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Is A Semi Tractor Safer When It Is Being Operated Without A Trailer?

Experts say that semi tractors being driven without trailers, or “bobtail rigs”, are dangerous.

When a semi tractor, or cab, is being driven without a trailer, it’s called a “bobtail rig.” The driver has dropped off one trailer at his destination, and is driving the tractor cab to the pickup spot for the next trailer he is going to haul.

They call tractors travelling alone “bobtail rigs” because the short part of the hauling frame sticking out behind the cab looks like the “bobtail” sticking out behind an elastic hairband.

You might think that a bobtail rig is safer and easier to drive; that you don’t have to worry about the trailer jackknifing or fishtailing, and pulling the cab off its intended course or even flipping it. But a couple years ago, a bobtail rig, going faster than the caution sign recommended, went left of center in a blizzard in Clermont County.

The crash knocked my client, an elderly man, off the road. He spent two weeks in University Hospital, and another two months in a nursing home. He never got back to the way he was before the accident.

I hired an expert, a retired Kentucky Highway Patrol officer, to investigate the wreck. Here is what the expert said:

“By design and dynamics, bobtail tractors are very dangerous and pose a great risk to other motorists on the roadway. The very nature of the high center of gravity, the increased stopping distance, the instability and lack of maneuverability, rise to the level of great probability that this vehicle can cause harm or injury to other motorists. Because the center of gravity of a tractor without a trailer is both high and forward, the center of the chassis, the drive axle attempts to continue forward or rotate during a brake application, causing the vehicle to jackknife or slide sideway, particularly during inclimate weather. Additionally the friction value of the tire/road surface is greatly reduced, causing the stopping distance for a bobtail tractor to increase.”

In other words, you can’t expect a bobtail rig to handle anything like a car. They can be very sensitive to mishandling.

An experienced truck driver ought to be able to handle a “bobtail rig” safely at normal speeds. But this tractor was traveling at 35 when the caution sign said 25, on “glare” ice, and was even wider than lane it was travelling in. He was speeding into oncoming traffic on black ice in low visibility.

When I received the expert’s report, I decided to demand punitive damages. A jury can give punitive damages when the other driver acts with “a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of another person that has a great probability of causing substantial harm”.

This resulted in the case settling for a lot of money, and my client was very happy.

I have been a lawyer over 30 years. If you have a truck case with significant injuries and a special issue, you need an expert. And nearly all truck cases have “special issues.” If you’ve been hurt by a truck, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Truck Accident Attorney about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.

Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.

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