Hotshot hauling with owner-operator Jeff Ward

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Updated Sep 4, 2015

Jeff Ward's rig

I got the opportunity today to meet Villa Rica, Ga.-based Jeff Ward and his 2012 Ford F350, outfitted with a Cadet flatbed body, gooseneck hitch and PJ trailer (pictured, above). Ward drove over-the-road in another life (up into the 1990s with Averitt Express), before he went out and got his authority hauling local with dump trucks.

He got into running hotshot when the housing market crashed several years ago around the Atlanta area. A local business that dealt in aluminum for high-rise building projects there told him, “If you go by a truck and trailer to haul these bundles of aluminum, I can have you working on Monday.” That conversation took place the prior Wednesday. Ward “bought a truck and trailer on Saturday and,” sure enough, “went to work on Monday.”

Ward rechristened his independent business Brady’s Hotshot Hauling, named for his youngest son, who from an early age thought it was something else to have your name on the door of the truck. When Ward moved from dump trucks to hotshots, he “put Brady’s name on the door instead.” Since the inception of the business, Ward’s moved on from his original 2008-model F450 to this 350, which held benefits in more ways than one. Chiefly, fuel mileage: the 350’s more than 4 mpg better than the 450 on average, which typically managed around 8 mpg.Ward rechristened his independent business Brady’s Hotshot Hauling, named for his youngest son, who from an early age thought it was something else to have your name on the door of the truck. When Ward moved from dump trucks to hotshots, he “put Brady’s name on the door instead.” Since the inception of the business, Ward’s moved on from his original 2008-model F450 to this 350, which held benefits in more ways than one. Chiefly, fuel mileage: the 350’s more than 4 mpg better than the 450 on average, which typically managed around 8 mpg.

 

The Cadet body on the unit Ward spec’d for its versatility. I met him on his run back from a somewhat regular haul up I-24 from an Atlanta-area manufacturer of aluminum signal houses for railroad operations to a facility just beyond the Kentucky-Tennessee line. Some of his more local loads are light enough — 3,000 pounds or less — to fit on the flatbed alone, which improves fuel mileage sometimes up to an average of 17-18 mpg or more, Ward says.The Cadet body on the unit Ward spec’d for its versatility. I met him on his run back from a somewhat regular haul up I-24 from an Atlanta-area manufacturer of aluminum signal houses for railroad operations to a facility just beyond the Kentucky-Tennessee line. Some of his more local loads are light enough — 3,000 pounds or less — to fit on the flatbed alone, which improves fuel mileage sometimes up to an average of 17-18 mpg or more, Ward says.

 

He’s got 25 feet of wooden-deck space on the trailer, with an additional five on the rear if he doesn’t need the spring-loaded dovetail that pulls out into a set of ramps for the occasional piece of powered equipment he may haul.He’s got 25 feet of wooden-deck space on the trailer, with an additional five on the rear if he doesn’t need the spring-loaded dovetail that pulls out into a set of ramps for the occasional piece of powered equipment he may haul.

 

The P.J. Trailer’s rears are single-tire affairs and each rated around 7,000 lbs. His top-end payload, he says, is just 10,000 pounds, his max combination weight all told at around 26,000, where he’s tagged. With the 450, he occasionally maxed up to 35,000 lbs. all told, he says, but these days he doesn’t need that kind of weight and prefers lighters loads in any case for fuel savings.The P.J. Trailer’s rears are single-tire affairs and each rated around 7,000 lbs. His top-end payload, he says, is just 10,000 pounds, his max combination weight all told at around 26,000, where he’s tagged. With the 450, he occasionally maxed up to 35,000 lbs. all told, he says, but these days he doesn’t need that kind of weight and prefers lighters loads in any case for fuel savings.

 

The F350 Lariat is a sharp truck from the front end, which Ward appreciates. In this business, he notes, “image is about 50 percent of” everything, “service makes up the rest.” He’s been successful mostly hauling direct for shippers within a maximum range of the Atlanta area of 300 miles, as well as this one semi-regular haul (brokered through Seamates in New Jersey) up to to Kentucky.The F350 Lariat is a sharp truck from the front end, which Ward appreciates. In this business, he notes, “image is about 50 percent of” everything, “service makes up the rest.” He’s been successful mostly hauling direct for shippers within a maximum range of the Atlanta area of 300 miles, as well as this one semi-regular haul (brokered through Seamates in New Jersey) up to to Kentucky.

Which is all to say, here’s to a fellow hauler, eh? Small truck and all, Ward’s clearly a pro. I’m working on a broader feature about hotshot hauling — it’s been nearly six years since we gave close consideration to the niche. (Hotshots in the audience, raise hands high.) If you’ve got tips on spec’ing right to the payload, maximizing rates, reducing costs, finding customers or any pertinent topic relative to the niche, be in touch: tdills@randallreilly.com.