What Is Bobtailing?

A bobtail truck does not have a trailer attached. Bobtailing means driving a cargo carrying truck (semi-truck) without a trailer. Bobtailing often happens when a contracted truck driver is first sent out from dispatch to their pick up site. Be careful not to confuse “bobtailing” with “deadheading,” which happens when driving a cargo carrying truck pulling an empty trailer, i.e., containing no cargo.

Bobtailing Truck

Bobtailing in trucking is sometimes confused with deadheading

Deadheading Truck

What Does Bobtailing Mean? Additional Use in Trucking:

A “bobtail” also refers to a straight truck transporting (and sometimes running on) propane gas. This is a term designated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Bobtailing Propane Truck

Forms also used:
– Bobtail, bobtailed
– Bobtail truck
– Running bobtail

Examples of use:

– Cynthia just dropped her trailer off with the client, now she’s bobtailed for the night at a comfy truck stop.
– Jim only needs a small space to park his bobtail for the evening.
– I lost my trailer in a Vegas poker match, guess I’ll be bobtailing it back home to Sacramento.

Trucker slang for bobtailing:
Horse with no wagon

Other meanings of “bobtail”:

Bobtail – An Old English Sheepdog breed that has its tail typically cut short or completely removed soon after birth.


Bells on bobtail ring – In the song, “Jingle Bells,” a bobtail refers to the tail of a horse, with the hair cut short so that it does not get caught in the reins while pulling a sleigh.

Additional trucker glossary terms:

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