What is Bobtail Liability

Bobtail liability is an automobile insurance policy that covers the owner or operator of a semi truck which is not currently being used for transporting goods. Bobtail liability is purchased by drivers to bridge the coverage gap created when the driver is no longer covered by a company’s liability insurance policy.

BREAKING DOWN Bobtail Liability

“Bobtail” refers to a truck when it either does not have a trailer attached to it or it has a trailer attached, but it's empty. Bobtail liability is also known as deadheading liability. 

When the driver of a semi-truck is delivering goods, it is typically covered by the liability insurance policy of the company the driver works for. Once the goods are delivered, however, the driver is no longer covered by his or her company’s policy. Drivers purchase bobtail liability insurance to provide coverage when they are no longer hauling a trailer or other cargo containers.

Many truck drivers deliver cargo to one location and then immediately head to another location to pick up new cargo. Drivers may be independent contractors or may work for a delivery company, and often deliver cargo for a variety of companies that have different types of insurance coverage. For example, a truck driver may deliver a load of dishwashers to a facility in Los Angeles, and then drive to Las Vegas to pick up a shipment of toys to take to Phoenix. In this example, the driver’s bobtail liability insurance provides coverage when the driver is traveling between the cities without cargo.

Bobtail liability coverage only applies in situations in which a truck driver is not hauling a trailer, or is hauling an empty trailer. As long as there is no trailer the coverage will apply, even if the driver is not using the vehicle for business purposes. For example, a truck driver that is using the cab to run a personal errand will still be covered under the bobtail liability policy as long as the driver does not have a trailer attached. 

Bobtail Liability vs. Non-Trucking Liability

Bobtail insurance covers your semi-truck for traveling between assignments from different carriers or for personal use, but only if there is no trailer being hauled. By contrast, non-trucking liability insurance covers owner-operators from any liability claims when the truck is used for non-commercial reasons, irrespective of whether there is a load attached or not.

Non-trucking liability insurance is only for scenarios where you and your semi-truck are not being used for commercial purposes. For example, you go out for dinner with someone and you're involved in a minor accident, with minor damage to the other vehicle. Your primary trucking liability insurance won’t work as you are not under dispatch at the time of the accident. This is where the non-trucking liability can provide coverage, just as if you were driving a car with standard auto insurance.