Bobtail insurance or non-trucking liability insurance provides coverage for truck drivers when they are operating their trucks in a non-trucking capacity, like getting the truck washed or repaired or operating the vehicle for other personal use. As a truck driver (owner/operator), bobtail insurance also covers your return trip after delivering the freight trailer to its destination. Without the trailer attached, the semi-truck (tractor-trailer rig, 18-wheeler, big-rig, semi-trailer truck) is known as a bobtail truck.
Bobtail insurance is only in effect while an owner/operator of a tractor-trailer rig is operating the bobtail truck on personal time. Independent trucking contractors (owner/operators) are typically required by their motor carriers (companies that provide truck transportation) to have this type of insurance to protect the trucking company while the owner/operator is using the truck during non-dispatch times. When you are operating your truck without a trailer attached (known as “bobtailing” or “deadheading”), bobtail liability insurance will cover any damage that occurs to your truck.
You may hear different terms for this type of insurance, including bobtail, non-trucking liability or deadhead insurance coverage. The terms are interchangeable names used to identify liability insurance coverage for all non-trucking purposes for which you use your truck.
Non-trucking liability or bobtail insurance pays for medical expenses and associated costs for injuries or deaths suffered by other people as a result of an accident occurring when you are not under dispatch with your motor carrier. It also covers damage to other people’s property.
Typically, if you are under lease with a motor carrier, your primary liability insurance is provided by them and only protects you, your truck and the cargo when you are hauling a load. Most motor carrier companies require their owner/operators to obtain bobtail insurance coverage for non-trucking use. Different motor carriers may require varying amounts or types of coverage, and the lease agreement wording may stipulate a requirement for either bobtail or non-trucking liability insurance coverage.
Insurance providers generally have a few prerequisites you must meet before they will provide you with bobtail insurance. You will need to have a permanent lease agreement longer than 30 days with a motor carrier, and often you need to have at least three years of experience hauling loads. You will also be obligated to provide your truck’s vehicle identification number (VIN), your name, driver’s license number, date of birth and payee information in the event of a loss due to physical damage to the truck.
Based in California, Debbie Donner is a freelance online writer who primarily writes articles related to personal finance. Donner received a Mensa scholarship in 2006 while attending California State University, Fresno. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts and a multiple-subject teaching credential.