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Driving your 18-wheeler without the trailer attached is known as bobtailing or, more commonly, deadheading. Owner/operators who occasionally make deadhead trips with or without dispatch are usually required by their motor carrier to have special coverage, known as Bobtail Liability truck insurance.
Bobtail insurance will not provide coverage if you’re hauling any trailer, reefer or other loads. Even if your trailer is completely empty at the time of the accident, bobtail insurance will not offer you any protection. Whether or not your accident occurs during a personal or business trip should not affect your coverage. Using your tractor for personal errands, like grocery shopping, is fine as long as the errand does not involve you hauling a trailer or other equipment.
Bobtail Liability insurance often is confused with Non-Trucking Liability insurance, but there are important differences between them.
Verify with your motor carrier which coverage they require.
Bobtail vs. Non-Trucking Liability, which one should I get?
Bobtail Liability is protection for leased owner operators that provides insurance coverage when your truck is being operated without its trailer attached, whether or not you have been dispatched by your carrier. This type of insurance would cover you, for example, if you deliver a load to a terminal and then drive into another town to pick up a different load there. You would also be covered while you were traveling in your truck to and from work or to and from the repair shop. As noted previously, this coverage is excluded if you are pulling a trailer.
Furthermore, Non-trucking liability coverage is designed to protect leased owner operators against liability claims that occur when you are operating your truck for non-business use/not under dispatch. This type of insurance covers you if, for example, you take your truck to the mechanic for an oil change or to the truck wash shop. Coverage is excluded if you are driving under the direction of your carrier. It is also not applicable until you have returned to your principle garage location.