What requirements are needed for non-CDL hot shot trucking? What qualifications are necessary for non-CDL hotshot truck drivers to legally drive commercial vehicles?

Discovering the right qualifications and certificates needed for a job can become confusing. So, to make your life easier, we discuss everything you need to know about the requirements for non-CDL hot shot truck driving.

If you’re thinking about a career in non-CDL hot shot trucking, then this article provides all the information you need to know about the legal requirements.

So, if you want to learn about the requirements for non-CDL hot shot trucking, keep reading!

What Does Non-CDL Hot Shot Trucking Mean?

Hot shot trucking is a type of truck driving that involves the pick-up and delivery of items.

Instead of Class 8 OTR trucks that ship items from terminal to terminal, and that require other trucks to pick up and deliver the items, hot shot trucking delivers the items directly to the location.

Non-CDL hot shot trucking refers to hot shot trucking without a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

In many states, a hotshot truck driver is not required to get a CDL unless they are driving commercial vehicles that are over 26,000 lb. However, this does depend on the state, as in some states a CDL is required for commercial vehicles over 10,000 lb.

To summarize, hot shot driving without a CDL refers to a method of truck driving that does not require a commercial driver’s license.

What Are The Requirements For Non-CDL Hot Shot Truck Driving?

Below are the requirements for non-CDL hotshot truck drivers.

Drivers Qualification File

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires all companies to ensure commercial motor vehicle carriers have a driver’s qualification file, this includes non-CDL truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also requires all non-CDL hotshot truck drivers to register for the Driver Qualification File (DQF).

This is a record that the employer is required to maintain for each driver. This document proves that the driver, including non-CDL drivers, is qualified to drive a commercial vehicle safely. Non-CDL drivers require a Driver Qualification File if the vehicle weighs between 10,001 and 26,000 lb. Vehicles over 26,000 lb require a CDL.

Regardless of weight, all non-CDL truck drivers need to register for a Driver Qualification File if:

  • The driver is transporting hazardous materials. Hazardous materials are defined by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
  • The driver is transporting more than 8 people (this includes the driver) for compensation.
  • The driver is transporting more than 15 people (this includes the driver) for no compensation.

Truck drivers should contact the state agency that regulates commercial vehicles in their state, as some states may have different regulations than the FMCSA regulations.

State Motor Record (MVR)

If a company hires a non-CDL truck driver, the company needs to get a motor vehicle record from every state the non-CDL truck driver has held a permit and a driving license within the past three years.

The information must be added to the non-CDL truck driver’s Driver Qualification File within 30 days of the individual being hired.

Driver’s Employment Application

All employers need to ensure that the non-CDL truck driver’s employment application is included in the Driver’s Qualification File.


It must be included in their Driver’s Qualification File while the individual is employed, and for three years after they stop working for the employer.

Verification of Past Employment

All non-CDL truck drivers who are hired to work for a company need to be investigated, to ensure their safety record is sufficient.

The individual must fill out a release form, which allows the company to request their records and safety history from past employers. The release form must be added to the Driver’s Qualification File.

All responses must be reported to the Driver’s Qualification File.

Road Test Certification

All non-CDL truck drivers must have a certificate showing they have passed the road test. The certificate is valid for three years.

Annual MVR

Employees require an update of the non-CDL truck driver’s motor vehicle record (MVR) every year.

Annual List of Violations

Non-CDL truck drivers are required to give their employers a list of all of their traffic violations during the past 12 months. Parking violations do not count.

Medical Exam

All non-CDL truck drivers require a medical exam and a certificate of the exam. This must occur when the non-CDL truck driver is hired, and every two years after.

Non-CDL truck drivers also need to keep a copy of their medical certificate in their vehicles for proof.

Why Do Hot Shot Truck Drivers Not Have a CDL?

Not all hotshot truck drivers have a CDL.

The reality is, a CDL is not necessary for hotshot truck drivers. While it is a bonus to certain companies, it is not a requirement for most companies. Many companies are happy for truck drivers to learn from experience and do not need a CDL.

There are cons to not having a CDL, for hotshot truck drivers, however.

  • Non-CDL hotshot truck drivers are not legally allowed to drive outside the United States.
  • Non-CDL hotshot drivers earn less on average than CDL hotshot truck drivers.
  • Some companies will not accept hotshot truck drivers unless they have a CDL (however, many companies do not require a CDL, also).


A CDL is not needed by all hotshot truck drivers. Some hot-shot truck drivers choose to obtain a CDL because they want to be able to drive anywhere, including outside the United States.

Non-CDL hotshot drivers still require many qualifications and certificates before they can legally drive commercial vehicles, but they require fewer qualifications and certificates than CDL hotshot drivers.

This article covered all the qualifications needed for non-CDL hotshot drivers.




What is the best trailer length for a non CDL hotshot? ›

Typically, a non-CDL hotshot driver should aim for a trailer size between 30 and 40 feet. This size range ensures that the total weight of the truck, trailer, and cargo stays below the 26,000-pound threshold, which is the maximum allowed weight before a CDL is required.

What is the best truck for a non CDL hotshot? ›

What is the best truck for non CDL hotshot? One of the best trucks for non-CDL hotshots is the 2022 RAM 250, which can carry heavy loads. Can I hotshot with a 2500? You can perfectly hotshot with a 2500 as it can effortlessly tow up to 17,00 lbs.

Is non-CDL Hotshot profitable? ›

How much does a Non Cdl Hotshot make? As of May 28, 2024, the average annual pay for a Non Cdl Hotshot in the United States is $83,333 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $40.06 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,602/week or $6,944/month.

Can Hotshot run without a dot number? ›

Hot shot truckers may not be subject to all of the same regulations as drivers who operate larger vehicles. However, you will need to obtain a DOT medical card, commercial driver's license (CDL), and—if you're involved in interstate commerce—a DOT and MC number.

What is the average weight for a non CDL hotshot load? ›

To meet non CDL hot shot trucking requirements, your vehicle/trailer combination will need to have a GCWR below 26,000 pounds and your trailer must weigh less than 10,000 pounds. However, if you have a commercial vehicle, you'll need a CDL license.

What is the longest trailer length without a CDL? ›

Length: 53'6″ trailer & load Overhang: 60′ poles, pipes, machinery, steel beams or other objects of a structural nature do not require a permit for daylight travel for up to 90′ overall length. Night travel requires a permit. Otherwise, up to 53'6″ trailer/load is allowed without permit.

What is the biggest non CDL truck? ›

The largest truck you can operate without a CDL must weigh less than 26,000 lbs., which is the maximum weight allowable for non-CDL truck drivers. Additionally, a truck driver without a CDL may also tow a single-axle trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of up to 10,000 lbs.

What is the most you can haul without a CDL? ›

Federal laws require a CDL when the GVWR is over 26,000 pounds. A CDL is also required per federal regulations if the GCWR exceeds 26,000 lbs and the trailer GVWR of 10,000 lbs or exceeds it. While valid for most states nationwide, some exceptions may require less.

Do I need a dually for Hotshot? ›

The Equipment Needed for Hot Shot Trucking

I recommend getting a dually pickup truck, but that comes down to personal preference. For trailers, bumper pull, gooseneck trailers, tilt deck and dovetail all have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on what you're hauling.

What hot shot load does the most pay? ›

Construction equipment: Hotshot truckers can make a lot of money transporting construction equipment, such as excavators, bulldozers, and backhoes. These loads are often time-sensitive, as construction projects often have tight deadlines. Oversized loads: Oversized loads are also a good option for hotshot truckers.

How much can a local Hotshot driver make? ›

Non Cdl Hotshot Salary in California
Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Top Earners$140,040$67
75th Percentile$116,700$56
25th Percentile$64,800$31

How to make money without CDL? ›

High-paying driver jobs without a CDL
  1. Emergency medical technician. ...
  2. Chauffeur. ...
  3. Delivery driver. ...
  4. Motorman. ...
  5. Van driver.
Apr 18, 2024

What type of authority do I need for Hotshot? ›

Hotshot driver license requirements are relatively straightforward. All you need is a regular driver's license, your Department of Transportation Medical Card, and operating authority from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to start moving freight legally across state lines.

Can you hotshot with a 2500? ›

Yes, you can hotshot with a 2500 truck, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you will need to make sure that your truck is properly equipped for hotshot towing. This means having a heavy-duty hitch, a brake controller, and a weight distribution system.

What is the best truck for hot shot trucking? ›

1. Ford F-250/F-350/F-450 Super Duty. The Ford F-Series is among the best trucks for hot shot trucking. These pickups have been the best-selling vehicles in the United States for decades, and their dependability and capability have been repeatedly demonstrated.

What size trailer is good for Hotshot? ›

Most hot shot trailers on the market today are 30 to 40 feet long — shorter than a standard flatbed, which are typically 48 or 53 feet long. A hot shot trailer can't haul freight longer than the length of the trailer.

What is the largest trailer without a CDL? ›

Federal laws require a CDL when the GVWR is over 26,000 pounds. A CDL is also required per federal regulations if the GCWR exceeds 26,000 lbs and the trailer GVWR of 10,000 lbs or exceeds it.

What is the most common hotshot trailer? ›

By far the most common length for gooseneck hot shot trailers is 40 feet. On a PJ Gooseneck this gives you a total length of 49 feet. Longer trailers might give you the ability to haul more freight, but can be restrictive depending on the state laws.

How much does a non-CDL 40 foot trailer weigh? ›

Stock No: Trail MAXX 40' non cdl 12k
Width:102" or 8'
Weight:7600 lbs
GVWR:12000 lbs
Payload Capacity:4400 lbs
6 more rows

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