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What Makes a Bobtail Truck Dangerous? 

Unless you work in the transportation industry, you may never have heard of a “bobtail” truck or the act of “bobtailing.”  But if you have been driving for a while, especially in Oregon, you have almost certainly seen one.

Semi-trucks have two parts – a tractor containing the engine and the driver, and a trailer connected to the tractor. However, one will occasionally see a tractor driving down the road without a trailer attached to it. The trailerless tractor is referred to in trucking jargon as a “bobtail” truck because it looks like it has a short, clipped tail where the tractor attaches. The act of driving the bobtail truck is sometimes referred to as “bobtailing.”

Some people think that bobtail trucks are not dangerous because they don’t have a heavy trailer behind them – especially since there is a lower risk of a wide-turn accident. However, bobtail trucks still pose a considerable danger. 

Why Does Bobtailing Occur?

Remember that around 36 million trucks are registered in the United States. These trucks carry the vast majority (approximately 70 percent) of goods transported in the country. That includes not only final products, but also raw materials. Thus, at any given time, thousands of trucks are on the road carrying loads to different places. 

The logistics of moving all of this freight can be quite complicated, and bobtailing can occur in different ways. In some instances, truckers are independent contractors and carry freight for many different customers. 

While they do their best to arrange to pick up a new load as quickly as possible after dropping off the current freight load, they may need to drive the tractor to another location to pick up a different trailer. This is the time during which the driver is “bobtailing.”

When a driver drives for only one company, the trucks may be kept in a different location than where freight is dispatched, requiring the driver to bobtail from the truck terminal to the dispatch location. Similarly, after delivering the shipment, the truck may be returned to the terminal without a trailer attached.

What Are Some of the Dangers Associated with Bobtailing?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 3 percent of large truck injury crashes involve a bobtail truck. J. D. Power explains some of the dangers associated with bobtailing, a few of which are outlined below:

  • Less friction with the road – the weight of the tractor alone is much less than with a loaded trailer. Therefore, the wheels have less friction with the road. This can be especially dangerous when it rains or snows. Additionally, reducing frictional force can also result in skidding and cause a danger of overturning when taking sharp turns.
  • Increased speed – while a bobtail truck does not necessarily have to go faster, it can. Any time speed is increased, there is danger.
  • Less control in some situations – when a semi-truck has a tractor and a trailer, the trailer wheels are load-bearing, and the driver controls the truck with the front wheels. When bobtailing, the front wheels bear the weight of the tractor, which can be more challenging to manage.
  • More distance is needed for braking with a bobtail truck – danger increases when a truck cannot stop as quickly.
  • Truck braking systems perform better when the tractor and trailer are used together.

Oregon Bobtail Insurance 

While it is not required like other types of commercial truck insurance, bobtail or non-trucking insurance seeks to protect semi-truck drivers when they are not hauling cargo. Bobtail insurance is applicable in the state of Oregon, including in Portland, Albany, and Corvallis. It’s important to note that bobtail insurance specifically acts as liability coverage. That means that it will not cover physical damage to an insured’s truck.

Suppose you were involved in an accident with a bobtailing truck. In that case, you may need to deal with the insurance on the vehicle through the trucking company and any additional bobtailing insurance they may have. 

Call with Questions

If you have been injured in an accident with a semi-truck in Oregon, whether bobtailing or with a trailer, you will likely have questions about your rights. We are here to answer your questions in a free consultation. Trucking cases are complicated, and the experienced Oregon semi-truck accident lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield know how to investigate and, if needed, litigate these cases. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.