What is Bobtailing or a Bobtail Truck?

Have you ever heard the term “bobtailing” or “bobtail truck” and don’t know what it means? Well, we’re here to help clear things up – read below to learn more about bobtailing!

What Is A Bobtail Truck?

Bobtail Truck

Have you ever seen a semi-truck without a trailer attached? They look kind of funny, don’t they? Well, to most people in the freight industry, this is known as a bobtail truck or a truck that is “bobtailing.” Bobtail trucks can include standard semi-trucks, small to medium-sized trucks, and straight propane trucks. The name is related to a bobtail cat, which has a shortened tail. Similarly, a bobtail truck has a short tail because it does not pull a trailer or freight.

Why Does Bobtailing Occur?

Bobtailing can occur for a few typical reasons. For example, a driver may be moving a truck from a terminal to a dispatch site to pick up a loaded trailer. Or, a driver may be going back to a terminal after unloading the cargo-carrying trailer. So, a bobtail truck is one that is in between dropping off an old trailer and picking up a new one.

Is Bobtailing Popular?

In short, no, bobtailing is not preferred among drivers and companies. Bobtailing generates no revenue because no cargo is being transported. Additionally, the design of a truck is based primarily on loaded conditions. So, when the truck is not carrying a trailer, the weight is distributed differently, and there is less friction on the wheels. The absence of a trailer can make it harder to steer, control, and break the vehicle. This factor can make driving in wet or snowy conditions even more challenging and dangerous for the driver.

Is Bobtailing The Same As Deadheading?


Though both terms refer to a cargo-free truck, the two terms are not synonymous with one another. Deadheading is the term used when a truck is pulling an empty trailer as opposed to the absence of one. Deadheadings are often the result of all deliveries being made. Thus, the trailer is empty of any cargo.

Now, the next time you see a semi-truck without a trailer, you know it is a bobtail truck between cargo pickups!