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Bobtail Trucks and Their Dangers to Others

Bobtail Trucks and Their Dangers to Others


Bobtail Trucks and Their Dangers to Others

Most people, especially a motorcyclist, are never prepared to deal with the aftermath of a bobtail truck accident. Hence, it remains essential to be ready for the potential encounter. I am Los Angeles commercial truck accident attorney Michael Ehline. I owned a commercial transportation company and drove as a common carrier for hire for several years.

As a seasoned commercial truck accident attorney, I have advanced knowledge of federal and state commercial transportation laws in Texas and California. We should all be familiar with trucking terminology in case we want to handle our damages claims without retaining a personal injury attorney. Even a Bobtail truck driver will find the information in this article handy when trying to recover under an employment law or work comp claim. We can even help you find a lien doctor to help you cover medical costs upfront.

How this Article Was Created?

Our experienced truck accident lawyers created this article pusing a variety of valuable data sources and news stories, including the Los Angeles Times, California Department of Transportation, and Texas Department of Transportation, as well as our over 18 years of experience handling truck accidents in the court system on behalf of both the truck driver, their families, and other victims. We sue manufacturers and other parties at blame, and we feel especially suited to explain everything you need to know about bobtail truck accidents. We think this information was beneficial and synthesized in layperson’s terms to help you understand bobtail trucks and their specific problems.

Why This Article Was Created?

This is part of our series defining and explaining unfamiliar terms from the trucking industry during the claims process to help truck drivers and bobtailing truck accident victims. One such term you might come across is “bobtail truck.” Understanding a bobtail truck can help injured victims negotiate and settle injury insurance claims more swiftly than filing a lawsuit. 

What is a Bobtail or Bobtailing Truck?

“Bobtail” Configuration Defined

So, what exactly is a bobtail truck? How is it defined in law? A bobtail truck is a semi-truck, also known as a tractor-trailer (aka wheel truck), devoid of any cargo trailer attachment trailing its rear wheels. (aka, there is no attached trailer hauling a heavy load.) The term bobtail is taken from the description of a cat with a short tail, typically that was docked or chopped off. This is why they call a semi-truck with no trailer bob-tailed. Incidentally, a semi-truck comes from the idea a truck is composed of two parts, the semi, or “tractor,” and the trailer.

Bobtail Truck Defined

Picture this scenario: you’re driving on the highway and notice a large truck cab parked off the road. The part of the truck that houses the driver and engine has no cargo trailer to tow. Well, that vehicle you’ve just spotted is a bobtail truck configuration.

“Bobtailing” Truck Defined

In the trucking industry, the term “bobtailing” is used to describe the action of driving a semi-truck without a trailer attached. While the layman might refer to it as a “bobtail truck drive,” it’s more commonly called “bobtailing” within the trucking company’s jargon.

The situation in which bobtailing typically arises is when a truck driver is dispatched for a pick-up assignment but is required to stop first to collect the trailer that they will be hauling. In this scenario, the driver operates only the truck’s cab, which contains the engine and provides a comfortable workspace for the driver. The trailer, which carries the cargo, is not connected while bobtailing.

Bobheading and Deadheading Distinguished

Don’t confuse “bobtailing” with “deadheading.”

Bobtailing = no trailer

Bobtailing involves driving a truck without an attached trailer or “tractor only.”

Deadheading = Hauling an empty trailer

Deadheading refers to the practice of driving a truck with an empty trailer attached (unladen). A deadhead trip involves transporting the trailer without cargo, whereas bobtailing involves driving without a heavy or open trailer. Understanding these distinctions is crucial in a personal injury case. The trailer often swerves and can jacknife in these cases, taking out many victims in one fell swoop. It can even be a struggle to identify the pulverized accident victims.

Different laws and trucking industry policies can come into play here. Truck drivers use these terms for operational and logistical reasons. A skilled truck accident lawyer will use them to help establish legal liability in a risky deadheading or bobtailing accident. Our expertise places us at the top of the food chain when winning your trucking claims.

Different Types of Bobtail Trucks

Discussing the concept of a semi-truck bobtail can become confusing because there are multiple variations of bobtail trucks.

Overview – The three main types of bobtail trucks:

  1. Traditional Bobtail: A traditional bobtail would be your standard semi-truck with no attached trailer. This is the most common way the term gets used. The truck driver jargon, “running bobtail,” typically refers to this configuration, where the truck’s cab is operated without a trailer and can lose control.
  2. Compact Bobtail Trucks: Compact bobtail trucks have a distinct axle configuration. Here, they are affixed to a single chassis, often medium or small in size. This type of cab includes vehicles like delivery trucks or dump trucks. Since they are malls, they often don’t mandate the driver to maintain a special driving license. These compact bobtail trucks are commonly used for tasks that don’t require a full-sized trailer.
  3. Propane Bobtail Truck: The propane bobtail truck is a specialized variation of the bobtail configuration. In this case, it’s specifically designed to transport propane gas on public roads. These trucks usually have a round tank in the back containing propane. These vehicles must maintain proper pressure and temperature because propane is very explosive. Propane bobtail trucks are not “bobtail trailers.”

Other Bobtails

  • Construction Bobtail Truck
  • Service Bobtail: Used for maintenance and repair purposes and may have a workshop or utility body on the rear for tools and equipment used by service technicians and repairers.
  • Tanker Bobtail: Tanker bobtail trucks transport liquids or gases in a tank for industries like oil and gas, chemicals, and food transport.
  • Refrigerated Bobtail: These bobtail trucks have refrigeration units and transport temperature-sensitive cargo like perishable goods.
  • Flatbed Bobtail: Flatbed bobtail trucks have a flat, open bed to carry oversized or oddly shaped cargo. They are often used in the construction, manufacturing, and transportation industries.
  • Dump Truck Bobtail: A dump truck bobtail is used for hauling and dumping loose materials, including sand, gravel, or construction debris. They normally have a hydraulic mechanism for raising the bed to dump cargo like fill gravel, etc. (They are at risk for deadheading after dropping their load off.)

While understanding the different types of bobtail trucks can be helpful when pursuing a personal injury claim following a truck accident, how you use the evidence is what matters. Advanced knowledge, such as that held by Ehline Law Firm, can be beneficial when injured victims are forced to deal with specific incidents, unlike your standard car accidents in pro per or in pro se. Fatalities can mean the loss of a breadwinner while you are coping with grief.

After hiring a lawyer at Ehline Law Firm, accident victims will feel cared for and understood. We will kindly help the survivors understand the unique requirements and safety measures associated with different types of bobtail trucks. In this way, we can delicately determine who is at fault. Only then can we evaluate your rights to obtain maximum compensation? After that, we will gently guide them as they go through the healing process.

Why A Bobtail Truck is So Dangerous

Bobtail trucks are more hazardous because they are more challenging to maneuver and brake. That bulky trailer helps the operator. This is because the front wheels are commonly used for steering instead of braking. Truckers must be extra careful when driving a bobtail truck to avoid accidents.

The main reasons why bobtail trucks can be dangerous include:

  1. Reduced Control: When the trailer is removed, the weight distribution changes, making it more challenging to steer and control the truck.
  2. Decreased Stopping Power: No trailer means reduced weight and reduced braking power of the truck, resulting in longer stopping distances. Sudden or hard stops can cause rear-wheel lockup and pivoting around the front wheels.
  3. Lower Friction: Skidding and overturning are increased with less weight and less friction between the truck’s tires and the road.
  4. Increased Speed: Bobtail trucks also have a better power-to-weight ratio and can easily pick up speed, causing reduced control and stopping power problems.
  5. Suspension Function Reduction: The spring suspension system of a truck, designed to handle uneven road surfaces, can function less efficiently when a truck is bobtailing. This can result in a bumpier and less stable ride.

Truck drivers tend to prefer hauling a trailer, as it provides additional weight, enhancing the truck’s stability and handling. Accidents involving bobtail trucks can be severe, leading to serious injuries and even fatalities. Therefore, it is crucial for truck drivers to adhere to road safety rules and exercise extra caution when operating a bobtail truck. Additionally, being aware of the limitations and challenges associated with bobtailing is vital for safe and responsible truck operations.

Trucks such as these are designed to carry heavy trailers, which they do most of the time, so much of their braking power is with the rear axle under the trailer. This is lost while semi-trucks are configured in bobtail mode with so much less weight and no trailer brakes past the rear axle.

Bobtail Truck Accident Safety Considerations

It’s important to recognize that any of the three types of bobtail trucks, whether traditional, compact, or propane, can present safety risks for other vehicles and motorists on the road. Extra care will be paramount to keeping other road users safe. The more skill, the better when it comes to the trucker. As they are replaced with AI vehicles, other factors leading to injuries will surely arise. Accidents caused by bareback semis.

Here are some key safety considerations related to bobtail trucks:

Speed and Handling

One significant safety concern with bobtail trucks is that unladen trailers often exceed safe speed limits. After all, these trucks are inherently designed and optimized for hauling cargo. So, when a truck operates without a trailer, it becomes challenging to control and steer, especially in wet weather and negotiating tight curves, which may lead to difficulty handling empty, large vehicles. This heightened risk of losing control grows with higher speeds. The liable party is often not properly trained, or independent contractors insulate them.

The faster these large trucks travel, the greater the risk of a deadly collision. Defense lawyers will argue the smaller car was at fault in most cases. They will say the other vehicle placed itself and other drivers in a dangerous situation by trying to pass in high winds, making it an inherently dangerous activity, especially on winding roads, etc. It takes a well-educated personal injury attorney to make sense of the parties and where the fault lies after a long trailer collision.

Manufacturer Design, Etc.

Truck manufacturers design their vehicles with the assumption that they will not always be hauling cargo or the extra weight. Their vehicle design must anticipate what they know: Bobtails are more likely to skid out while navigating tight or sudden curves. This is true, even though the truck operates in bobtail configuration, which deviates from its intended design and performance capabilities (towing a fully loaded trailer.)

Semi-trailer trucks do not always operate towing a fully loaded tractor-trailer or load. Manufacturers know there could be handling issues, reduced stability, and difficulties during emergency situations. Having these defendants on the hook means there will be more than the trucker’s insurance company on the hook. Your personal injury lawyer will explore these and any unsafe driving behaviors by others. For example, did passenger vehicles operate in such a way as to force evasive action? Other issues could be like failure to warn of skidding, a rollover accident, or even a defective part discussed here.

And don’t forget the builder must anticipate poor weather conditions and how a front-heavy, large cab will respond to the dangers of a sudden turn, etc. Did the semi rollover? This evidence is all developed during discovery. It starts after a thorough investigation into any other motorists to see what the witnesses saw with their own eyes or recorded on an iPhone, for example.

Insurance Considerations

The unique risks associated with bobtail trucks have led to the availability of specialized insurance known as “bobtailing insurance.” This insurance addresses the safety concerns and liability associated with driving a semi-truck without a trailer. Trucking companies and owner-operators often opt for this coverage to protect themselves and others in the event of braking accidents, serious injuries, or mishaps while bobtailing.

Who Is Responsible For a Bobtail Truck Accident?

The real issue here is that of “vanishing evidence,” which can pose significant hurdles after a bobtail truck accident. Caltrans or a local construction crew often cleans up the accident scene. Their goal is to maintain the smooth flow of traffic. This means evidence could disappear and leave the record unclear as to who should be held liable. The trucking company or owner’s responsible for maintaining the truck on the proper schedule. Maintenance technicians need to be sure that the whole truck’s weight is roadworthy as a bobtail before it becomes involved in an accident.

A disproportionate number of unladen versus laden truck accidents indicates that bobtail trucks are at a higher risk for crashes. The truck accident attorneys at Ehline Law Firm are experienced in every type of accident, including those involving bobtail trucks. You carried your full load as an injured truck, and the responsible party could have been a passenger car. Many truckers have no liability at all. Our talented legal team can guide victims by the hand and hold it throughout the legal process. Our goal is to get you the same result and most compensation possible after a trucking collision.

Contact a Bobtail Truck Accident Lawyer Near You

Attorney Michael Ehline previously worked in the transportation industry and has large insurance companies and other responsible individuals with insurance coverage. Michael is also an experienced truck driver. His insight and experience give him enlightened insight into the inner workings of swindling insurance companies. Your physical and mental health is too important to assign your case to an amateur with no charisma. Whether it was a deadheading collision or a straight bobtail, we are ready to confidentially seek justice against the responsible parties when you suffer injuries and need vital support.

All this is handy when negotiating a claim to ensure that future issues like medical bills, pain and suffering, or other losses are tallied. Don’t let a devious insurance adjuster take advantage of you after a traffic accident. Reach out to Ehline Law to discover some secrets and other ways we can help today. We are ready to review your medical records, look at accident scene photos, and move forward. Your employer, as well as a third party, could be at fault as well. To schedule a free consultation, please do not hesitate to call our office at (213) 596-9642 or contact us online 24/7 to learn more and get compensated.

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.