Sticky Banner of Desktop Sticky Banner of Mobile
Menu Close

DOT Essentials for Hot Shot Trucking

Thinking about getting into hotshot trucking? Or, want to start your own hotshot trucking business? Well, you need to know some important rules and guidelines, and we’ll break them down for you.

Hotshot trucking is all about delivering small, time-sensitive shipments quickly. Think of it like the FedEx of heavy items like machinery and construction tools. As an owner-operator in this field, understanding the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is essential.

The fundamental reason these rules exist is to ensure safety. As someone in the hotshot industry or just starting, you must learn about the key regulations that will shape your career.

DOT Essentials for Hot Shot Trucking

DOT rules are made to protect the safety of drivers, passengers, and other road users. It is meant to govern hours of service, vehicle inspection requirements, and the transportation of hazardous materials that apply to your hot shot trucking businesses

It is necessary to stay updated with the most recent rules and consult with your legal professional to maintain complete DOT compliance in your hot shot trucking business. 

Go through the following particulars that would help you remain compliant and make the journey safer for everyone. 

Obtain Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

Not all hot shot loads require a CDL, but if you plan on hauling vehicles that meet or exceed certain weight thresholds, FMCSA has set up the rules for getting a CDL for vehicles that meet one or more of the parameters of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) described below:

Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more falls into the Class A category, including any towed units with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds.
Class B: Any single vehicle with a gross weight rating or gross vehicle weight greater than 26,001 pounds or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight less than 10,000 pounds.
Class C:Any vehicle or group of vehicles conveying materials classified as hazardous under federal law but does not fit the definitions of Class A or Class B.

Learn More: Hotshot Hauling – Get CDL to Expand Your Operations

Obtain Trucking Authority Numbers (USDOT and Motor Carrier)

You will require a USDOT Number if you intend to engage in interstate delivery of consignments and your vehicle satisfies specific weight requirements. Certain states may also require you to get a USDOT number even if you are only conducting intrastate business so you need to check the state’s rules you are operating in. 

You will also require a Motor Carrier (MC) number besides receiving your USDOT number. It is applicable in cases where you engage in interstate commerce for conveying freights you do not own and will be paid for this transportation.

Complying with Hours of Service (HOS)

If your hot shot trucking meets specific criteria set by DOT, you need to comply with HoS standards which are the most important rules. The rule limits how many hours you can work at a stretch and drive in a day and a week to address the risk of accidents due to driver tiredness and overwork. 

The typical HoS limitations set for the drivers are as follows:

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit: After 10 hours off-duty, you can drive for a maximum of 11 hours.
  • 30-minute break: You must take a 30-minute driving break if you’ve driven for 8 straight hours
  • 14-Hour on-duty limit: You are not permitted to work for more than 14 hours straight, including both driving and non-driving duties.
  • 60 or 70 hours weekly limit: You are not allowed to work more than 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days. 

Consider a scenario where you leave for work at 9 AM and drive for 6 hours. You must take a break for half an hour. 

Certain hotshot operators performing shorter trips may be exempted from HOS requirements. If a driver works within a 150-mile radius around the usual work reporting center and maintains the 14-hour maximum duty period, the driver is free from some HoS obligations.

Meeting Insurance Requirements

Insurance holds a critical role in this process and should not be underestimated. Hot shot truckers must adhere to specific insurance requirements established by the DOT. These standards are set to provide coverage for potential liabilities and accidents.

For hotshot carriers seeking to obtain authority, the FMCSA mandates particular insurance coverage requirements. The various types of insurance stipulations by DOT regulations are as follows:

  1. Public Liability Insurance: The coverage for individuals transporting freight (not passengers) varies from $750,000 to $5,000,000, depending on the nature of the cargo being transported.
  2. Reduced Threshold for Non-Hazardous Cargo: If you’re moving non-hazardous cargo with trucks weighing less than 10,000 pounds, the insurance requirement reduces to $300,000. This reduced threshold is a benefit available to hotshot truckers.
  3. Cargo Insurance for Household Goods: If your hot shot transport involves household goods, you’ll need cargo insurance of $5,000 per vehicle and $10,000 per occurrence of losses.

Choosing your insurance plans wisely is essential, ensuring coverage for physical injuries, vehicle damage, and loss or damage to cargo, as specified by the insurance policy. Your choice of coverage should align with factors such as the types of goods transported, the routes taken, vehicle conditions, and more. For example, cargo insurance is often recommended to provide financial protection for the trucker and the client in the event of unforeseen accidents. 

Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports

To make sure your truck and trailer are in good functioning order, it is essential to do regular vehicle inspections. It includes pre and post-trip checking and reporting in DOT-specified Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR) formats. If any flaws or problems are identified, it’s crucial to take care of them immediately for compliance and safety.

In addition, keeping correct records of other important parameters is also essential. To comply with DOT regulations, you must maintain e-logs, driver medical fitness reports, and documents of your driving history. 

Electronic logging devices (ELD) are also utilized to automate and guarantee accurate HOS recording. It may happen that DOT officials are auditing you on the road performing random checks for compliance. Having well-maintained and accurate records ready with you will help you establish your commitment toward compliance.

Follow Hazardous Material Regulations

Safety is crucial when carrying hazardous goods. Hence strict standards are prescribed by the DOT that must be followed. By ensuring compliance in transporting hazardous materials, you demonstrate ethical and responsible business practices while guaranteeing the environment’s and employees’ safety.

For instance, shipping hazardous chemicals requires proper packing, labeling, and storing as per specified standards. Each container must indicate the item’s identity, associated hazards, and emergency response information. Placards must also be attached to the transport vehicle so that first responders may quickly identify it in the event of an accident. Any noncompliance may result in serious consequences, including penalties and serious environmental risks.  

Drug and Alcohol Testing 

As an owner-operator engaged in operating a commercial motor vehicle, whether within a single state or across state lines, your participation in a DOT drug and alcohol testing program is mandatory. The primary objective of this program is to detect and address issues related to substance use among commercial drivers, with the ultimate goal of reducing the risk of traffic accidents.

To comply with this requirement, you will need to join a consortium, essentially an organization responsible for overseeing owner-operators’ involvement in the scheduled and random testing pool. The consortium plans and coordinates the drug testing process, ensures that accredited and approved testing facilities conduct the tests, and manages the random selection process.

As an illustration, suppose you’ve already enrolled in a consortium. At any point between 

February and July, you could be selected for testing without prior notice. This element of unpredictability fosters heightened vigilance and accountability not just for you but for all participants in the program.

Risks in Hotshot Trucking Industry – Why DOT Regulations Are Necessary?

Because of the nature of the work, there are several risks in this industry, like:

  • Time Pressure: Delivering time-sensitive or expedited loads is a common task for hotshot truckers. This may place undue pressure on the driver to complete the trip by the deadline, which may result in speeding and fatigue—both of which raise the possibility of accidents.
  • Long Hours: Hotshot drivers may work long hours on the road, similar to long-haul trucking. The risk of accidents can rise as a result of fatigued judgment and slower reaction times.
  • Equipment Maintenance: Safety depends on maintaining smaller trailers and trucks. Breakdowns on the road can be risky and expensive if maintenance is neglected.
  • Cargo Securement: Smaller loads might occasionally be harder to secure correctly in terms of cargo. Inadequately secured cargo may move during transit, resulting in mishaps or broken items.
  • Weather: Hotshot drivers may have to drive in inclement weather, such as rain, snow, ice, or intense heat. Driving could be more dangerous under these circumstances.
  • Traffic and road conditions: Hotshot truckers may be at risk from city traffic, construction zones, and badly maintained roadways. Urban surroundings and narrow places can be difficult to maneuver in.
  • Regulations: Hotshot drivers are nevertheless subject to many of the same standards as long-haul truckers, including those governing hours-of-service. Fines and higher safety concerns may be incurred for breaking these rules.
  • Cost of insurance: Due to the nature of the cargo and the time-sensitive nature of the work, insurance for hotshot trucking may be more expensive. Financial risk might come from high insurance premiums.
  • Client Expectations: It might be challenging to meet customers’ demands for quick delivery. Failure to do so can result in diminished reputation or lost business.

As we can see, hotshot trucking, although lucrative, does have various challenges. DOT regulations help these truckers navigate their jobs with safety. By complying with these rules, hotshot drivers can have a long and successful career in this industry.

One of the easiest things you can do to comply with these DOT regulations is get FMCSA-approved Matrack ELD. You can opt for a free trial and also save over $2K in one year. Want to know more? Book your free consultation here!

Advantages of Hot Shot Trucking

Many drivers find it advantageous to begin their careers in hot shot trucking. It can be a wise move to gain experience in driving hot shot trucks while awaiting the processing of your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

If your ultimate goal is to become a truck operator, starting in the hotshot industry can provide you with valuable experience that will be beneficial when you transition to hauling heavier commercial vehicles.

Hotshot trucking offers additional benefits, including:

1. Lower Barriers to Entry: Hotshot trucking often has lower startup costs and regulatory requirements compared to traditional long-haul trucking, making it more accessible to new drivers.

2. Improved Fuel Efficiency: Hot shot trucks are typically smaller and more fuel-efficient than larger commercial vehicles, which can result in cost savings on fuel expenses.

3. Reduced Operating Expenses: With smaller trucks and fewer administrative requirements, hot shot trucking can have lower operating expenses compared to larger freight operations.

In the United States, the hot shot trucking industry is emerging as a lucrative and profitable business, boasting a gross freight revenue of $732.3 billion for primary shipments by truck.

One of the most attractive aspects of hotshot trucking is that customers often benefit from these cost savings.


You can enjoy the experience of hot shot trucking and earn profits. Still, you need to consider the DOT guidelines to keep everything in place and everyone accountable for safety and compliance. With a structured plan and the use of the appropriate resources, you can make informed decisions and ensure that your hot-shot trucking business follows best practices and is ready to flourish.