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.

What is a Bobtail Truck

Bobtailing in trucking is sometimes confused with deadheading

Deadheading empty semi-trailer

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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