Do I need a CDL for Hotshot?

cdl badges (1).jpg
We don’t need no stinkin’ badges
— Says the outlaw

Hotshot Trucking without a CDL

You need a CDL if ….Spoiler Alert:

If you’re serious about a hotshot business, you’re gonna need a CDL. Here’s why


Truck GWVR + Trailer GVWR = 26,001 lbs or more

The GVWR of a typical Ram 3500 is 11,000 lbs.

The GVWR of a typical 40 ft gooseneck is 23,900 lbs

Do you need a calculator?
— Go head, no one's watching

11,000 + 23,900 = 34,900 lbs

Ok, math class. 34,900 is more than 26,001.

So you need a CDL.

If you’re already thinking, I’m getting a smaller truck or trailer….hope you’re also thinking, I’m gonna make less money. That’s what you get for thinking.

That’s what you get
— For Thinking SMALL

Hauling less, Earning less

Let’s go at this another way. Forget the GVWR of the truck for a second. The other Rule-of-Thumb, is how much you’re towing.

If you’re under 10,000 lbs you don’t need a CLD.

The Middle Finger Rule
— New Rule of Thumb

Hold on Skippy

See that 10,000 lb tow weight? Ah, that includes the weight of your empty trailer.

Add your empty trailer weight and your freight weight, you’d have to be under 10,000 lbs.

So unless you got a tiny trailer
— and I'm not saying you do

You can forget getting a 40 ft trailer. Cause naked, she weighs a solid 7,400 lbs.
If you are trying to stay under 10,000, you can only load (go ahead Mr Calculator, I’ll wait…)

Bingo! 2,600 lbs.

How much is THAT gonna earn ya??

If you’re brain is already going down the non-CDL path, please close this window & get on then. Pick up some cardboard and markers on your way out, so you’re ready for the “Will work for food” destination.

Let’s just re-cap

You can’t pick and choose bits of the rules

IF the GVWR of your truck and trailer is greater than 26,000 lbs - you need a CDL.

IF you are towing, including the trailer weight, greater than 10,000 lbs - you need a CDL.

But Officer.....
— Scale weight: 10,005

Ignorance is not bliss. And it won’t get you out of trouble, no matter how cute you think you are.


Getting a CDL is easier than you thought

  1. Download or go pick up the CDL study manual from your state’s dept of transportation or DMV

  2. Yes, it’s all about semi trucks. Read and study. Go take the computerized exams.

  3. Hold your permit for 14 days. Go play with your truck.

  4. Take the driving (maneuvers!) test IN YOUR PICK UP TRUCK & TRAILER

Test in your pick up truck
— Yes, you heard me correctly

The CDL manual is FREE. Do not pay anyone for one.

CDL schools either require you do this part on your own before coming, or they sit you in a seat for about 3 days and say, Read it.

You don’t need to go to CDL school

See, I just saved you $6500
— You can tip me anytime

CDL school is a place to start semi trucking. If you’re gonna hotshot in a pick up, there’s no need to shell out $5 or $6 grand to do it.


The CDL manual is all about semi trucks. That’s the biggest player in the industry, so read, read, read. Now, go take the computerized tests.

Once you pass, they’ll give you a permit. You must hold it for 14 days before you can take the driving test.

So go play with your truck and trailer. Practice the maneuvers they require. Get yourself a couple of cones and an empty parking lot. Parallel park, both sides. Get it in the hole - docking the trailer. And so on.

Go take the CDL driving test in your pick up truck and trailer - because you are allowed to test in the vehicle you are going to use for work. This is your commercial vehicle.

Once you pass, you will get a CDL with restrictions - those restrictions will include Air Brakes. And if you’re in an automatic, they’ll indicate that too.

And? ... So what?
— It's still a CDL

And? So what? If you ever want to drive a semi, you’ll have to go test again with air brakes and/or manual shifting to get those restrictions removed.

But if you’re goal is hotshot, what the heck do you care? It’s still a CDL.

The longer you have your CDL, the more options you’ll have….like getting a lower insurance rate.

So go get your CDL now

Jill MichaelTrucking