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Little Known Dangers of Tractor-Trailer Trucks


Green Truck

Most drivers instinctively know that tractor-trailer trucks with a full load are dangerous companions on Connecticut roads.

However, few know that trucks without their trailer or with an empty trailer are often much more likely to cause an accident.


A truck without its trailer is considered a bobtail – named for the wild cat with the short, stubby tail that wanders through this region’s forests.

Why would a truck without a trailer be more dangerous than one with it?

The trucks that pull trailers are built to carry massive loads on their rear axles. It’s the rear axles that deliver the force of the drivetrain to pull loads.  Those same axles do much of the breaking for the truck as well.

Now take all the weight off those axles (as you do when you remove the trailer), and you have a truck that behaves more like a bicycle braking with the front brakes only…  The rear end lifts – losing some or all contact with the ground.  Add wet weather to the mix, and the results can be even more catastrophic.

And one more fact… truck drivers have much less experience driving bobtails.  Less experience often leads to mistakes and a higher number of crashes.


A somewhat similar phenomenon, often with many of the same dangers, is called deadheading.  Deadheading occurs when a tractor-trailer truck is pulling an empty trailer.

Why is that a danger?

Deadheading nearly replicates the problem caused by a bobtail.  First, braking again becomes an issue, particularly in wet weather.  The experience level of the driver also plays a large role here. Most truck companies work to keep deadheading to a minimum – which means most drivers have very little experience driving one.  A driver unfamiliar with how his or her vehicle performs in changing conditions is a prescription for a deadly crash.  Finally, add unnecessary speed to a deadheaded tractor-trailer, and you have a fatal combination.

What can car drivers do to avoid accidents involving these trucks?

  • First – be on the lookout for bobtail trucks – particularly in wet weather – and drive defensively.
  • Always give trucks extra space when traveling in front or behind one.
  • Stay clear of truck blind spots. If you can’t see a trucker’s mirrors, that trucker can’t see you either.
  • If you want to pass a tractor-trailer, always do so legally and on its left side, never on the right.

Remember, if you or a loved one are ever injured in a car or truck accident in Connecticut, know that the Connecticut accident lawyers at RisCassi & Davis have been assisting people like you who’ve been injured in accidents for over 60 years.  And we have received both state and national recognition for our work in this area.  If you are ever injured in an accident of any kind and would like a free consultation with one of our Connecticut car accident lawyers, please contact us.   There is no obligation. 

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