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Bobtail Insurance: Definition, Cost, and Where to Get It

There are many methods of transport and freight carriage in the trucking industry — each one with unique risks, costs, and rewards. One of the more risky ones is bobtailing, which is when a driver operates a semi-truck or 18-wheeler without the trailer attached. Bobtailing might occur when you’re picking up a load or on the way back from dropping one off.

Whatever the reason, bobtailing is an activity that often requires added insurance coverage. Bobtail insurance protects both you and your wallet in case of an accident, and it may be mandated by your motor carrier.

If you often bobtail in your semi-truck, here’s what you need to know about finding bobtail insurance coverage.

On this page:

What is bobtail insurance?

Bobtail insurance is a type of liability coverage that protects you when driving your truck without its hauling equipment.

It helps if you’re in an accident when:

  1. On your way to pick up a new load
  2. In between dropping off a load and picking up the next
  3. On your way home after your last drop-off

While bobtail truck insurance doesn’t cover damage to your rig in these scenarios, it can go toward medical bills, legal fees, repairs, and other costs if someone else (or their vehicle) is hurt in an accident.

Who needs bobtail insurance?

There are several reasons you might need bobtail insurance coverage. The first is if your motor carrier requires it. In many cases, if you’re operating under someone else’s trucking authority, you’ll need at least some level of bobtail insurance to your name.

Generally, you’ll want bobtail insurance if:

  • Your motor carrier mandates it
  • You drive your semi-truck without a trailer or hauling equipment regularly
  • You drive your semi-truck with an empty trailer regularly
  • You don’t have the funds to cover legal fees, damages, and other costs if involved in an accident 

If the only time you drive your truck without a trailer (or with an empty trailer) is during personal trips, then bobtail insurance isn’t the right fit. You’ll need non-trucking liability insurance instead.

A quick note: Bobtailing is known to be more dangerous and difficult than driving a loaded truck. With the trailer and much of the weight gone, bobtails may be harder to brake, steer, or manage around turns. This is one reason why bobtail insurance is so important.

What does bobtail insurance cover?

Bobtail insurance only covers liability, so it can’t be used to cover physical damage to your rig. (Your motor carrier will typically cover that). Instead, it’s used to cover damages to other vehicles and injuries to other people in accidents where you’re deemed to be at fault.

Here are a few scenarios that would be covered by bobtail insurance — and some that would not:

CoveredNot Covered
You drop off your last load and head home. While en route, you hit a light pole on the side of the road. The costs to repair that light pole would be covered.You drop off your last load and head to pick up the kids from school. While en route, you rear-end a vehicle at a stoplight. The costs here would not be covered.
You’re dispatched to your first delivery. After dropping it off, you get in a wreck on the way to pick up load No. 2. Since your trailer is empty, the damages are covered.You’re dispatched to your first delivery. After dropping off the half-load, you head to stop No. 2. You get in an accident on the way. Since you still have cargo in your trailer, this is not covered.

Most bobtail policies offer around $1 million in coverage. You can usually add on additional coverage if you’re anxious about bobtailing accidents or you know you bobtail often.

How much does bobtail insurance cost?

The cost of bobtail insurance depends on several factors, including your personal driving history, the coverage limit you choose, how often you bobtail, and more. According to East Insurance Group, most drivers pay around $400 annually for this type of insurance.

That’s just an average, though, and your exact costs will depend on:

  • Your driving history: The more experienced you are at driving a truck, the lower your premium will likely be.
  • Your limits: If you want to be covered up to $2 million in liability costs, you’ll pay more than you would on a $1 million policy. As coverage goes up, costs go up, too.
  • Your use: How often do you bobtail? And for how long? The more you’re bobtailing, the riskier you are to insure — and the higher your premiums will climb.
  • Your insurance history: If you have a lot of claims on past insurance policies, you’ll probably pay more for your bobtail insurance, too.

Semi-trucks are massive vehicles, and when involved in an accident, they can cause immense damage — to cars, properties, and other people. Given the difficulty of bobtailing, forgoing insurance for this activity can be a huge mistake, leaving you with millions of dollars in damages and medical bills should an accident occur.

Where to find bobtail insurance

Commercial auto insurers usually offer bobtail insurance. You can typically get a quote by going on the insurer’s website and entering some basic information about your vehicle, driving history, and driving habits. 

You can also try a rate-shopping marketplace like Coverwallet, which allows you to get quotes from several bobtail insurance companies at once.

Free instant quotes from multiple insurance carriers, available 24/7

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>> Read More: Best commercial truck insurance

What is the difference between bobtail insurance and non-trucking liability insurance?

Bobtail insurance is often confused with non-trucking liability insurance. Though both are liability-only coverages, they serve two different purposes.

Bobtail coverage is for when you’re driving without a trailer on your motor carrier’s time. Non-trucking liability is for protecting your personal time — when taking your rig on vacation, picking up the kids, or other personal activities. In many cases, you may need both types of coverage. It depends on how you use your truck and the activities you partake in.

If you ever operate your semitruck without the trailer (and on your motor carriers’ time), having adequate bobtail insurance is critical. Just make sure you shop around for your insurer, as rates vary from one agency to the next.