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Tractor-trailer Dangers: Bobtailing and Deadheading


The trucking industry has its own unique vocabulary. Terms like “float shifting,” “gooseneck lowboy,” “glad-hands,” “deadheading,” and “bobtailing” are likely unfamiliar to most people. The last two have to do with the way a truck is operating, which can have a direct bearing on road safety. Deadheading means driving with an empty trailer, while bobtailing refers to driving the tractor/cab/rig without any trailer at all. Each situation comes with its own risks that can cause accidents.


It might seem that a tractor would perform the same or even better without a trailer behind it. Fewer wheels, less mass, easier to maneuver, right? In fact, a bobtailing tractor is harder to drive and to stop, precisely because the lack of weight means significantly less traction on the rear wheels. Most of a tractor’s weight is over its front wheels, in the cabin, and the engine. That weight is balanced by the weight of the trailer, which pushes the tractor’s rear tires onto the road. The uneven weight distribution of bobtailing reduces traction and requires drivers to adjust how they brake. The following distances should be increased, and sudden braking should be avoided. A bobtail unit behaves like a bicycle when the brakes are slammed on – both tip forward with their rear wheels lifting off the ground. That can easily lead to a very dangerous loss of control. Inexperienced truck drivers may also have trouble modifying normal braking habits to allow for the less pressure required to slow a bobtail unit, leading them to over-brake and lock up the wheels.


Inexperience can also contribute to deadheading wrecks. Trucking companies and independent truck drivers try hard to arrange road schedules to always be hauling a load because an empty trailer generates no money. This limits opportunities for drivers to learn how a tractor-trailer maneuvers without a load. If hauling an empty trailer can’t be avoided, it often happens at night when the semi has to return to the home base. A whole host of issues then get added to the safety equation, such as drowsiness, decreased visibility, night blindness, and speeding. Another concern is that an empty trailer is more likely to sway from side to side than a full trailer. This instability increases the risk of a rollover crash. At high speeds and in windy weather, this risk grows.

Contact Us for free Consultation Our Alexandria, LA Personal Injury Lawyers At Chris J. Roy, Jr. APLC.

It’s important to secure skilled legal representation as soon as possible after an accident with an 18-wheeler, whether empty, full or involving only the cab. The Louisiana truck wreck attorney Chris J. Roy, the founder of the Chris J. Roy, Jr. Law Firm APLC, understands that life after an accident can be overwhelming. He seeks to ease the financial, mental, and physical burden that the litigation process can add by consistently communicating with you, as well as handling the complicated details so you can focus on your recovery. Having practiced law for nearly 30 years, he takes pride in helping accident victims in Alexandria, Pineville, Rapides Parish, Grant Parish, Avoyelles Parish, Allen Parish, Vernon Parish, and throughout Central Louisiana. For help with your legal claim, contact the firm for a free initial consultation by calling 1-318-487-9537.

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