What Is Bobtail Liability Insurance?


Within the trucking industry, federal and state laws dictate the types of insurance coverage motor carriers and owner-operators must have to conduct business. In some instances, mandated insurance requirements won’t cover an accident or injury that occurs with an off-duty truck. Bobtail liability insurance provides additional coverages that primary insurance doesn’t cover.

Primary Liability Insurance

Federal and state laws require motor carriers or trucking companies to provide primary liability insurance for their owner-operator lines as a business insurance requirement. Primary liability coverage insures against damage or bodily injury caused by a truck when transporting merchandise or involved in commercial activity. As a form of business insurance, a primary liability policy will only cover incidents that occur within the course of conducting business. For a driver to have full insurance protection, additional coverage in the form of bobtail liability and non-trucking liability can pick up where primary coverage leaves off.

Bobtail Liability Insurance

The name “bobtail” describes a semi-tractor trailer without its trailer compartment, which depicts the purpose for bobtail liability insurance coverage. Bobtail insurance -- also known as “dead head” coverage -- specifically insures damages or bodily injury caused when a truck travels without its trailer. Since primary liability insurance only covers travel that involves the transporting of merchandise or commercial-related activities, accidents that occur when a driver travels in-between loads or takes a truck home fall outside of primary coverage limits. In effect, bobtail liability coverage acts as a type of non-trucking liability insurance that specifically covers bobtail-related incidents.

Non-Trucking Liability Insurance

Bobtail liability insurance coverage exists as a type of non-trucking liability insurance. Oftentimes, people may use the terms bobtail and non-trucking interchangeably when referring to liability coverage that insures non-commercial activities. Non-trucking insurance -- also known as contingent liability -- encompasses a larger coverage area than bobtail liability insurance, but only pertains to damages and injuries caused during non-business related travel. Non-trucking coverage provides protection when a truck has a trailer in tow or not. As with most forms of liability coverage, non-trucking insurance pays for physical damages as well as medical costs for bodily injury.

On-Duty vs. Off-Duty

Though not required by law, motor carrier companies that employ full-time lease drivers can benefit from the added protection provided by bobtail and non-trucking insurance coverage. Motor carriers keep track of their drivers through dispatch lines, or dispatchers who track drivers’ whereabouts and tell them where to go. When off-duty, a driver’s whereabouts remain unknown until he reports back in to dispatch. Primary liability insurance doesn’t cover off-duty drivers or trucks. Bobtail coverage provides protection when a full-time lease driver takes a truck home without a trailer or uses it for personal use, while non-trucking coverage insures most all activities when off-duty.

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