Small truck, big service

| December 12, 2008

“It’s a give-and-take business,” Brooks says. “If you’re good to your customers, they’ll take care of you.”

ACME Truck Line

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M&H Logistics, 760-868-4932

How hotshotters handle fuel costs
The predominantly independent model of most hotshot businesses means that fuel costs must be accounted for in different ways. Some hotshotters prefer to collect their freight rates and fuel surcharges as separate invoice items, but many simply put the two together.

For instance, owner-operators Mike Marvel and Ryan Baird, both running freight brokered by M&H Logistics, coincidentally convoyed recently from Los Angeles to Denver. The camaraderie was great, but the pay on the 1,200-mile haul was even better, Baird says: $2.70 a mile for Baird’s load, $2.80 for Marvel’s, for grosses of $3,240 and $3,360, respectively. That above-average pay included their fuel surcharge, both say.

In his hotshot days, owner-operator Robert Leonard allowed his rates to fluctuate month to month with diesel prices. “I went off the national averages and explained everything I was doing,” he says. “Most people understand that.”

Whatever the accounting procedure, haulers whose charges don’t somehow account for fuel won’t be hauling long. This alone should do wonders in eliminating fly-by-night haulers, says Melvin Brooks of three-truck Brooks Transport in Collinsville, Ala. He stays on the cell phone with his shippers, explaining every rate change amiably, and in detail.

Fuel mileage varies widely in hotshot trucks, depending on load weights and shapes. This is one reason deadheading often is worth suffering. For the same reason, however, hotshot trucks have more opportunity than Class 8 rigs to maximize fuel economy.

Fully loaded with a trailer to a gross vehicle weight of 36,000 pounds, an oft-quoted average of 10 mpg might be realized. With modification, though, owner-operator Robert Leonard has achieved 12 mpg to 15 mpg loaded and 27 mpg unloaded in his 2004 Dodge 3500.

He started with a transmission upgrade. “We didn’t upgrade the gears, but we put on a triple-lock billet torque converter,” he says. He also upgraded the injection system and runs synthetic oils. “We also run a mild 60- to 80-hp power module. It gives you a little more low-end oomph and helps you out with fuel mileage.”

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