Car Haulers, a Strange Breed of Professional Truck Drivers

Car Haulers, a Strange Breed of Professional Truck Drivers
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People have a certain fascination with trucks. Who hasn’t, at one time in their life pumped their arms at a truck driver trying to get them to honk their air horn? And as common as trucks are as they deliver groceries, beer, livestock or the latest toys from Amazon, one breed of truck and driver stands out: the ubiquitous car hauler.

Car haulers sit in their trucks, loaded to the gills with 8, 9 or 10 new and shiny cars on the way to a dealership, and immediately all kinds of questions come to mind. How did they get the cars up there on the trailer, and back down again? Who placed them there? Do they ever shift, or get damaged? Who would want to do that job? And Why?

Here’s the story behind Car Haulers, big and little.

There Are Four Basic Types Of Car Haulers

According to Trucking SOS.com at Car Haulers and Wikipedia at Auto Transport There are four basic types of auto transport:

Type one is what we’ve just described. Whether driving across state lines or short hauls within the state, a great many truck driver primarily occupy themselves with delivering new cars, although some deliver used cars to used car lots.

The second type of car haulers are sometimes termed “hotshot” haulers. Let’s say you own a Classic Rolls Royce with very few miles on it, that has been restored for thousands of dollars and rarely sees the light of day except in car shows. The owner could transport it himself, or hire a hotshot to deliver it to the car show unharmed

The third type of car hauler, regardless of what kind of trailer he uses, or its capacity, delivers one or two cars a few hundred or even a few thousand miles. Let’s say a Captain in the Navy gets transferred from Virginia to San Diego. His car, more than likely, would be transferred by a carrier company.

Finally, there are, of course, people that transport their autos themselves, often renting an auto carrier from U-haul or Penske. Here’s a short article from Penske on renting their car hauler trailers Penske Car Trailers .

Car Haulers That Deliver New Cars

Let’s concentrate, for the moment on car haulers who deliver new cars.

Although some car haulers are entirely independent, the majority of the haulers work for a broker, who does all paperwork, hires dispatchers, makes contact with the client to inform them when to expect their cars, etc.

How Do They Get A Car Handler Job?

While some are trained directly by their brokers and carriers, the majority apply for work after having around two years of successful commercial driving experience. Some lucky drivers can get by with less, but the majority of the drivers need to have those two years of driving experience to get insured.

Although most drivers get paid for it, in the majority of instances, they must go back to a truck driving school for up to four weeks, to learn how to pack and unpack cars on their rig without damage.

Although originally posted in 2014, a very informative video is located on YouTube Called the In’s and Out’s of Car Hauling
Car Hauling . The video discusses general qualifications for becoming a commercial car hauler, as well as some information about how cars are loaded, and how one becomes proficient in the profession.

Another useful source for those seriously interested in becoming an over-the-road car hauler is an article by Trucker’s Training.com at Car Hauler Training which discusses more about the details of the profession in detail.

With a single load of cars being worth up to a quarter of a million dollars, learning how to load the cars and unload the cars from the carrier is an essential skill, and errors can be costly.

Let’s say, for example, a driver through accident or negligence makes a major dent in a new Cadillac Escalade, which costs $4,000 to repair. Not only does it take $4,000 to make the repairs, but the car can no longer be sold as new, warranting a discount of perhaps $10,000 more. So precision and care are essential for a car hauler.

The difference between any cars actual cost value and its replacement costs are also a key factor in carrier insurance according to Insurance Hub.com at Car Hauler Insurance .

So Why Become An Auto Hauler?

With so many requirements added to becoming a commercial car hauler, why do people enter the field? The answer is simple: money. Being a car hauler is one of the most lucrative of all trucking jobs.

Indeed.com, one of the nation’s largest job sites, currently lists 435 available car hauler jobs, with an average starting salary of $85,000, while experienced haulers are pulling down up to $115.000 dollars per year. Indeed Car Hauler Jobs .

Essential Requirements Of The Job

One should note that although there are literally hundreds of commercial car handler job openings, the companies that hire these drivers are extremely careful about who they hire.

First, there is the matter of insurance. As you can imagine, carrying typically a half million dollars or more insurance per car hauler is very expensive, so car haulers, even more so than other commercial truck drivers, must have nearly spotless driving records. Otherwise, there is a large risk of refusal of coverage.

Your driving record is not only important for insurance purposes but is the single largest indicator to whether you can be trusted with carrying a trailer full of new cars worth a quarter of a million dollars per load or more.

If you can’t be trusted to follow all the rules of the highway, what’s to indicate you can be trusted to load a truckful of expensive new cars to a dealership in a timely, efficient, and undamaged manner?

Two more quick details about car haulers. One is that they must have all their paperwork ready, completed and available for any state or highway enforcement official to review. And two, they must be very familiar with the various state laws, particularly if they drive throughout many states.

Various states have strict regulations on the height of a trailer, the weight, state-required tax certificates, insurance minimums, etc. Violating those regulations can be costly to the company you work for, as well as you personally.

An excellent article about some of the important qualities you will need as a car hauler, including general details about tax identification numbers, your US DOT Number, your Motor Carrier number, your insurance, and the importance of communication with your client is written by Rcgauto.com in their blog Be a Great Auto Hauler .

Hotshot Auto Haulers

Hotshot Auto Haulers, are specialists at transporting expensive, antique automobiles or in some cases, racing cars.

In contrast to the large 8 or 10-carrier, exposed to the elements semis that commercial car haulers use, HotShots carry vehicles in a closed container trailer, protecting it from the elements. Typically their vehicle of choice to pull the closed trailer is a large diesel 3500 truck.

It is perhaps extremely rare for a hotshot to transport more than two vehicles at a time, and often they transport just a single, rare vehicle.

There are no large hotshot transportation agencies. Typically, hotshots are car enthusiasts themselves and have the necessary experience to strap down a rare Bentley, Rolls Royce or Ferrari by moving their own vehicles to various car shows.

Hotshot’s live and die by forging personal relationships, as well as getting referrals from satisfied customers. To supplement their income, some hotshots also deliver purchased cars from specialty car auction sites.

Relatively speaking, Hotshot car hauling is a lucrative business. Experienced hotshots can make as much as $150,000 or more per year, but again, there are not hundreds of calls per year to transport rare or antique vehicles.

Expenses are less, however, with the exception of insurance. According to Rcgauto,
a typical driver transporting rare or antique autos may have as much as a million dollars worth of coverage on their insurance policy. Documentation .

Needless to say, there is no room for error at all in the Hotshot Auto Hauler business. Even a small scratch on a 70-year-old automobile with 20 coats of paint is a really big deal. For surely, not only will in involve an expensive repair but drive the owner of the vehicle out of the running for a car show or buyer’s auction.

Haggerty.com, an insurance agency specializing in antique car has a great little article at A Moving Experience discussing the ins and outs of moving an antique car.

Among the considerations they recommend include:

  • Take lots of digital photos of the car to establish its condition
  • Provide detailed start-up instructions for the vehicle, which may include the location of hidden switches
  • Charge the Battery before transporting
  • Check the anti-freeze levels
  • Don’t completely fill up the gas tank – a quarter of a tank is recommended
  • Store any extra items in the trunk of the car,
  • Read the transporter’s policies completely

Haggerty notes that when transporting a vehicle, you want to be sure and have full coverage on the vehicle itself. That’s because, in the event of damage, it will be the carrier’s insurance policy rather than the carrier itself who will be on the hook. But quite often, those payable claim rates may be less than adequate.

Another key, says Haggerty.com, is to use a carrier that has a commercial, power activated liftgate. That way, you don’t risk both cosmetic as well as serious mechanical damage by driving your cars up and down a ramp.

And while a tad off-subject, if you want to have a great laugh as well as to live a little nostalgia, check out YouTubes video of people transporting drag racing cars in the sixties Hauling Drag Cars in the 60s .

Moving An Ordinary Car Cross-Country

According to Angie’s List, a typical car, being moved from New York to Califonia, will cost around $800 to $1,000 to move, Shipping a Car but the price varies according to a number of factors.

  • The larger the vehicle, the more it will cost
  • It depends upon the route and the season. The more traffic on the route, generally the more expensive it will be
  • Is the car being shipped to a remote area of North Dakota? Expect to pay more
  • Summer time rates are generally more than in the winter
  • Don’t necessarily jump at the cheapest rates. There may be many unfortunate reasons they are the cheapest
  • Do your research and due diligence
  • Try to book as early as possible

Doing your research and not jumping at the first cheap rate are keys to having a good moving experience. And again, if you value your car, make sure you have your own insurance on the vehicle. Unfortunately, in the same Angie’s list article mentioned, Matthew Van Gelder, the owner of a shipping company explains that many carriers are either woefully low on coverage, or may in fact, not have any coverage at all.

Van Gelder says, “while some carriers offer cargo insurance, there is no law requiring it.”

Van Gelder recommends checking any carriers insurance to see if it meets the minimum you feel comfortable. $250,000 is the typical norm.

Moving Your Own Vehicle

Depending upon your circumstances, you may elect to transport a vehicle on your own. Such rental companies as U-Haul, Penske and Budget Truck Rental have car haul trailers for rent.

According to CostHelper.com, rates can be as low as $65 dollars per day to as high as $200 dollars per day. Renting a Car Hauler Trailer . Car Helper quotes an 8-day rental of a trailer from California to Chicago, as costing around $800.

This may be deemed somewhat costly compared to hiring a company to move your car cross-country, but there may be many reasons why you might want to do it, including you have more that one car to move, your vehicle is fairly large, and your move was fairly sudden and you didn’t have time to book a carrier before moving.

One thing to notice, straight off the bat, is that different companies have strict restrictions on what kind of vehicle will be allowed to tow the trailer. CostHelper says that U-haul allows customer-owned vehicles within limits, while Penske for example, allows their trailers to be rented only on the condition that they are pulled by one of the companies rental trucks.

But just because a company will rent you a car hauler trailer, doesn’t mean you should try to pull one. Most people are not used to driving large vehicles and may forget the basic rules of safety that apply to a larger vehicle. Braking speed for example, may be drastically shortened. And even simple things can become problematic.

Say you are driving a Chevy 350 pick-up cross country with an SUV atop a trailer.

After driving for a few hours, you stop off the interstate to the nearest McDonalds, ignoring the reminder sign than the clearance is only eight feet. Wham, your SUV slams into the clearance pole, and makes a dent that only a thousand dollars or more will cover. Not to mention your insurance company will not cover damage to a towed vehicle.

And where are you going to park at night? An open vehicle, sitting atop a trailer at a Holiday Inn is an open invitation to thieves and vandals. At a bare minimum, consider adding a locked tarp to discourage vandals and thieves, not to mention protecting you from a sudden hail storm.

Lastly, don’t forget gas mileage in your expenditures. According to HowStuffWorks.com
Towing Mileage for every 100 pounds you tow, you lose about 2 percent in gas efficiency. With the average new car weighing in at 4,000 pounds, not to mention the weight of the trailer, expect to pay a hefty price at the pump for gas.

Conclusion

These are just a few facts about the fascinating world of car hauling. With over 5,000 trucking companies in the United States alone moving thousands of vehicles per year at an average dealer destination fee of $700 to $1,000, and they’re being basically only trucks and trains to move them, auto hauling is a huge business involving billions of dollars.

Tack into account moving transport companies, and the numbers are simply astronomical.
Auto Hauler Drivers join hazardous driving as some of the most elite salaries in the trucking industry, and hard workers can easily make over $100,000 dollars per year with experience.

Although plentiful, getting a job as an auto hauler is not only. For both experience and insurance purposes, normally two years of commercial driving with a stellar driving record are required, and even then, drivers typically need to attend a school for up to 4-weeks to learn the art of loading and unloading cars without scratching or denting them.

More specialized, are hotshot auto haulers, who typically specialize in moving rare and collectible autos. Hotshot drivers typically get experience moving their own rare autos, and it tends to be a referral only business based on building relationships.

Ordinary cars may be moved by moving companies, who typically charge around a thousand dollars or more to move a car cross-country.

Some people elect to move cars themselves by renting an auto-hauler trailer, but there are many drawbacks, the most important being they are typically inexperienced at driving vehicles towing heavy weight, and as well, may not have insurance coverage to protect them from towing mistakes and mishaps.

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