When a semi-truck is driving on the highway and does not have a trailer attached to it, it is colloquially referred to as a bobtail. Bobtailing means that the driver is operating only the truck cab, so they are not hauling a load of cargo.
Bobtailing can be dangerous because a semi-truck cab is not designed to be operated without the weight of the attached trailer. This can be a dangerous situation for both the truck driver and other vehicle operators on the roads.
Why do Drivers Bobtail?
When bobtailing, the driver may be traveling from one drop-off job to pick up another job, or the driver may have dropped off the trailer at one location and is driving home, until returning to pick up the trailer the following day.
Either way, the driver must be extra cautious to avoid an accident, which may be more difficult if they are tired from having done a good deal of driving that day, or if they are used to driving the truck with a trailer attached.
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Operating a Bobtail Truck
It may seem strange, but a bobtail truck is more difficult to control for the driver than a semi-truck with a trailer attached. The driver may have a more difficult time maintaining the right lane or braking properly when driving a bobtail.
Although it may seem like a truck attached to a trailer with a heavy load is more dangerous for other drivers on the road, the bobtailing truck requires extra care in operation for the driver versus the fully loaded truck.
Bobtailing Means the Driver May Have Difficulty in Braking
When designing a truck, the manufacturer knows that the truck will be operating the majority of the time with a trailer attached and a load inside it. So, the design of the truck cab is made to be safest in the mode in which it most commonly operates. It can take longer for a bobtailing truck to stop than it would for a fully equipped tractor-trailer, according to Page 6-1 of the Commercial Driver License Manual.
Bobtailing means that the truck does not have the typical amount of weight over the rear axle, as it does when a trailer is attached to the cab. Without this extra weight, the braking ability of the truck is reduced. This makes it more difficult to stop the truck quickly when in an emergency situation.
Difficulty in Steering
With the majority of the weight in the front of the truck while in bobtail mode, steering also can be difficult for the operator. The front wheels are not designed to carry the majority of the truck’s weight. Instead, they are designed to control the steering of the truck.
Without a trailer attached to the truck, this odd weight distribution during bobtailing can cause steering issues. The truck may skid when making a sharp or sudden turn. Steering problems become enhanced during tough weather, strong winds, or when driving on wet roads.
Carrying Bobtailing Insurance
Ultimately, because the truck is more difficult to operate as a bobtail, it can lead to a greater chance of accidents with other vehicles on the road. An inexperienced semi-truck driver who has not operated a bobtail often may especially have problems steering and braking.
Florida Statutes § 316.302 covers commercial vehicle insurance requirements, but because of the dangers of operating a bobtailed truck, truck drivers may choose to carry bobtail liability insurance.
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Why Is Bobtailing Dangerous?
Bobtailing is dangerous because it can actually make the truck more difficult to control. When driving in typical conditions, the problems driving in bobtail mode presents may not occur.
However, if the truck driver must perform an emergency driving maneuver, such as braking or swerving suddenly, the danger of operating a truck in bobtail mode becomes clear. The driver may:
- Be unable to stop in time to prevent a rear-end collision, especially if they were following another vehicle too closely
- Speed through a stop sign or intersection and into the vehicle with the right of way
- Lose control of the vehicle and swerve into other lanes of traffic
Wet roads or windy weather also enhance the dangers of driving while bobtailing. In addition, even without the weight of a trailer, a truck is typically heavier than the average vehicle. This extra size and weight can lead to more severe injuries during a collision.
What to Do After an Accident With a Bobtailing Truck
If you were injured in an accident with a bobtailing truck, the first thing you need to do is get medical care. This will help protect you physically and financially. Going to the doctor immediately after an accident can help you link your injuries to the truck accident.
Once you have received medical care, discuss your case with a truck accident lawyer in Florida to determine if you might have legal options to recover compensation. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be able to recover any of the following:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Miscellaneous expenses
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Lost quality of life
Your situation’s specifics will determine what types of damages you can recover through a claim or a lawsuit against the liable party or parties. In other words, you could recover other losses than the ones we listed here. Contact a tractor trailer accident lawyer to understand your rights and options. Calculating economic and non-economic damages is difficult, but your attorney will consider all your quantifiable expenses and use standard formulas to determine your non-economic damages as well.
Other Things to Do After a Bobtailing Accident
In addition to receiving medical and legal help, you have a legal responsibility to report serious accidents in a timely manner. The police, according to Florida Statutes § 316.066, must investigate and file a report on any accident that:
- Damages one or more vehicles so badly that they have to be towed
- Involves a hit and run driver
- Involves a driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Injures one or more people
- Kills one or more people
If you have not already reported the accident, do so as soon as possible. You can use the resulting police report to establish important, basic facts about your case, including the truck driver’s liability and the extent of your injuries.
Another thing you should do after any accident is to speak to the truck driver. You can make sure they are uninjured, call 911 if they need help, and get their contact and insurance information for later use.
If you did not do everything “perfectly” after an accident, try not to worry: You may still be able to collect compensation. A truck accident attorney can explain your options based on the specifics of your case.
Who Pays Compensation for Bobtailing Truck Injuries?
As previously mentioned, there is a special category of insurance that covers only bobtail truck injuries. In addition, you may find yourself dealing with the truck driver’s regular insurance, your own insurance, and the insurer of other liable parties. It depends on:
- The main factor(s) that caused the accident
- How many liable parties there are (and whether you share any responsibility for the accident or resulting injuries)
- What types of insurance coverage each party has, and how much
Sorting out whose insurance should pay what can be a challenge, especially if your injuries have left you feeling less than your best. A truck accident lawyer can help you by:
- Investigating the accident by visiting the scene, requesting evidence from various sources, and speaking with relevant parties
- Building a case against all of the liable parties
- Meeting with representatives from relevant insurance companies to make sure they pay you a fair amount
- Reviewing your insurance policy with you to confirm what it does and does not cover
How to Prove Bobtailing Caused Your Injuries
As with any other type of accident, to get compensation from a liable party, your case must successfully establish these four criteria:
- The liable party had a responsibility to protect others (for example, drivers cannot simply drive however they want: they must obey the rules of the road and remain alert for danger, especially when bobtailing)
- The liable party did not behave as they should have
- Their bad behavior caused your accident
- The accident caused your injuries
A personal injury attorney can help build and prove your case against a bobtail truck driver by collecting evidence like the following:
- Video footage of the accident from surveillance cams or cell phones
- Statements from eyewitnesses who can speak to the truck driver’s (and your) behavior
- Accident reconstruction specialists who can explain how the accident most likely happened
- Any prior complaints or convictions against the truck driver
- Your own recollections of the accident
Let Us Protect Your Rights
Because of the difficulty truck drivers have when operating a bobtail truck, many of them may decide to purchase bobtail liability insurance. The fact that insurance is made available for this type of driving communicates how dangerous bobtailing is.
If you were involved in an accident with a bobtailing truck, you may be able to seek damages for your losses. Look to the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine to stand by your side during an injury lawsuit involving an accident with a truck driver. We can help you determine and hold liable all responsible parties. Call us today for a free consultation.
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