Hotshot Trucking vs. Expedited Freight: What’s The Difference?

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Looking for more information about running an expedited freight company? Talk with hundreds of other drivers in our Hot Shot Trucking Forum.

Hauling expedited loads and hot shot freight is a choice job for many truckers.  Loads may be somewhat hard to find, and the loads that do get booked usually require the truck driver to run hard to meet the schedule, but the reward is premium rates and higher per mile pay.  Hotshot and expediting often get used interchangeably, which leads to a number of people getting confused and asking us for an explanation.

RickG kindly explains what it all means on the truck driver forum:

Expedite was sometimes referred to as hotshot. Currently expedite refers to vans, straight trucks and T/T’s delivering time sensitive freight. There are no set lanes. The trucks are on standby for immediate response. However, with the state of the economy expedite carriers are accepting regular LTL shipments to keep their trucks busy.
True hotshot is like flatbed expedite, mostly one ton or medium duty trucks pulling trailers and hauling time sensitive loads. There are many O/O’s with rigs like this running freight that pays lower rates and is not hotshot by the true definition.

jtrnr1951 shares his personal definition of hotshotting:

Hot Shot used to be-standing around Texas Iron Works, waiting for the drill part to be manufactured, then throwing it on the bed of the truck or trailer- and driving straight out to the [oil] well. NON-STOP !!!!
Made good money in the 1970’s running them 454 chevys !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask your questions about driving expedited freight and get answers on our Hot Shot Trucking Forum

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47 comments. Add a comment.

  1. shirley says

    this is great information but i wish i could fine load boards for hot shots , expedited, and power only freight if you know of any that you would recommend please e-mail me the cost has got to be low or better yet free for i am only a dispatch that is getting started in this business Thank Ahead of Time Shirley

  2. Alex says

    I am trying to get some information on Hot Shot loads and equipment requirements. I have a Dodge Ram 2500 diesel. I am looking to purchase a 32 to 40 gooseneck trailer. Most of the trucks I see pulling these loads are duallys. I wanted to find out your opinion about using a regular truck or if I should purchase a dually instead and if it makes a difference when obtaining loads. I have been driving big rigs for about 5 years but am wanting to start a hot shot business instead. I can’t decide between pulling car loads or pipe/lumber etc. Also, I am used to looking for loads on the boards for big rigs but can’t distinguish between the loads that would allow a regular truck and trailer. I have been searching the web for this information but can’t find anything specific. I would really appreciate your help. Thanks, Alex

    • says

      Alex, you really need a 1 ton dually at a minimum to safely haul a load. Reason being is that dually has a higher capacity, plus if you lose a tire you still got 3 to limp on til you can pull over safely. Can’t do that with a single rear wheel truck. Keep searching for hotshot brokers and flatbed brokers, they’re out there!

    • stumblefoot says

      try one of the camper trailer companies like Starfleet, or if your further south one of the companies that pull livestock trailers. Your still better off with a dually for stability and capacity, but both of these types of operations hire SRW trucks

    • jim says

      alex have you ever looked up the specks on a 3/4 ton and compared to a 1 ton why would you tell someone to spend fifty thousand dollars on a 1 ton when the pickup he already owns will carry a hotshot load just fine I see this all the time I have 3/4 ton dodge gas rig with single tire trailer that I haul up to ten thousand pounds payload on it and do not have the rough ride of a one ton or the expense and extra weight of dual tires I also have it tagged for twenty six thousand pounds in the hot shot business I have found that the light loads almost always pay more than the heavy loads so my truck probably clears more money for me than a one ton tagged for thirty six thousand with dual tires all the way around and limping around on three wheels is very dangerous and a violation of rules that will get you tied up by dot have you ever heard of having a spare and changing it if you have tire trouble with single tires you can change a tire and not have a service charge because you cant break the dual loose.

      • Mike says

        Jim, are you saying it is safer to have a blow out with a single tire than with a dually? I’m sure the driver meant pull over asap. He says limp on til you can pull over safely, not go on for miles and miles on a dead tire.

        I’m sure a 3/4 ton is fine for you, but as you are offering your advice, so was the other. I’m sure you could do it with a bicycle if you try really hard, but really, a dually would be safer, don’t you think?

        …..,,,,,,,….. ….. ,,, <—- I threw in some punctuation for you. You seem to be missing some

        • jim says

          mike as you may or may not know I am not writing a legal brief just a quick response to a man trying to learn about one aspect of trucking and if you are ever on the road and know what to look for you will notice a large number of dual wheeled trucks on the side of the road in mostly unsafe spots with service trucks working as quickly as possible to get them out of harms way why is it that you very seldom se single tired trucks in this pickle and why have the major companys went to single tires and one thing you may not know just because you have dual tires does not mean that you can double the weight …….a 3/4 ton dodge like mine has a gvwr of 8800 and the one ton dodge sitting in my drive way has 9600 gvwr do you know what that means???? the one ton can safly carry only 800 lbs more than the 3/4 ton

          • Tubby says

            Yeah, a 3/4 ton will pull and carry as much as a 1 ton. That’s true. I looked at all the numbers when i purchased my F250 SRW. I went to pull campers, and it worked fine. Threw tires on the back every 30-40k because they were maxed or overloaded all the time and wore out super quick. Every time i blew out a tire, i was looking for a new rim with the new tire because believe me, as soon as the air is gone, at 65mph with any kind of weight, the rim is junk. All of this B.S. aside, if you are looking at pulling anything for any length of distance, get a dually, if you are serious about doing it. If you want to try things out for a bit to see if you can find a gig like what you’re looking for, run your single wheel and figure out how to make some money first.

  3. Troy Gilbert says

    I have a similer problem like Alex from Nov 4, 2010. I have a good friend who also has a Dodge 2500 and he to wants to know what it takes to get started on these HotShot loads. My buddy has a brother who is already haulin, in fact he is doing so well he has already purchased another truck & trailer. When my buddy ask him to help get him started into it, his brother said he would for 1/2 the profits. This is where I come in, if we can got all the information we need to get started, I’ll be the one doing all the driving. Me & my buddy are currently driving coal trucks in Ky right now and its gitting a little hard right trying to make our ends meet. So if you could, get me as much info as possible, I would greatly, GREATLY APPRECIATE IT. Thanks for listening, Troy (Dogg)

  4. Mark Louis says

    Thanks for sharing information with us. Are there any load boards, or brokers who only deal with expedite freight.
    I have almost completed building a refrigerated 24′ box truck with a small sleeper. I gathered most of the components from auctions.

  5. Michael Loftis says

    If you’re going to be doing hotshot loads get a 3500 DRW, or better, 4500 or 5500. You’ll *need* the extra VTW (rear axle weight rating) provided by the DRW. A 3500 SRW has a 6500lb Rear GAWR, a 5500lb Front GAWR. Unloaded my 2011 3500 4×4 SRW Long Box Crew cab hits 4900 on the steer axle, and 2860 on the rears, with 3/4 a tank of fuel and two people onboard (~350 lbs or so, me and the GF) for a grand total of 7760 — certified cat scale weight. So 6500-2860 = 3640 available payload on the rear axle in my SRW. The reason this is more than the stated 2890 payload is because Dodge gives a 20% safety margin. This could be a limiting factor for your load weights, GCWR is 21k for a 3.73 rear end, and 24k for a 4.10. I think dodge might be testing based on SAE J2807 so the 4.10 gets higher ratings for being able to accelerate heavier loads or something.

    3.73 rears and Dodge gives you a 13650 tow rating on the ST 4×4 Crew, 16650 ST 4×4 Crew w/ 4.10 (SRW) — go to DRW and you get a 9350 Rear GAWR, giving you a LOT more payload.

    For more information go to the Dodge Ram Trucks site, click Owners, then find the Body Builders Guide from there (center section). For at least 2010/2011 Dodge has very detailed capacity charts, and has quite a good bit of detail for older years too.

    • jim says

      micheal you won’t find any weight masters or dot officials that will give a flip about how much weight your truck will pull down the road and they do not care what gear ratio your truck has and they will not worry themselves about the 20 percent margin that dodge offers………there is a tag on your door that tells your empty weight and your gross vehicle weight rating please do not think that you can get by a scale man with more weight than your trailer and truck are rated for if your truck gvwr is 8800 and your trailer is 1600o you can safly gross 248000 even if you are tagged for 36000…… 26800 is all you are allowed to safely gross

      • Tubby says

        I would have to disagree. I converted my F250 into an F450 DRW (after i realized a srw wouldn’t cut it). The tag on the door says 10k for the truck and the trailer is 21k. I am plated 16k on the truck and 20k on the trailer. Truck weighs 9500 and trailer is 10k empty. combined, there is roughly 1500 of the trailer on the truck, putting me at 11k on the truck when empty. I will load up to 15k on the trailer putting me at a grand total of roughly 35k (15-16k on the truck). That is more than the weight rating of the combination (31k) and i have never been asked by DOT about this. They just want to make sure you are plated heavy enough. And i see my fair share of inspections, believe me.

  6. Randy G. Hook says

    Oh we are all seeking, but few answers.

    I also have been OTR on/off for 30years, now want to settledown and purchase a new HotShot Ford F450/550 DRW Power Stroke Super Duty with 40′ Gooseneck, but need to understand my rear axle ratio?

    Second, Is their real corporations or legitimate companies to lease onto? Most won’t even answer your calls or e-mails! If needed I’ll go alone with my own authority, but I have found it difficult to find all these claimed loads also!

    Lay it out straight to us drivers!

    We are supposed to be brethren of a different cloth, but I see too much Jealosy and Descrimination in these Hot Shot drivers & companies. I am tough enough to endure, so if I can get some info under my belt, then I’m out of here with my own loads, because if there is no real men/women in this industry, then we must make it alone without friends and survival of the fittest will endure!

    Somebody got real factsand info. , write me:

    • jim says

      the only way you are going to learn all about hot shot trucking is from experience and how hard you work dictates how much money you make you can ask and get answers to all your questions but you still will not know the ins and outs of any business with out getting out there and just doing it just like driving an 18 wheeler you need experience and you better be ready for the dot inspections at the scales especially if your rig has duel wheels there is just something about a pickup and trailer with duel wheels that causes the pricks at the scales and the roving dot that makes them want to check everything about you and your rig and the first thing they want to see is cdl health card and logs then fire extinguisher reflectors proper secured load like number of straps and or chains on a load then all lights has to work then break away breaks tires grease leaks on wheel hubs everything just like a 18 wheeler except no air brake inspections if your log is not right expect to be put out of service for sure for at least 8 hrs don’t believe everything you hear on the internet about easy money you are still going to have to sleep in your truck and stay gone from home for a lot of the time to make it work and do not try and log your time sleeping in your truck that has no sleeper as sleeper time to be legal you have to log 10 hrs off duty when you sleep in truck

  7. bryan says

    Yes having a duelly vs having a 1 ton truck is pricing and the load you can carry but at the same time having a 1 ton you can drive without a cdl for the fact your can only handle under 26001 pending on state to were with a 2 ton truck you normally have to hold a class a license ithout air brakes but loads can be bigger pay out is better. considering oilfield stuff is heavy and won’t destroy your truck and be safer hauling and your variety of runs ate allot more. If you have any other questions let me know hope this was helpful

    • clyde says

      You are incorrect. If you are driving a motor vehicle to earn a wage then a commercial drivers license is required by law in all 50 states,sir.

    • clyde says

      You are incorrect. If you are driving a motor vehicle to earn a wage then a commercial drivers license is required by law in all 50 states.

      • Tom says

        If your truck is rated 26,000 lbs or less, you do not need a CDL. However, your truck must be licensed as a commercial truck in the state you reside in. There are even different rules if your truck is rated 8800 gvw or less.

        • Jon says

          I’m sorry sir to tell you this but I drive a combination vehicle which is rated for a total GCWR less than 26001 pounds and yes I have to have a CDL. I have to stop at weigh stations and yes I have to have a medical card. Now I do not have to have a class A ( however I do) but I do have to have a class B.

          • THill says

            You are right in that all commercial vehicles, regardless of weight combination, must enter inspection/weigh stations. However, you do not have to ‘stop’ if directed to continue by the officers at the station. According to the FMCSR you are NOT required have to have a CDL if the vehicle is registered for 26,000 lbs or under and the GVWR of the tow vehicle is less than 10,000 lbs. This is a federal requirements. Check your individual state as their requirements may differ.

        • Walter says

          If your driving a commercial vehicle and you’re “trying to earn a wage” AND are crossing state lines you better have a CDL along with a MC # and USDOT #. If your vehicle is 10,000 pounds or more (not the 26,000 and less you stated) and you’re crossing state lines you need a CDL. Go ahead I dare you to stop in a scale and ask. Take your truck with you and see how fast they impound your truck can customers freight.

          • Walter says

            Massachusetts State law allows you to travel within the state under 26,000 without a CDL “unless” you’re driving for profit. The laws go on further to say if you are going to be traveling outside of the state you must have a CDL. You can drive under 26,000 for profit inside the state with only a USDOT number as well (MA does not require MA companies to have a MC # to legally operate inside the state). And after speaking with the DMV here in MA yesteday it was explained to me they round your weight up, so here if you’re 25,001 pounds you’re at the 26,000 limit like it or not. The federal law goes on and VERY CLEARLY STATES, if your driving any commercial vehicle over 10,000 pounds across state lines you MUST HAVE A CDL. No wonder why the DOT is all up in the Trucking industry

          • Tubby says

            When do I need a CDL?
            A Class A CDL License is required when the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Ratings (GCVWR) of the truck and trailer totals 26,001 or more provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
            A Class B CDL License is required for any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR.
            A Class C CDL License is required for any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.

  8. manny poulis says

    I will do my best to help since I can’t sleep.
    First, if you call your business hotshot or expedited in the name your insurance premium is higher, so Manny’s trucking would of been better then what it is now.
    Second, there is a reason there is dodges on the road and almost no fords, cheaper truck better fuel milage less breakdowns, if ur going to purchase a truck purchase the correct one the first time, the correct truck is a dodge 4500/5500, brakes last between 180-220k miles unless u have a heavy service bed then only 100-120k on the rears and 200 on the front, tires go 60-70 with rotation, set back is 410/444/488 rear ends try to get the 410 or 444. If u can only buy one trailer buy a 40 with ramps, also be aware that the quad cabs 84″ca are over 65ft when hooked up to a 40ft trailer, most officers don’t realise this and you can fit 4 pallets in front of gooseneck, getting loads, HOPE YOU ARE ALL READY.



  9. darrell says

    I am trying to relocate to Colorado somewhere around Colorado Springs or the denver area. I have always leased my equipment to a trucking carrier and i am presently leasedto a Hotshot company in Houston. I have a one ton dually and a 25ft. dove tail. I have over 21 years of experince from General manager to Safety director to driving for the last5 16 years . Very good refedrences and clean mvr . But i am having a hard time finding any companys that lease trucks on in the small ltl business any suggestions or leads would be appreciated
    Thanks Darrell

  10. tyler says

    I have a question. I am a hotshot driver at the moment, a towing company wants to hire me. Which one makes more money is my question. ..

  11. Jimmy says

    Manny spoke volumes in his comments. It has not been cheap to start the small buisness i just got into. He is absolutely on the money with his comments. One thing for sure you want to do is start out legal. Fight your own fights! Some loads are fuel buyers when you dont want to deadhead empty. Make a dollar here, make ten there. Every chance you get talk to the facilities delivered to. As manny said give them a reason to deal directly with you. Consistent, dependable, professional service sells itself. Want something for nothing? There is allready a long long line for that. GOOD LUCK AND GOD BLESS!

  12. Pat says

    Looking for a hot shot broker in the St Louis Mo area. Also what can I expect to get paid per mile can any one help me? Thanks

    • says


      I forgot to mention another contact, “Uship” with this company you can bid on the load
      and name your price. I’m sure you have heard of them, but some drivers do make a decent
      amount of money per load, it all depends on how you bid and it can work well for return loads
      if you have a cancellation. Beats dead heading.

  13. JR says

    I just bought a new Silverado 3500HD cab-chassis incomplete vehicle and am currently having a 12′ X96″ stake bed body fabricated. I am a million miler in 18 wheelers, being a company driver and lease operator, and just inactivated my TXDOT and FMCSA authority. I never want to sit behind the wheel of a big truck again. Too much BS with the new regulations and I’m getting old too. My Silverado front springs and axle rated 4800#, rear dually axle and springs rated 9750#. The GCVWR is 16000#. My axles should GVWR me at 14550# safely. The General Motors door sticker says GVWR 13200#. Axles will handle 14550# combined, and so will the drive train and the brakes. The fabricator completing my incomplete cab-chassis, will only 13200# GVWR final build out door sticker me, when the truck will handle 14550# safely, both pulling and braking safely. I even contacted General motors Commercial Fleet, explaining the math, and GM said, nope the GVWR is 13200#. What’s up with this? Can’t the GM engineers do the math and rate this truck at the specked out axle ratings? My fabricator says he wont rate it any more than what GM says, how ever the math reflects it can axle 14550# safely, and stop and pull way more weight. Am I missing some thing, or did I fail High school math class? The extra 1350# will make me more money Hot Shotting. I’m running into a wall at GM, and with the fabricator who will put the final build out door sticker on after he builds my 12 foot stake bed. I can register it for 14550 GVWR, how ever if I get hassled in a weigh station and the Commercial Enforcement cop who knows his stuff, and is a prick and compares my Registration to my build out door sticker, I’m out of service till I pull some weight off, even if the 3500HD will safely handle the load. I’m not going to pull any trailer, as I want to keep life simple in my old age. That’s why I got out of driving a 18 wheeler. 12000# steers, 34000# drives and 34000# trailer tandems equals a legally axeled out 80000# GCVWR has always been the rule to axle out a big truck. Why are the engineers at GM not getting the math right on my 2013 3500HD? I want that extra weight rating on my door sticker. It wont hurt the Silverado, and will safely, but ILLEGALLY haul 14550# Load that I want to register the truck at. I’m puzzled and it’s starting to piss me off with these GM engineers and the fabricator. And I’m sure that it would not hurt the fabricator to do the math, and door sticker me so I can register this 3500HD at 14550# GVWR, and not get hassled at weight stations by a DOT cop with a flat top hair cut, spit shinned boots and extra starched uniform. Any one have input on my problem? Thanks in advance to my fellow truckers.

    • manny says

      The good news, your math is amazing, the bad news, the way 18wheeler trucks are made is different then the way passenger trucks are made, u need to spep into the slightly heavier duty trucks 4500 and 5500 in order to get accurate math . However there is a way to to do what u are looking g to do legally,
      Look for an older trailer 2000 and older, like AMERITRAIL they have 10k axles but the manufacture rated them at 26k GWR.
      At the time they we taking some of the carrying capasity from the truck and putting it on the trailer bs I don’t know don’t care.
      But u can carry 6k pounds more legally.
      My post in April clearly said to buy a dodge 4500 or 5500 lol.
      Hope I helped 512-567-0381
      My business is for sale.

      • Lawrence Powell says

        What is the legal length and weight for a 2010 3500 dodge meg cab and 8ft bed ? looking at 40ft equiment trailer with flipp out ramps.Thanks for any help

  14. Hammer says

    No CDL….under 26,000, means if you own the freight, no CDL needed. If you’re doing it for hire, any articulated vehicle with a combined weight of over 10,000 lbs. Don’t believe people who say you don’t need CDL (with combination endorsement) and don’t run without DOT and MC #s. AKA, your authority. If you do.If you ignore it, there’s a good chance you’re going to get caught and the costs far outweigh the effort it would take to do it right.
    My first 8 months were done with a SRW One ton Ford. 40′ gooseneck. I recommend a 48′, otherwise you’re restricted significantly. Air ride if you can afford it. You could do a step deck, but not with a pick up bed. Not the deck over gooseneck kind, but a true step deck….40′ on bottom, 8′ on top….. Become an “Approved Carrier” for several (at least 3) fright brokers who do a lot of business in your area of interest….USHIP is a joke, and waste of time…..then stick to a reasonable rate, otherwise you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. Nothing goes on my trailer for less than a dollar a mile… matter how small, and certainly nothing over 1/2 your length or weight cap. 2.00 a mile us a good rule of thumb for full load, or if it has to be there right away……(Dedicated truck). Then, add for additional stops….tarping, etc. usually 50.00-100.00 per incident. Good Luck.

  15. Jim says

    Hate to be the one to tell you this when you hall commercially you still have to have either a class a or class B license you still fall under the same rules regulations as any other truck on the road hauling 10,000 or more or 10,000 or less. When you go and register your truck as a commercial vehicle They will figure You max weight for registering Example my 2013 Dodge ram 3500 will gross 38,000 pounds . That is how it is registered With the truck itself Being approx 7700 The weight of your truck trailer and load cannot exceed 38,000 pounds. Hope this helps

  16. Joel Jeter says

    Ok, so I’ve read most of these and I’m curious as to what the laws are for hotshot. I’m trying to get my foot in the door as well. I have a 3/4 ton dodge. 2008. Great truck. Has lots of potential. I want to run a 32ft gooseneck behind it. Empty weight is 7200 pounds. Already found that out. It says my truck weighs 9000 pounds. Not sure how accurate that is but anyways, I’ll still be under 26,000 rule even if I haul 8 to 9 thousand pounds. Is a cdl required?

  17. Doug Smith says

    Hey, I am thinking about starting my own company, and would like any advise you could give. I had a 18 wheeler, did good with it and sold it to start a repo company and did better with it. I’m just trying to get back in trucking and don’t want to do it in a 18 wheeler. I think I will like a hot shot truck. Just need to know which truck and tailor to buy and a good way to start getting loads. I live in Centreville, Al. and would like to stay in the south most of the time. Any help you could give would be a big help. Thanks Doug

  18. amo says

    You do not need a CDL if you are driving to earn wages/ for hire when you are not hauling more than 26,000 pounds. However, that is true when you “”reside”” in a state that does not require a chauffeurs license or a CDL for hauls that are any weight, but for hire.

    So, if you want to get your regular operator’s license in Indiana with a residence their, then you can drive an expediter van, truck, whatever ((no tractor trailers, which requires CDL)) weight UNDER 26,000 lbs. That operator’s license is good in any state because all states are bound by the Interstate Commerce Clause ((as a U.S. Constitutional Right)), which means all other states must honor the laws of any individual as to where they reside. This only speaks to matters of interstate commerce, so Texas must honor the legal requirements of Indiana with respect to which kind of license the driver needs. The same for a Texas or Florida, or New York license holder who is pulled over in Indiana. Every cop knows this and they are only harassing and abusing their power if they tell you otherwise.

  19. ynot 916 says

    I reside in california and ive got an opportunity to drive a dodge 3500 with a pickup bed on it pulling a 53ft wedge type car trailer (4car) . What i want to know is a class B cdl meet the requirements for california. Ive been riding (and driving some) for a year and i have the know how and am ready to do this. Any insight from some of you veterans from behind the wheel would be appreciated.

  20. Shannon Morris says

    A couple of questions, hope someone can help.

    I have a 3/4 ton cargo van sitting empty in my yard that I want to put to use. My husband was an electrician but went back to trucking so now this sits empty. Looking at doing some light hauling, maybe small animals or what not. Been researching for a few weeks online. What are your recommendations? Would I need the cdl a or not? Would I be better off just getting my cdl a and join him and team drive? I still have a son (15) at home and animals that have to be taken care of. I don’t want to be out all the time. I need to be able to be home for him at times. (He has 2 older sisters). Thats why I was looking into hauling small animals.

    Thanks for your input, all will be considered with much head and heart. :)

  21. Shawn Figley says

    Look gentlemen, I have hauled a lot of things with different trucks. When I drove for companies. I learned from their mistakes. It never failed they gave me the cheapest way out. The truck was always underrated.
    It ends up destroying the truck. It could also harming you or other drivers. I’ve seen f250 hauling a load that was right at recommended tow capacity. The truck hits a dip in the road, the trailer causes the truck to pick the weight off the front wheels enough for the truck to lose control and end up in a ditch totaled the truck, trailer, and the load. So ya 3500 is good. I prefer to much truck for the job.
    4500 or better. I have 5500 4×4 . I prefer it over the 3500, 4500, 2500. It is never over loaded for what I do. I prefer dodge also because of the exhaust brakes. Power Stroke doesn’t have them.

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