What Is A Bobtail Truck?

Logistics is definitely one of the most crucial industries in the world. It is also a progressive industry which relates with producers and consumers. And in order to do that, they need a supply chain network with the purpose of employing many types of transportations. Most of them are notably trucks. In this article, we will help you answer the question of what is a bobtail truck. Along with that, we will also help you to tell each type of bobtailing and its use.

All you Need to Know About Bobtail Truck

The Definition of Bobtail Truck

What is a bobtail truck? If you are searching for bobtail truck definition, here it is. This is a semi-truck with no attached trailer is also called a bobtail truck. We also acknowledge it as bobtailing. The bobtail truck plays an important role in the trucking industry. 

The definition of bobtail truck (Photo Source: Pexels)

Since there is no freight in a bobtail truck, it is impossible to generate revenue for its driver. For this reason, many car owners mistake the bobtail truck for deadheading, even though they all refer to cargo -free trucks. The main difference is the attached trailer. While the deadheading trucks have an attached yet empty trailer, the bobtail truck carries a freight carrying with no attached trailer.   

The Original Term of Bobtail Truck

After answering the question of what is a bobtail truck, it is time to understand the original term. Usually, there are two well-known assumptions regarding the origins of the term bobtail truck. The first term is that the bobtail truck resembles the cats that have short tails. They share many similarities in appearances, and the same with a semi-truck without a trailer. The second term is in history. In the 19th century,  the composer James Pierpont wrote a song called “Jingle Bells”, which is famous to all of us. There is a line in the song like this “Bells on Bobtails ring”. And it correlates to the beginning of Bobtailing like a horsetail cut down with the purpose of avoiding entangling the tail.

Why Does Bobtailing Occur?

The car owners use bobtail trailers typically for one of two reasons: The first reason is when a driver moves a truck from its terminal to the industry’s dispatch site in order to pick up a loaded trailer. And the other is when a truck owner needs to travel back to the terminal after unloading the cargo-carrying trailer.

Types of Bobtail Trucks

We already know the origin of bobtail trucks and answer the question of what is a bobtail truck , it is time to acknowledge each type of bobtail truck. There are a total three types of this vehicle: small bobtail truck, running bobtail truck or semi truck and straight propane truck. 

Small Bobtail Truck

We first discussed small bobtail trucks. Usually, the trucks connect all their axles with the same chassis no matter the small or medium size. For that reason, when traveling with no attached trailer, car owners call them “small bobtail trucks”. The applications of these trucks are usually prevented from lighter to medium-weighted loads. Bakery product transportation, egg transportation,… are examples.

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Running Bobtail Truck

Another type of bobtail truck is semi-truck or running bobtail tractors. The same as the term implying, a “running Bobtail” truck is a smaller semi-truck with no trailer. It consists of two main components, one is a tractor unit and the other is a trailer. Along with that, a fifth-wheel type hitch attaches the trailer with the tractor unit. 

Straight Propane Truck

Last but not least, we have straight propane trucks. With the small changes of installing a specially-designed tank on the rear bed truck, car owners can turn small trucks to propane trucks. These rounded shape tanks have the ability to maintain adequate pressure, as well as temperature during the ride. They also have a storage capacity of around 5000 gallons. All of these combined makes these types of trucks significantly contributors to supplying propane or gasoline to auto dealers and fuel stations.

The Dangerous of Bobtail Trucks While Moving

Alright, let’s assume we all understand about bobtail trucks. So, it is time to know why bobtail trucks are dangerous while moving. There are many rumors saying overloaded trucks have many risks involved. While this is the true fact, the bobtail truck has many reasons to be a dangerous mean of transport:

Hard to Drive

Normally, the front wheels are the steering wheels. They provide adequate control of the automobiles, as well as are less load-bearing. However, a bobtail truck reverses the structure. To be more specific, the front wheels bear the brunt of the load. This makes it hard for owners to control the car.

Braking System

Another reason is its braking system. The truck’s braking system is on the rear wheels. And the cause for this is that the truck’s design is based mainly on the loaded conditions.

The braking system is crucial with trucks (Photo Source: Pexels)

The configuration of the bobtail truck reduces the braking power bases on the limited weight on the rear wheels. To be more precise, when the driver presses the brake hard, the rear wheels seize, and the truck will try to pivot around the front wheels.


Friction is the enemy of all types of truck, and bobtail truck is no exception. As frictional force is a truck’s primary mover, less weight on the rear wheel creates less friction. The absence of adequate frictional force can cause skidding. Along with that, it potentially forces the automobile overturn when taking tight curves or sharp turns. Not to mention, Bobtailing is extremely hazardous on snowy or wet roads. This is due to the fact that the frictional force between the tires and the road decreases significantly.


Last but not least, a bobtail truck can move much faster than a loaded truck. However, it raises the risk of an accident. The compressibility of the spring suspension does not work correctly due to a lack of freight. Another thing to know is that the truck braking distance grows dramatically during Bobtailing. So a significant space between the truck and other vehicles is imperative at all times. 


We know understand how to answer the question of what is a bobtail truckIn the fast-paced world, the trucking industry is crucial, and bobtailing is a useful vehicle. A truck without a trailer is the crucial part of almost every single movement of goods. It is the bridge between producers and consumers nationwide. Truck drivers are usually on their way to pick up a loaded trailer or traveling after unloading it. And it is almost certain that almost every truck owner will have a bobtail truck.