Semi-trucks are an integral part of the US economy but are also hazardous to other cars on the road. According to FARS 2020 report, almost 4,119 people have died in truck accidents in the US. So, if you don’t know about bobtail trucks – what is it and why it is dangerous, then this article is just for you.
Bobtails are semi-trucks without cargo trailers. Trailer-less trucks get into frequent accidents as they take longer to slow down and require expertise to maneuver properly. Accidents happen for several reasons, including – adverse driving conditions, inexperienced drivers, disregard for traffic safety rules, etc.
Additionally, we’ll also talk about what to do if you get into a bobtail accident. Continue to know more –
What Is Bobtailing And Why Is It Dangerous?
Bobtailing means when a semi-truck is driving without a trailer attached. This usually happens after the truck has dropped off its cargo or has started a new shift.
Commercial trucks are generally made of two parts– the cab and the cargo trailer. Trucks are meant to carry heavy loads, so most of the braking power is focused on the trailer’s rear axles, while the front wheels are used mostly for steering.
But, when bobtailing, most of the vehicle’s weight falls on the front wheels. This creates uneven traction and reduces the truck’s braking power. This makes the truck prone to skidding in tight turns.
This is also why bobtailing trucks require longer braking distances despite weighing less. Driving a truck in this configuration is especially dangerous on wet roads or in windy weather.
Thus, bobtail trucks are more difficult to brake or steer compared to their counterparts. Therefore, drivers must be cautious when driving a bobtail truck.
Why Do Drivers Bobtail?
Most drivers don’t like driving bobtail configuration. Bobtails aren’t used for transporting goods. Rather it is an intermediate phase when trucks drive without a trailer after making deliveries. No matter the situation, a driver has to pay extra attention while driving a bobtail. Otherwise, this could lead to serious injuries.
When Can Bobtailing Cause An Accident?
Driving without a trailer or bobtailing is quite risky. Bobtail-related accidents are becoming more common each day. Some prime reasons for accidents include –
- Driving in poor road conditions
- Low traction tires and road or worn-out brakes
- Driving in rain or snow storms
- Extended driving periods
- Disregarding traffic rules
Challenges Truckers Face When Bobtailing
It might sound strange but driving a bobtail is more dangerous than driving a truck with a heavy cargo trailer. The drivers usually have a hard time steering the vehicle or braking. Here are two of the most common problems drivers face.
Difficulty When Braking Or Slow Braking
A truck usually operates with a heavy trailer attached, and the braking system in cabs is designed with this in mind. According to the Commercial Drivers License Manual, a bobtailing truck takes more time to stop than a regular semi-truck with a load attached.
When bobtailing, a truck doesn’t have proper weight distribution among its wheels. Without the proper weight distribution, stopping the vehicle takes more effort in emergencies.
Having Difficulties Steering
Steering while bobtailing can also be troublesome, as the majority of the weight is put on the front axles. The front wheels and suspensions aren’t made to carry massive loads.
As mentioned before, improper weight distribution affects the performance of the truck. The truck may skid when taking sharp turns. The steering problems become apparent in adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain or storm.
Is Driver Fatigue Responsible for Bobtailing Accidents?
Oftentimes, drivers have to take long shifts and drive for several hours at a time. This causes muscle fatigue, drowsiness, and sleep deprivation.
Driver fatigue is fairly common among truckers, but driving for elongated periods could have dire consequences.
Some of the symptoms drivers encounter include –
- Lack of attention
- Decreased reaction time
- Loss of consciousness
- Cognitive weakness
How to Decrease The Chances of Fatal Accidents?
Following these guidelines will help drivers to prevent accidents on the road –
- Always follow traffic rules and speed limits.
- Maintain adequate space between passersby, trucks, and cars.
- Try to steer away from civilian cars on the highway.
- Avoid going in front of a truck in heavy traffic.
- Use turn lights when steering left or right.
What Should You Do After An Accident?
Operating a bobtail is undoubtedly a difficult task. Nonetheless, it is a truck driver’s responsibility to operate the truck safely without inflicting damage on others. The trucking company also has a role in this regard. They need to make sure that the trucks are in good condition and that drivers are well-trained.
If you’re in a bobtailing truck accident, then immediately seek medical attention and get your injuries diagnosed. Truck accidents can cause serious injuries or even permanent disabilities. In such a scenario, you have the right to sue the employing company.
Medical records and damage reports are vital in claiming insurance or filing a lawsuit. These will strengthen your case and ensure compensation for medical bills or other losses.
You should also consult an expert automobile accident lawyer. Truck accident cases are really complex, but an experienced attorney can make a compelling case on your behalf.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How heavy is a bobtail truck?
A typical bobtail truck is about 24 feet in length, 13 ½ feet in height, and 8 feet in width. Despite the relatively small measurements, bobtails can weigh up to 30,000lbs. This weight is spread out between the steer axles and drive axles. Depending on the manufacturer, these measurements can vary among trucks.
2. Are deadheading and bobtailing the same?
Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, these concepts have significant differences. Usually, cabs drive without a trailer after dropping it off or picking up a new one. This procedure is called bobtailing.
On the other hand, deadheading means carrying an empty trailer to a destination. This is done when packages have been delivered, and the trailer is returned to the warehouse.
3. Which state has the most number of truck accidents?
According to the official FMCSA report in 2019, the highest accident rate was in Texas, followed by California and Florida. The numbers stood around 579, 355, and 311, respectively.
However, in 2020, the numbers rose drastically, standing around 649 in Texas, 398 in California, and 344 in Florida.
To recap, trailer-less semi-trucks are referred to as bobtails. Driving a bobtail takes years of experience and excellent maneuvering skills.
Bobtailing is dangerous as semi-trucks aren’t optimized to be driven without trailers. As a result, a bobtail truck is difficult to operate, which can lead to fatal accidents. However, following proper rules can prevent accidents and ensure drivers’ safety.
We hope this article cleared your queries on bobtail trucks – what is it, and why it is dangerous?