freight expedited. 

Personal expenses

The last thing you should consider with your hotshot trucking rate is how many personal expenses you will have on the road. Outside of tolls and fuel, will you need overnight accommodations? Will you need to eat out while you’re on the road? These expenses all play a factor into your bottom line, so they’re important to consider in your pricing. 

Advantages of hotshot trucking

If you’ve made it this far, it’s safe to say you’re likely considering the advantages of hotshot trucking to determine if it’s worth it. As a hotshot trucker, you’ll be afforded these advantages:

  • Lower start-up costs than other trucking businesses
  • Loads are generally local or regional
  • Loads are often expedited
  • Income tends to be equal to or better than most Class 8 pay

Disadvantages of hotshot trucking

But before you make the decision to jump into hotshot trucking, you should be aware of the disadvantages or potential drawbacks that might arise along the way.

  • Driver is self-employed and responsible for all out-of-pocket costs
  • Inconsistent demand for your service
  • Hard to grow a steady client base

Hotshot trucking earnings depend on you

That’s right. The answer to ‘How much can you make with hotshot trucking’ is based on many factors that are in your hands. Are you looking to work as frequently as possible, take urgent jobs, and drive further distances? If so, there’s great potential for pay. 

However, if you are picky about the loads you take and want the freedom to work when you want and how you want, your income will not be as high as others. There’s no guarantee to say how much you’re going to make as a hotshot driver, but if you’re dedicated to providing a reliable service it can be a great career and business opportunity.


What hot shot loads pay the most?

Hot shot loads that pay the most often involve urgent, expedited, or high-value cargo, and the rates can also be higher for specialized freight that requires additional equipment or permits, such as oversized loads.

Is it worth doing hotshot loads?

Whether it’s worth doing hotshot loads depends on several factors, including the potential earnings, the costs of operation (such as fuel, maintenance, insurance, and equipment costs), and personal considerations such as the irregular and potentially demanding schedule.

What’s the best truck for hotshot?

The best truck for hotshot trucking is typically a heavy-duty pickup like a Ford F-350 or Ram 3500, which offer a good balance of towing capacity, durability, and fuel efficiency. However, the ideal truck can vary depending on the specific requirements of the loads you plan to haul.

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