Large commercial vehicles are difficult to control. Their size, weight, and high center of gravity increase stopping distance, require extra space to turn, and make it easier to lose control of the vehicle. 

You may be familiar with risks like jackknifing, which happens when the trailer and cab start to move in different directions. When you see a semi-truck cab on the highway without a trailer attached, it may seem like less of a risk. However, driving a truck cab without a trailer – or bobtailing – can be dangerous, too. 

Here’s why driving a bobtail can increase the risk of a serious truck accident

What Is Bobtailing?

Driving a truck without pulling a trailer is called driving a bobtail truck or bobtailing. Truck drivers usually bobtail when they are driving between a drop-off site and the pickup location for another load. A driver may also bobtail after dropping off a trailer to head home before returning to pick up the load the next day. 

Unlike bobtailing, which is driving a tractor without a trailer, deadheading refers to driving a tractor with an empty trailer attached. 

Why Is Bobtailing So Dangerous?

A bobtail is harder to control than a tractor-trailer. The tractor unit or cab is designed to tow a trailer, and without a trailer attached, it has very different handling. 

Several factors make bobtailing dangerous: 

  • Reduced stopping power: A semi-truck’s braking system is on the load-bearing rear wheels. Without the trailer and the extra weight on the rear axle, the braking power is reduced. Most of a bobtail truck’s weight is on the front axle, which is designed for steering, not braking. 
  • Reduced control: With more weight on the front wheels, steering and control become more difficult. The weight distribution may cause the tractor to skid when making a sudden turn, for example. 
  • Less friction: The lower weight also reduces friction between the road and the wheels. This makes a bobtail truck more likely to skid or turn over when turning. Rain, snow, ice, and slippery roads increase this risk. 
  • Reduced function of spring suspension: The bobtail tractor’s spring suspension system supports the vehicle’s weight and absorbs shock. It’s designed to work with the weight of a loaded trailer for proper compression. 
  • Greater speed potential: Reduced weight means it’s easier for a bobtail to pick up speed. As speed increases, the risk and severity of an accident increase as well. The bobtail becomes even harder to steer and control as the speed increases. 

Bobtailing requires truck drivers to be even more attentive than normal. They must change their driving style based on the road conditions and remember the differences in handling without a trailer attached. Because bobtailing is only done when necessary, the significant differences in handling are not familiar and routine for most drivers. 

It’s easy for drivers to inadvertently revert to their familiar driving behavior, especially if they are tired or when they need to make sudden maneuvers. 

Bobtailing accidents often happen when the driver loses control due to unfamiliar handling or oversteering. Bobtail trucks are prone to rollover in a crash without the stabilizing weight of a trailer. 

Who Could Be Responsible For a Bobtail Truck Accident in Texas?

If you are injured in an accident involving a bobtail, there may be multiple parties that share liability for your damages. Truck accidents are often complex and require careful investigation. 

Parties who may be held liable for the accident include: 

  • Truck driver: The driver may be liable if their negligence caused the accident. 
  • Trucking company: The company has a duty to ensure drivers have the experience and training necessary to safely drive a bobtail. They must also provide adequate oversight and ensure drivers follow trucking regulations. 
  • Manufacturer: The manufacturer can be liable if a defective part contributed to the crash. 
  • Maintenance company: The company that performed maintenance on the truck may be responsible if poor maintenance or repairs caused the accident. 

There may be several insurance companies you need to deal with to recover compensation after your accident. This includes your own insurance, the driver’s regular insurance, the motor carrier’s policy, and the insurer of other liable third parties

The risks of bobtailing are so unique that there is a special type of insurance coverage. Bobtail liability insurance covers truck owners or operators when they are driving between loads or operating a truck without a trailer. For drivers, this coverage is important because the standard motor carrier insurance usually only covers accidents while the driver is on the clock and hauling a load. 

Contact an Experienced Houston Personal Injury Lawyer If You Were Injured in a Bobtail Truck Accident

If you have been seriously hurt in a bobtail truck accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you pursue fair compensation from the at-fault parties.

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000.

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – Houston
3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 350
Houston, TX 77098

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – East Fwy
11811 East Fwy, Suite 630-06
Houston, TX 77029

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – South Loop
2600 S Loop W, Suite 293
Houston, TX 77054

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – Katy Freeway
11511 Katy Fwy Suite 515
Houston, TX 77079