What is Bobtail Insurance?
Bobtail insurance is a type of commercial truck insurance that provides liability coverage for truck drivers when they are operating their truck without a trailer attached, also known as “bobtailing”. This insurance protects truckers when they are driving the tractor portion of their truck alone, such as when deadheading to pick up a load, moving the truck for repairs or maintenance, traveling between home and their truck yard, and other situations where the trailer is detached.
Bobtail insurance is an essential coverage for truckers because their regular commercial auto liability policies generally only cover them while they have a trailer attached to the tractor. Without bobtail coverage, truckers could be personally liable in the event of an at-fault accident while driving bobtail.
Why Do Truck Drivers Need Bobtail Insurance?
There are several important reasons truck drivers need dedicated bobtail insurance coverage:
Protects When Commercial Policy Won’t
Like mentioned above, a commercial auto or motor carrier policy for a semi-truck will usually only provide liability coverage while the tractor and trailer are attached. When the trailer is detached, a standard commercial policy will generally not apply. Bobtail insurance steps in to protect the trucker during this exposure gap.
Covers Liability When Bobtailing
Bobtail policies provide truck drivers with liability insurance protection in the event they are involved in an accident while operating their tractor without an attached trailer. This covers bodily injury and property damage to others you may be found responsible for while bobtailing.
Offers Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
In addition to liability coverage, bobtail policies also typically include collision coverage and comprehensive coverage for the tractor portion of the truck. This covers damage to your own tractor unit from an accident or other losses like theft, vandalism, fire, animals, weather damage, etc.
Satisfies Insurance Requirements
Many trucking companies actually require their drivers to maintain bobtail insurance policies in order to contract them. It satisfies motor carrier insurance requirements when operating solo without a trailer. Having a bobtail policy may help you secure work.
Relatively Low Cost Coverage
Compared to a full commercial auto policy for a tractor-trailer rig, bobtail insurance is relatively affordable for the coverage and protection it provides when operating without a trailer attached. It’s an inexpensive way to close a key coverage gap.
What Does Bobtail Insurance Cover?
Bobtail policies can provide different types of coverage options, which may include:
- Liability insurance – Bodily injury and property damage liability to cover what you may be legally responsible for if an accident is your fault.
- Collision – Covers damage to your own tractor when involved in an accident. May have a deductible.
- Comprehensive – Covers “other than collision” damage from things like fire, theft, vandalism, falling objects, weather events, animal collisions, etc.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist – Provides coverage if you’re in an accident caused by a driver with no or insufficient insurance.
- Medical Payments – Covers minor injuries to occupants of your bobtail truck up to policy limits.
- Rental Reimbursement – Reimburses cost of a rental truck if yours is disabled after a covered loss.
Always verify coverage inclusions, exclusions, and limits with your insurer or agent. Limits and availability of certain coverages can vary by state and by insurer.
Key Factors That Impact Bobtail Insurance Costs
Some important factors that can influence how much you’ll pay for bobtail insurance include:
- Your driving record – Insurers will review your MVR driving history and accidents/violations/claims will increase your rate.
- Your experience – More years with a valid CDL and operating bobtail rigs lowers risk and premiums. Less experience raises costs.
- Coverage amount limits – Your per-accident and aggregate coverage limits selections impact premiums. Higher limits mean higher potential payouts by an insurer if a covered loss occurs.
- Coverage deductibles – Choosing higher deductibles (amounts you pay out-of-pocket before coverage kicks in) reduces your premiums.
- Truck usage – Using your bobtail tractor for personal use may cost less than business use. Higher mileage for business means more exposure.
- Tractor make, model, age – Newer expensive tractors have higher policy premiums than old inexpensive models which have lower actual cash value.
- Credit history – Insurers may use your credit-based insurance score in pricing, with better credit meaning better rates.
- Claims history – Past bobtail claims on your policy record may make your insurance more expensive.
- Geographic location – Where you live and operate can impact price based on accident frequencies, claim costs, litigation rates, and state insurance laws.
How Much Does Bobtail Insurance Cost on Average?
Bobtail insurance premiums can vary quite a bit depending on your unique risk profile, coverage needs, tractor value, and insurer. However, on average, expect to pay anywhere from $150 – $350 or more per month for a typical policy. Higher liability limits or added coverages will be more expensive. Bobtail policies with minimal liability-only coverage could potentially be as low as $75/month.
Tips for Getting the Lowest Bobtail Insurance Rates
Here are some tips that can help truckers get the most affordable bobtail insurance coverage:
- Shop around – Get quotes from multiple commercial insurers to compare rates for the same coverage.
- Maintain a clean driving record – Avoid accidents, moving violations, DUIs, and other infractions that raise your risk profile.
- Limit personal use – Reduce any non-business use to lower your premiums.
- Raise deductibles – Accept higher deductibles to reduce the premium costs.
- Look for discounts – Seek all discounts you may be eligible for like multi-policy, safe driver, usage-based, protective equipment, and more.
- Buy adequate liability limits – Lower liability limits can cost less but may expose you to much greater personal financial risk in the event of a serious at-fault accident.
The Bottom Line on Bobtail Coverage
Bobtail insurance fills a key gap for truckers by protecting them between loads when their tractor is not pulling a trailer. It provides essential liability and physical damage coverages during vulnerable exposure periods that a standard motor carrier policy does not. While cost varies based on your personal profile, shopping around helps find cheaper rates. For a few hundred dollars a month, bobtail insurance provides truckers invaluable peace of mind when operating solo on the road.