Bobtail vs. Non-Trucking Liability Insurance: Do You Need Both?

Thang Truong
Thang Truong
Updated on:

If you are a semi-truck owner-operator, you may need insurance coverages that extend beyond the range provided by the motor carrier with whom you have a contract. The motor carrier will provide insurance that ultimately protects their interests. You should have additional coverages that protect yours. 

Do you ever use your truck for personal errands? For example, have you ever picked up your children from school in your rig just for fun? Using your truck for personal business isn’t covered by commercial policies. If you are headed home from a run or aren’t attached to your trailer any longer, the motor carrier’s insurance may no longer cover you.

A couple of coverages to consider to keep you covered even off the clock are bobtail insurance and non-trucking liability insurance. If you’ve never heard of these coverages, don’t worry. Here we’ll discuss the coverages and who needs them.

Are bobtail and non-trucking liability insurance the same?

The trucking business comes with its own set of risks. A single accident could end your business, taking away your entire livelihood. You want to ensure you have enough insurance coverage to protect you in the event of an accident. Bobtail and non-trucking liability coverages are worth considering, especially if a motor carrier’s insurance policy primarily covers you.

Non-trucking liability and bobtail insurance are sometimes referred to as being the same thing; however, they are two different types of insurance. One is for personal errands, and the other is for traveling without your trailer attached. Which is which, and which one do you need? Keep reading to learn more. 

What is bobtail insurance?

If you’ve been in trucking for any length of time, you likely understand what it means to Bobtail. Some people call it deadheading. If you happen to be unfamiliar with the term, any time your truck is without a trailer, it is said to be bobtailing, deadheading, or a bob truck. 

There are occasions when every truck becomes a bobtail—between loads or when you’ve come home off the road. These bobtail trips can be with dispatch or without it. When traveling Bobtail, your regular commercial trucking policy may not cover you. It’s a good idea to have bobtail coverage for these eventualities, or at the very least, find out if your current policy covers bobtailing. 

A Bobtail policy is a liability policy, so it doesn’t cover physical damages to your truck. You’ll need a trucking physical damage policy for that. It does include the liabilities that can occur with an accident like: 

  • Damage to the other person’s property.
  • Medical bills for other people who might be injured in the accident.
  • The cost of legal action should the other person sue you.

Bobtail insurance does not cover you between jobs if you are still pulling a trailer. These policies are only for when you are traveling in the tractor of the rig without the trailer attached. You would need a different policy for traveling with an empty trailer between jobs. 

Learn more at the best bobtail insurance companies.

What is non-trucking liability insurance? 

Sometimes, you use your truck on your day off to run errands or visit people. Commercial insurance policies don’t cover accidents if you are using your truck for non-commercial activities. This is where non-trucking liability insurance is a handy coverage to have. 

Non-trucking liability insurance will cover property damage, medical bills for other injured parties, and repair costs in the event of an accident. This policy is only used if there is an accident while you aren’t working. Your other commercial trucking policies cover accidents while working. 

What about your trailer? Non-trucking liability will cover even if your trailer is attached as long as the trailer is empty and you aren’t on the road for business. Damages to the trailer would also be covered. 

Learn more at the best non-trucking liability insurance companies.

Understanding the differences between Bobtail and non-trucking liability insurance

Both Bobtail and non-trucking liability insurance bridge gaps in your commercial trucking policies, but there are differences between the two. Bobtail insurance is only for when you are traveling without a trailer—regardless of whether it’s business or personal use. Non-trucking liability insurance protects you whether you have your trailer attached or not, but it only covers if you are using the truck for personal use; it doesn’t cover business uses. 

Just to be clear, Bobtail insurance doesn’t depend on usage. It depends on whether you are pulling a trailer or not. Non-trucking liability insurance doesn’t depend on a trailer. It depends on usage—it’s only applicable if and when you use the truck for personal errands like getting groceries or picking up children at school. 

Which of these insurance policies do you need?

If we lived in a perfect world, truckers would have both of these coverages and other commercial coverages. However, that isn’t always possible. So, which of these do you need, or do you need either one?

If you want your truck protected when you are moving from one location to another without a trailer, you need Bobtail insurance. Every trucker drives their rig without the trailer at some point, even if it’s just dropping a trailer at a dock and going down the street to pick up another trailer. Bobtail insurance does not cover if the trailer is attached to the truck. 

If you don’t use your truck for personal use, you can skip the non-trucking liability policy. This policy is typically the more expensive of the two policies because it includes more coverage. Only people who use their truck outside business will need the non-trucking liability. 

Final thoughts

Bobtail and non-trucking liability insurance are often confused as the same policy. However, they are complementary policies, and you might consider purchasing both. They are both liability policies, but they serve somewhat different purposes.

Bobtail insurance is for driving your truck without a trailer regardless of the use. Non-trucking liability is for when you are using your truck for personal use with or without a trailer attached (the trailer does have to be empty); this policy doesn’t cover any occurrences while the truck is in use for business. Consult with a licensed insurance professional to determine if you need one, or both, of these coverages.

Thang Truong

Thang Truong covers small business insurance and small business success at BravoPolicy. He is a licensed P&C insurance agent. Previously, he held product leadership positions at, Capital One, NerdWallet, and Mulberry Technology. He holds a MBA degree from UC Berkeley - Haas School of Business.

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