Wikipedia defines a hotshot as: industry jargon for smaller sized equipment that can move freight faster than tractor-trailers. However, I would disagree because it doesn’t really capture the essence of what a hotshot is.
I would define a Hotshot as: When a transport vehicle travels directly from point A to point B for one freight item or order that is not a full load and the customer pays for the vehicle in its entirety due to the importance and urgency of which those item/s are needed. For example, it’s a spare part for a break down. Generally, once a hotshot is quoted and approved, the vehicle needs to be on route ASAP.
The difference between a Hotshot and Less Than Truck (LTL) loads are, all other LTL freight is consolidated to make up a full load and falls into standard transport systems that are designed to maximise a truck or transport carriers productivity opposed to maximising the quickest possible delivery speed.
Can a full load be a hotshot? …sometimes. Let’s say the full load was scheduled for delivery at 11 am the next day but for whatever reason the customer called up and needed that delivery to be done at 3 am. This has now become a service outside the perimeters of the carriers most efficient transport model because it requires changes to driver’s run’s and working hours to accommodate. One can argue, but a full load already pays for the vehicle in it’s entirety which is correct but due to the business impact on irregular working hours it increases costs in other places which warrants extra charges.
Each carrier goes through the motions to assess the capability and business impact when quoting hotshots and is one of the reasons pricing varies so much. Sometimes a Hotshot needs to be on the high end to make the lemon worth the squeeze. Sometimes there is a driver looking for an extra job that falls perfectly into his work hours and can be quoted reasonably. Some business see Hotshots as a side money grab where Supply’s Transport see’s Hotshots as our core business.