Non-CDL Hot Shot Trucking Requirements in 2023: Everything You Need To Know 

Thang Truong
Thang Truong
Updated on:

Hot shot trucking, an exciting sector of the freight industry, involves transporting time-sensitive loads across vast distances, often to meet critical deadlines. Unlike traditional trucking, hot shot trucking typically uses smaller, more agile vehicles, making it a unique niche. In this context, “non-CDL” refers to the fact that the truck’s weight does not necessitate a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate.

Non-CDL hot shot trucking requirements

When it comes to non-CDL hot shot trucking, there are specific equipment and driver requirements one must meet to get started.

Equipment requirements

While hot shot trucking can be performed with various vehicles, the most commonly used are 1-ton or 3/4-ton pickups. These trucks are capable of hauling significant loads while staying under the 26,000-pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) limit that would require a CDL. Besides, some hot shot drivers also utilize flatbed trailers to accommodate larger or irregularly shaped freight.

Driver requirements

The driver requirements for non-CDL hot shot trucking generally include being at least 21 years of age, having a valid driver’s license, and passing a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination. A good driving record, exceptional navigational skills, and the ability to handle long hours on the road are also essential.

Just like any other business, hot shot trucking comes with its own set of legal and insurance obligations. While specifics can vary by location, most hot shot truckers need at least liability insurance, physical damage coverage, and cargo insurance. Also, adherence to local, state, and federal regulations, including obtaining necessary permits, is a must. Below are the details of hot shot trucking insurance requirements

Trucking liability insurance requirements

Trucking liability insurance is the most fundamental requirement for any commercial vehicle, including hot shot trucks. This insurance covers the costs associated with bodily injury or property damage caused by your truck in the event of an accident.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stipulates a minimum liability coverage of $750,000 for general freight, but the recommended amount is often $1 million. This goes for interstate hot shot truckers – those operating across state lines.

Intrastate truckers – those operating within one state only – are regulated by their respective state’s laws, which may have different minimum liability requirements. These can range widely, so it’s essential to check with the specific regulations of your operating state.

Cargo insurance requirements for hot shot truckers

Cargo insurance protects the goods you’re transporting, ensuring you can cover the costs if they are damaged or lost. The specific amount of cargo insurance you need will depend on the types of goods you’re hauling. FMCSA does not require cargo insurance, but some shippers and brokers will not work with you unless you carry it.

Trucking physical damage insurance requirements for hot shot truckers 

Trucking physical damage insurance covers your truck and trailer against damage, whether from an accident, fire, theft, or other perils. The cost and need for this coverage will depend on the value of your equipment.

Non-trucking liability or bobtail insurance covers your truck when you’re not under dispatch or carrying cargo.

Please note that these are just general guidelines. Insurance needs can vary widely based on factors like the nature of the goods you’re hauling, the areas in which you’re operating, and the specific demands of your clients. It’s always best to consult with an insurance professional who is familiar with the hot shot trucking industry to ensure you have the coverage you need.

Hot shot trucking insurance costs can be a significant expense of your hot shot trucking business. Be sure to shop around with few companies to find the cheapest quote for you. Here are the best hot shot trucking insurance companies that we recommend for your consideration.

The business side of non-CDL hot shot trucking

Successfully operating a hot shot business requires more than just meeting the basic requirements. It also involves understanding how to find loads, negotiate rates, and build lasting relationships within the industry.

Advantages and disadvantages of non-CDL hot shot trucking

Non-CDL hot shot trucking offers the potential for lucrative earnings and the flexibility of being your own boss. However, it can also be challenging, with irregular hours, extensive travel, and the pressure of meeting tight deadlines.

How to start a non-CDL hot shot trucking business

Starting a non-CDL hot shot trucking business involves acquiring the right vehicle and equipment, securing necessary insurance coverage, and completing all relevant legal paperwork. Moreover, effective marketing and a commitment to delivering top-notch service are critical to achieving success in this competitive field.

FAQs about non-CDL hot shot trucking:

1. What is the income potential for non-CDL hot shot trucking?

Earnings can vary widely, but many successful hot shot truckers report earning over $200,000 per year.

2. Do non-CDL hot shot truckers require a special license?

No special license is required, but you must have a valid driver’s license and pass a DOT physical.

3. What type of freight do hot shot truckers typically haul?

Hot shot truckers transport a wide variety of goods, including auto parts, construction equipment, and other time-sensitive cargo.

4. Is non-CDL hot shot trucking a good career choice?

The answer largely depends on your personal circumstances and preferences. Non-CDL hot shot trucking offers independence and the potential for significant earnings. However, it can also involve long hours, extensive travel, and the stress of meeting tight deadlines.

5. How can I find loads as a non-CDL hot shot trucker?

Loads can be found through a variety of methods, including load boards, direct relationships with shippers, and freight brokers. Networking within the industry can also lead to opportunities.

6. What is the difference between hot shot trucking and standard trucking?

Hot shot trucking generally involves the transport of time-sensitive loads using smaller, more agile vehicles. In contrast, standard trucking typically involves larger trucks (like semi-trucks) and may not be as time-sensitive.

The world of non-CDL hot shot trucking can be complex and demanding, but for the right individual, it can also be a fulfilling and profitable career choice. Understanding the specific requirements of the industry is the first step towards a successful hot shot trucking business.


Entering the world of non-CDL hot shot trucking requires meeting a variety of requirements, from the equipment you use to the way you conduct your business. However, with dedication and strategic planning, it can be an exciting and profitable venture.

Thang Truong

Thang Truong covers small business insurance and small business success at BravoPolicy. He is a licensed P&C insurance agent. Previously, he held product leadership positions at, Capital One, NerdWallet, and Mulberry Technology. He holds a MBA degree from UC Berkeley - Haas School of Business.

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