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Types of Trailer Hitches: Choosing the Right One

Published on
3/29/2024
A bumper trailer without a hitch installed

There are quite a few different types of trailer hitches a hotshot trucker can use, but the three that you’re most likely to use are: 

  • Gooseneck
  • Bumper
  • Fifth wheel 

Investing in the right trailer hitch or hitches can create opportunities for picking up more jobs—and making you more money.  It’s a part of getting all of the right equipment for a successful and safe hotshot career.

Why Do I Need the Right Trailer Hitch?

We don’t need to tell you what a trailer hitch is or what they’re for. But we want to make sure you feel confident in selecting the right one to help your career has a hotshot trucker.

The trailer hitch you buy depends on a lot of factors. To name a few:

  • Your vehicle’s GVWR
  • The torque of your vehicle
  • Company rules

In addition to feeling confident in how much your truck can tow, you need to know how much weight your trailer hitch can handle. This comes down to hitch class.

What Is A Hitch Class?

Hitch class is the categorization of the capabilities of trailer hitches. Class 1 has the lowest gross towing weight (GTW) capacity while Class 5 has the highest. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of trailer hitch classes:

  • Class 1 hitches have a GTW capacity of up to 2000 lbs. They’re usually used by cars and crossovers for canoes and kayaks, small fishing boats, and bike racks
  • Class 2 hitches have a GTW capacity of up to 3,500 lbs. They’re usually used by cars, crossovers, and minivans for small fishing boats and small moving trailers
  • Class 3 hitches have a GTW capacity of up to 8,000 lbs. They’re usually used by vans, SUVs and trucks for small boats and campers
  • Class 4 hitches have a GTW capacity of up to 10,000 lbs. They’re used by trucks, and SUVs for large boats, campers, and small horse trailers
  • Class 5 hitches have a GTW capacity of 16,000-20,000 lbs, depending on the size of the receiver. They’re used by SUVs and trucks for large campers like fifth wheels, large horse trailers, and heavy-duty utility trailers

Most hotshot truckers only really need up to a class 4, as 10,000 lbs is the upper limit of what’s considered an LTL (less than truckload) shipment. However, having a Class 5 hitch and a trailer that can keep up can create more opportunities for which jobs you'll be able to pick up.

Related Article: The Best Size Trailer for Hotshot Trucking  

The Best Types of Trailer Hitches for Hotshot Trucking

Even within each trailer class are different kinds of trailer hitches. The best hitches for hotshot trucking are ones that can handle both utility trailers and car haulers with full loads. This means you want to look for bumper, gooseneck, or fifth-wheel hitches.

Bumper Hitch

The bumper hitch is the smallest, most affordable, and common trailer hitch. They’re the ones that are installed under the bumper. The most common type of bumper hitch, the ball hitch, usually maxes out at around 6,000 lbs, but their GTW also greatly depends on the strength of your bumper and vehicle’s towing capacity. 

However, if your truck can handle more, you may want to look into a pintle hitch. They work with trailers that have a lunette ring rather than a ball coupler. Generally, they have much higher towing capacities than ball hitches. As a hotshot, you may want to also consider a combination pintle ball hitch that can attach to both types of trailers.

Gooseneck Hitch

Rather than attaching to the bumper of your vehicle, gooseneck hitches attach to the bed of the truck. They also use a ball mount, and usually come with anchors for safety chains on either side. 

It’s a good trailer hitch for hotshot drivers because it’s placement in the truck bed offers stability, and it doesn’t impede the truck’s turning radius as much as a bumper hitch would. Typically, they’re rated to tow 7000-10,000 lbs—perfect for hotshot truckers.

Fifth-Wheel Hitch

If you plan on towing super heavy loads, the fifth-wheel trailer hitch is your best bet. The fifth-wheel is also installed in the middle of your truck bed. However, it includes a bit more hardware that makes it able to tow more weight, including locking jaws or bar. In addition, fifth wheel hitches have multiple, wide points of contact to the truck, whereas the gooseneck hitch only has one.

Fifth-wheel hitches generally have the highest towing capacity of the normal truck hitches, but they do have some limitations. In most circumstances, the kingpin is on the hitch, and the receiver is on the trailer. The opposite is true for a fifth wheel trailer hitch. 

The bright side is you can purchase a gooseneck adapter to be able to tow any type of trailer.

Related Article: How Much Weight Can You Haul Without a CDL? 

Join Open Road Today

The right equipment can make the difference in what you can tow and, therefore, the kind of money you can make as a hotshot trucker. Though you probably already have a trailer and hitch, you can upgrade and maximize what you and your truck can do. 

Open Road is a shipping marketplace that makes it easy to pick up jobs on your schedule. All we need is some simple information and an inspection of your vehicle and trailer. Learn more about what it takes to be an Open Road hotshot here.

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