There are different types of liability coverage proving varying degrees of protection. As an owner-operator of a commercial truck, it behooves you to understand these differences and choose the coverage that best suits your needs.
Bobtail Liability – Operating your truck without a trailer is commonly referred to as “bobtailing” or “Deadheading.” Bobtail liability coverage is protection for leased owner operators that provides insurance coverage when your truck is being operated without its trailer attached, whether or not you have been dispatched by your carrier. This type of insurance would cover you, for example, if you deliver a load to a terminal and then drive into another town to pick up a different load there. You would also be covered while you were traveling in your truck to and from work or to and from the repair shop. As noted previously, this coverage is excluded if you are pulling a trailer.
Non-trucking Liability – This type of coverage is oftentimes used interchangeably with bobtail liability, but they are not truly the same. Non-trucking liability coverage is designed to protect leased owner operators against liability claims that occur when you are operating your truck for personal or non-business use. This type of insurance covers you if, for example, you take your family for a leisure ride in your truck. Coverage is excluded if you are driving under the direction of your carrier. It is also not applicable until you have returned to your principle garage location.
Unladen Liability – This coverage is a newer type of insurance. It has become more popular because it provides you with increased flexibility of protection. While broader in scope with regard to coverage than either bobtail or non-trucking liability, it can be more expensive. Unladen insurance coverage provides you with liability insurance when your truck is being operated with the trailer attached. It will also cover you when you operate the truck without the trailer, regardless of whether or not you have been dispatched by your carrier. As you can probably tell from the definition, unladen liability insurance will cover your when you are bobtailing (deadheading) to and from the terminal or between loads.
Under the law, it is the responsibility of the authorized motor carrier to provide liability protection for the public. So, as an owner operator, you should not have to maintain your own liability insurance. The reality is that motor carriers typically look for ways to reduce their burden for the degree of liability that they are responsible for. They accomplish this by requiring the leased owner operator to release them of this burden in certain situations (bobtailing, personal use, or between loads, etc.). These situations are usually specified in the contracts or lease agreements. As you can see, this is another reason that you should read and understand your lease contract fully. In this way, you can assume only the amount of the motor carrier’s liability that you are obligated to assume.