Bobtail and Deadhead Coverage

Trucking operations face unique transportation risks presented by instances of bobtailing and deadheading. A tractor that is traveling on the road without a trailer is considered to be bobtailing. 

Example: Joe drops his trailer at Fran’s bakery and then heads to Doug’s Plumbing supplies to pick up a trailer. In between the two customers, he is bobtailing. 

 Any time a tractor is pulling an empty trailer, it is considered deadheading. 

Example: Mary ran a load of apples from Saginaw to a processor in Grand Rapids but has no pickup in Grand Rapids and returns to Detroit with an empty trailer. She is deadheading between Grand Rapids and Detroit. 


If you are an independent trucker operating for hire with a trucking operation, you have a concern. Once an independent trucker completes his job, the insurance coverage provided by the trucking operation ceases. Bobtail and deadhead situations are two of the most common times when an independent trucker is operating outside the trucking operation’s coverage. 

An independent trucker may buy a Commercial Truckers Policy and gain full-time coverage. However, this is expensive and creates an issue of duplicate protection. Another option would be to purchase a Business Auto Policy and add an option with wording that eliminates double coverage. 

Example: Lucy has a tractor-trailer unit and normally does contract work with ABC trucking. She decides to pick up some extra money by carrying a load for a friend without going through ABC. During the job, she collides with another vehicle. With this endorsement, there is no coverage because she was operating as a business. If she had just helped a friend, there would be coverage, and if she had contracted through ABC, ABC’s policy would have handled the loss. 


Under the above option, coverage does not apply to a loss involving anyone who is in the business of transporting property for hire and who is responsible for the named insured’s conduct as an insured. This is the portion of the wording that removes the chance of duplicate coverage. 

Example: Lucy contracts with ABC Trucking to deliver a load of fruit. The weight shifts and the trailer fishtails. Losing control, she strikes two sedans, demolishing both vehicles. ABC trucking cannot ask for coverage under Lucy’s policy because they are in the business of transporting property for hire, and they are also responsible for Lucy’s conduct. 


While insurers are typically quite open to providing the additional coverage to handle the special needs of independent truckers, some avoid operations involving vehicles that regularly travel to areas where the insurer does not operate. For advice on whether your firm has unprotected trucking-related exposure to loss, be sure to discuss your situation with a Hertvik Insurance Group professional.