Laws on Riding in a Truck Bedby John Costa
A number of states have established laws with respect to riding in vehicle cargo areas, including the back of a pick-up truck. Many of these laws are intended to protect children.
Dangers of Riding in a Truck Bed
Federal road safety and vehicle standards require that passenger compartments be designed in such a way that they provide protection to occupants in the event of a crash. Occupants of a truck bed or any place outside the passenger compartment of a vehicle can be easily ejected at relatively low speeds. The beds of trucks are designed to carry cargo and are not designed to provide protection to people riding in these areas in the event of a crash.
States with Restrictions
Thirty states and the District of Columbia have introduced laws restricting occupants from riding in vehicle cargo areas such as truck beds. States which have restrictions include: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Only nine states, including California and New York, apply restrictions on riding in truck beds to all vehicle occupants regardless of age. Most states limit laws related to riding in truck beds to minors only. For example, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee apply restrictions to children under the age of 12, while truck bed regulations in Maine only apply to occupants 18 and younger.
Exemptions to state restrictions are provided in most jurisdictions. The most common exemptions include allowing riding in truck beds for farming activities, performing work duties, participating in a parade, riding in enclosed cargo areas, or when restraint systems are installed in the bed of the truck. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety maintains an up-to-date map outlining existing regulations in each state, as well as any exceptions that may apply (see Resources).
States Without Restrictions
The following jurisdictions have not established state laws regulating occupants riding in truck beds: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
While some states may not have restrictions on riding in truck beds, seat belt and child restraint laws may apply to people riding in truck beds in all states. You should consult with local law enforcement about any restrictions with respect to riding in truck beds in your state.
John Costa covers travel, public policy and consumer issues for various online publications. He has also worked as a government adviser since 2005, developing policies and programs. Costa holds a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Toronto, as well as an M.A. in comparative politics from the University of York in England.