Will Transportation Technology Mean The End of Hot Shot Trucking?
January 10, 2019
Fast and flexible, hot shot trucking provides an invaluable service. But as smart tools extend standard trucking capabilities, these drivers will have to innovate to compete.
Hot shot trucking typically refers to rush freight hauling by a freelance driver or specialized company. It doesn’t describe just any expedited delivery, as the rigs are actually smaller, typically class 3-5 pickups connected to a trailer, allowing for very different capabilities than a semi truck. Hot shot trucking jobs involve hauling time-sensitive and individualized cargo that falls outside of what traditional companies find profitable.
Sometimes referred to as the “Wild West” of trucking, the hot shot industry is said to have started in the oil fields, where individual truckers would stand by to deliver vital parts to the oil rigs, helping companies avoid lost time. Now all manner of industries and individuals depend on urgent delivery of everything from electrical equipment to livestock — and until recently, only these operations have had the logistical agility to get the job done.
However, smart trucking technology is coming online that promises to make fixed distribution trucking companies more efficient, able to adapt their logistics to last-minute demands and provide more flexible service to clients. Hot shot truckers will have to adjust to these changes — or risk becoming obsolete.
The Historical Role of Hot Shot Trucking
A range of industries rely on instant delivery, and hot shot drivers often choose a niche, like agriculture, manufacturing, or government. Typical freight could include perishables like meat and produce, critical medical supplies, or electrical equipment. Drivers are likely to deal with unusual cargo, too, like carnival rides or vintage cars.
The ability of these drivers to make express deliveries is key to their success. For a busy restaurant out of supplies, a construction site lacking crucial equipment, or an event waiting on stage setups, personalized and fast service is a must. Fixed distribution truckers might be able to carry this freight, but have to fit it into their schedule — and detours can be costly.
Although hot shot truckers do bid on regular loads, sometimes lowering prices, in general they can charge more due to the urgency and special handling required. While 18-wheelers are left waiting at loading docks in order to fill their hold and ensure profitability, these freelance drivers have the flexibility to take on partial load deliveries of a much smaller size.
Because hot shot trucks are smaller, they can perform jobs that big rigs can’t. Hot shot trucks can more easily navigate urban spaces and fit into smaller construction sites for closer delivery. They are able to drive back roads, and can drop off at more unusual locations. Larger operations often hesitate to focus on individualized client needs for last-mile delivery, which can represent around 28% of total delivery costs.
Hot shot trucking also represents one of the more secure transportation methods, as it involves just one driver, with a route dedicated to the customer’s needs alone. For hazardous waste, sensitive materials, or government projects, hot shot trucking is often the best choice.
Tech Threatens Hot Shot Niche
Technology has already changed hot shot delivery. In the early days, finding gigs meant waiting on a phone call or slowly building client relationships. Now, load boards allow truckers of all stripes to find jobs more easily than ever, relieving some of the stress and work of seeking out clients, and helping to eliminate deadheading.
Truckers can pick up hauls spontaneously and fill in gaps in their schedules. Utilizing the smart features increasingly available through some of these load boards, like fuel cost calculators and smart route planning, has already helped independent drivers improve efficiencies. And those who’ve invested in automatic logging have eliminated time-consuming paperwork hours.
But as smart tech proliferates, more truckers have discovered that situational awareness platforms can actually provide them with some of the flexibility traditionally associated with hot shot jobs. Commercial truck tracking devices, and improved shipment tracking, means that standard fleets can more easily make detours in their schedule based on last-minute demands from clients. Savvy calculation tools mean that companies can realize profits with smaller, one-time jobs typically outside their wheelhouse.
How Hot Shot Trucking Can Evolve
As the industry shifts, hot shot trucking will have to transform. No, it won’t disappear entirely. Standard companies aren’t rushing to haul an individual’s boat or fit an oil pipe in with their boxed cargo — clearly, pickup trucks and trailers are better suited to many cargo requirements.
But at the moment, hot shot work is scattered, fragmented by location, speciality, and communication. It retains the Wild West feel of its early days, with freelancers often scrambling to bid on jobs and establish their reputation. That disorganization comes at a price. As standard trucking begins to incorporate smart platforms for enhanced situational awareness, hot shot freelancers and fleets may find themselves left behind if they fail to optimize their logistics, or if they can’t offer certain services.
With increasingly affordable technological solutions, the industry as a whole is poised to transform and streamline. Situational awareness means using data to create a complete understanding of your environment, so that you can make better decisions in real-time. Integrated data helps drivers understand if a gig fits into their route map, and if a proposal will be profitable after costs — so they can confidently say yes to an immediate opportunity. Smart truck and freight tracking adds assurance for clients throughout the process. In the hot shot industry, where distance is time, and time is money, intelligent trucking platforms are a surefire way to unload the chaos of traditional hot shot trucking.