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What Does Bobtailing Mean in Trucking?

What Does Bobtailing Mean in Trucking?

The logistics industry widely uses bobtail trucks to transport cargo from pick-up sites. It provides a free space to load cargo on the backside of a truck cab. 

What Does Bobtailing Mean in Trucking? Bobtailing in trucking means driving a semi-truck without a trailer to pick up the cargo for transportation. The term “bobtail” relates to short-tailed animals like cats and horses. It has three types; Straight propane trucks, semi-trucks, and small bobtail trucks. Moreover, it is dangerous to drive these trucks because it increases the risk of collision with other vehicles and is challenging to maneuver. Therefore, it is better to drive bobtail trucks between 50 mph to 60 mph to avoid problematic situations. 

It is an ideal mode of transportation for loading both lightweight and heavy objects, which shows its industrial importance.

Many drivers consider this semi-truck like other vehicles and drive without any expertise, which poses a significant risk.

What is a Bobtail Truck?

It is a semi-truck that does not contain a trailer behind the cab. While bobtailing refers to a situation in which drivers are picking up cargo to transport it to its destination.

In addition, the length of a bobtail truck is 20 to 25 feet long. It weighs about 18,000 to 21,000 Pounds that spreads over the rear and drive axles.

You can use it for picking up and dropping cargo from the production site to the delivery site. Furthermore, it allows you to tow a heavy item like machinery behind the truck cab.

Where does the term ‘bobtail’ originate?

There are two assumptions about the emergence of the word bobtail that it originates from a song and a breed of cat.

The song “Jingle Bells”, composed by James Pierpont, contains the word bobtail in the lyrics. He used this to refer to a horse with a short tail as a long tail gets tangled with a sleigh drawn by the horses.

Moreover, a bobtail truck looks like a cat, particularly a breed with short tails. So, it seems to originate from this breed of cats due to similarity.

Types of a bobtail truck

There are different types of bobtail trucks that you can use according to the loadings or luggage which you want to deliver.

Straight propane truck

The straight trucks containing circular tanks are the straight propane trucks.

These round-shaped tanks include propane gas that can effectively maintain high pressure and temperature.

These are interconvertible as you can remove the propane tanks for use as small trucks. You can use these vehicles for delivering propane to the fuel stations.


A running bobtail or a semi-truck is a vehicle that can load small objects efficiently. These trucks can load machinery having less weight because a heavy load can be dangerous to handle.

It can carry lightweight effectively, but you can attach a heavy trailer behind it with a hinge.

These vehicles are responsible for many accidents as the whole weight of the truck is on the front wheels.

Small bobtail truck

Different sizes of trucks are available, ranging from small to medium. These contain no trailers, and a single chassis connects with all axles.

These are small in size, which determines their application for the loading of lightweight objects.

You can use these for transporting lighter items like bakery items and drinks.

Why are bobtail trucks dangerous? 

The bobtail trucks are responsible for many accidents because their weight and size are more than small vehicles. There are many reasons behind its association with multiple risks like collision and skidding.

Not easy to maneuver

These trucks are dangerous because they do not allow drivers to change directions abruptly.

As a result, it is challenging to maneuver the truck in emergencies. In addition, the truck can lose control quickly when it tries to use brakes suddenly.

Susceptible to skidding

In addition, these vehicles are more susceptible to skidding when it is moving from tight curves.

There is less weight on the rear wheel, while the whole weight of the truck is on the front wheels.

Therefore, a lesser frictional force on the rear wheels can lead to slipping when taking turns on the road.

Inadequate control

These large and heavyweight semi-trucks can create safety issues while driving.

A trailer maintains the truck’s balance by spreading the total weight equally on all wheels.

However, these vehicles are heavy because the engine, fuel, and cab weight are on the front wheels. As a result, it can slip on the wet roads when it is moving fast.

Increased risk of collision

There are more chances of collision between a bobtail truck and any other vehicle on the road.

When the vehicle is moving fast, it is evident that it collides with a coming vehicle during turns.

You cannot apply brakes quickly because it can lead to their turning on the ground.

Hard braking

It requires a maximum distance where it can apply brakes to stop.

When the driver realizes the need to stop a truck, the distance should be almost 500 feet for safe stopping.

When you try to apply brakes quickly, the results can be dangerous and leads to accidents.

Lesser experience of drivers

Many bobtail truck drivers are not expert drivers and have no idea about the skills to drive these vehicles.

Inexperienced drivers also create a problematic situation for the truck and the passing vehicles. Therefore, before allowing drivers to move these vehicles on the road, it is essential to train them.

Lack of driver attention

Furthermore, the bobtail trucks are responsible for many road accidents due to a lack of attention from the drivers.

There are many reasons behind this deviation of focus, like lack of sleep, fatigue, or extra working hours.

Some truck drivers use phones while driving, which can divert their attention from the road and result in accidents.

Poor maintenance

Due to poor maintenance of trucks, accidents can occur that lead to severe injuries. Therefore, it is better to monitor the systems before going on a long drive with your vehicle.

Furthermore, the inadequate surveillance and inspection of the bobtail truck can be dangerous.

How do you prevent bobtailing accidents?

There are many ways to prevent accidents that occur due to bobtailing. You can follow some preventive measures to avoid unpleasant experiences.

Skill and expertise

It is essential to learn the skill and expertise before driving a bobtail truck. It is an entirely different experience from driving a truck with a trailer.

Many drivers make mistakes by thinking that they have been driving for many years, so there is no need to get expertise in bobtailing.

You cannot deny the importance of skill learning and getting expertise in bobtailing before driving it.

However, it is the responsibility of truck owners to train their drivers and then allow them to drive.

Avoid negligence and distractions

Moreover, try to avoid distractions like using the phone for calls and sending messages while driving. 

You have to pay the fees for the damage or the compensation dues to the affected person. 

There is no way to justify the scenario with reasons later on because some modern vehicles have onboard computers that keep a record of the truck.

Proper training

In addition, get proper training from the experts before using this semi-truck to load the luggage.

The training is essential as the expert drivers can adequately guide and provide valuable suggestions that you can follow later on.

Avoid sudden braking and swerving

Try to avoid applying quick brakes or when there is a short distance because it can turn the vehicle down.

Also, the abrupt turning on the curves is dangerous for you, so it is better to be at a low speed.

When moving at low speed, you can easily apply brakes to stop at a distance of less than 450 feet.

However, there are greater chances of slipping and skidding when driving fast on the snowy and wet road.

Proper maintenance

Furthermore, keep an eye on the regular maintenance of the truck.

Sometimes, the brakes can fail, and the tires are not in good condition to maintain friction between the truck and the road. Adequate surveillance of the vehicle can protect you from long-term damages.

What does no bobtail parking mean?

A sign of “No bobtail parking” is present on some roads, restricting drivers from parking their bobtail trucks at the location.

It is illegal to park a semi-truck without a trailer in this restricted area.

It is annoying for some drivers to park their vehicles away from this no parking area.

However, you should follow the rules; otherwise, you will get a fine ticket.

Does the bobtail truck go through weigh station? 

According to the instructions on the weighing station, all trucks can enter a weigh station, so a bobtail can also go through it.

All the commercial vehicles loading more than 5 tons of weight have to enter the weighing stations.

Accordingly, it weighs about 18000 pounds, so there is no way to move without inspection.

In addition, the entrance instructions are not limited to just commercial trucks with excessive weight on them, but there are some variations also.

Furthermore, the purpose of weighing stations is not to measure the weight only; instead, it also checks the vehicle’s condition.

How fast can a bobtail truck go?

A bobtail truck can go at a speed of 50 to 60 mph, which is safe for driving. Moreover, it can achieve a speed of 75 mph at maximum.

It is better to stay in a safe line to avoid danger and accidents. Fast driving of these vehicles can lead to damage and affect other vehicles on the road.

The only benefit of fast driving is reaching the product dispatching site quickly, but the disadvantages are long-term.

So, it is better to follow the safety measures and drive at a slow speed to avoid hard braking and swerving.

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