When owner operator truck drivers work for motor carriers as independent contractors, the carrier provides the liability and cargo insurance coverage. However, once you have completed your service to the carrier, you are no longer operating under their direction or getting paid for your services. In other words, you are no longer under dispatch.
This often happens after dropping off a loaded trailer and you are bobtailing (no trailer attached to your tractor) while driving home or to some other destination. If you were hauling the cargo in your own trailer when you went off dispatch, then you would be deadheading back home with an empty trailer. In either case, if you didn’t have non-trucking liability insurance, you’d be driving uninsured because your coverage from the carrier ends once you aren’t under dispatch. Sometimes the carrier will cover your trip back to your principal garage location. However, from that point on, you’re uninsured.
Non-trucking liability insurance is sometimes referred to as deadhead coverage or bobtail liability because that’s what you’re typically doing when you go off dispatch. However, these aren’t technically correct. Some insurance companies offer bobtail liability policies that only cover a tractor. Therefore they only apply when you’re bobtailing, not when deadheading an empty trailer.
Non-trucking insurance will cover any personal use of your truck such as going to the store, seeing a movie, or going to a restaurant. It won’t cover you when traveling for maintenance, fueling up, or deadheading while working for a carrier, because again, you would be operating under dispatch.
Exactly when your carrier’s insurance covers you (exactly when you’re under dispatch) will depend on the carrier’s policies, and it’s important to know these details when looking for non-trucking insurance. You don’t want to pay non-trucking insurance premiums only to have the insurance company deny payment because of coverage gaps between their policy and that of your carrier’s insurance.