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Bobtail Trucks: A Comprehensive Guide to Definition and Risks

Have you ever wondered what bobtailing is? Learn more about bobtail trucking, and the risks associated with bobtail trucks

5 minutes readJanuary 17, 2023

There are three different types of bobtail trucks that individuals may encounter on the road. However, they often have two characteristics in common. They are all large trucks without a trailer, and they require special insurance. Read on to learn more about bobtail trucks and their place in the trucking industry.

What Is a Bobtail Truck?

Bobtailing is trucking industry slang that describes the situation in which a trucker drives a semi-truck without a trailer. Many individuals in the trucking industry have firsthand experience driving with an empty trailer. However, there are several reasons running bobtails is problematic for truckers.

First, you need to understand the different types of bobtail trucks on the road. There are three primary types of bobtail trucks. The first type is a traditional semi-truck without a trailer or any other cargo attached.

Next are less traditional bobtail trucks, such as commercial moving and delivery vehicles, dump trucks, and other medium-to-large vehicles without a chassis attached. Finally, empty propane trucks no longer carrying cargo are considered bobtail trucks.

Many truckers dislike bobtailing in part because these trips are often inconvenient for the driver. These individuals often do not receive compensation for fuel when making bobtail trips to pick up cargo or after transporting their loads, meaning they bear the burden of the cost of the return trip.

Additionally, driving a bobtail truck is dangerous for a variety of reasons. Often, truckers running bobtails have to engage in risky driving practices that may endanger themselves and others on the road.

Is Bobtailing the Same as Deadheading?

Many truckers confuse the terms "bobtailing" and "deadheading" and believe they're the same thing, but there is a difference between the two that drivers should understand.

Bobtailing is the practice of driving a semi-truck or other large vehicle designed to carry heavy trailers without the attached chassis. In turn, deadheading refers to when a truck driver is driving a semi-truck, moving truck, dump truck, or propane truck with the trailer or other chassis attached but empty.

Both deadheading and bobtailing can pose a variety of safety risks. However, drivers dislike bobtailing for many reasons, and it is statistically much more dangerous than deadheading due to the design of semi-trucks and other vehicles.

Why Is Bobtailing Considered Dangerous?

It's important to understand that driving a bobtail truck isn't just costly and time-consuming for truckers; it also poses a real threat to the driver and others on the road. While a semi-truck with an empty trailer may not seem dangerous to onlookers, the reality of driving a truck without a trailer can often be quite different for truck drivers.

One of the biggest reasons that semi-trucks with no trailers are so dangerous is due to the nature of the trucks. These trucks are designed to carry heavy loads and often have a much different weight distribution than other vehicles.

Truck drivers running bobtails are much more likely to cause truck accidents and are considered more dangerous than trucks carrying a full load.

Because bobtailing causes the vehicle to face a different weight distribution than usual when carrying a heavy load, it becomes more difficult to control the truck.

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Typically, semi-trucks utilize the front wheels to steer the vehicle, while the rear wheels provide stability and bear the brunt of the vehicle's weight. When the truck doesn't have a trailer attached, the front wheels become the primary load-bearing wheels, making maneuvering the truck more difficult for the driver.

This abnormal weight distribution can also reduce reaction time, making it more difficult for truck drivers to avoid potential road hazards. It can also make the truck susceptible to skidding due to a lack of braking power when trying to come to a complete stop. Ultimately, this puts truck drivers driving without a trailer attached at a higher risk of being involved in an accident. If you own a semi-truck, this is one of the many reasons it's critical to have bobtail insurance.

When driving a commercial moving truck, dump truck, or another large vehicle, there's an added layer of safety concerns for drivers and others on the road. Typically, drivers do not need to acquire a special license to drive a regular moving truck or other large vehicles. So, they may not be aware of the risks associated with driving without a trailer attached.

When driving a moving truck, for instance, drivers may cause truck accidents due to incorrectly distributed loads, difficulty maneuvering the vehicle, and a lack of blind spot awareness. Another instance in which truck accidents occur is when a driver tries to take tight curves.

Bobtailing with these trucks may cause them to lose control of the vehicle, topple over, or crash into other cars on the road due to their inexperience driving a large, load-bearing vehicle.

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Finally, driving a bobtail propane truck poses a different series of problems. Propane trucks are heavy vehicles by design, and they often carry large quantities of highly explosive materials.

In an accident, a bobtail propane truck may roll over, causing the propane to leak out. Not only does a bobtail propane truck pose a potential fire hazard, but spilled propane during an accident can contaminate groundwater and pose environmental threats in some areas as well.

Ultimately, driving a bobtail truck is dangerous for a variety of reasons. Truck drivers often dislike running bobtails because of the risks it involves. Unfortunately for the drivers, they are liable for any accidents caused by bobtailing.

Therefore, having high-quality bobtail insurance is critical. Unlike traditional semi-truck driving, running a bobtail often requires its own unique insurance due to the hazardous nature of these trips.

If you own a semi-truck, reach out to one of our CoverWallet agents to get more information on how acquiring bobtail insurance can benefit you. Our goal is to help provide you with full coverage for all types of truck accidents. Call today for a free quote!

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