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Is it Legal to Ride in the Back of a Truck in California?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2016

We call California the Golden State for a reason. Year-round mild weather and endless sunshine encourages outdoor events and fair-weather activities—including riding around in the back of a friend’s pickup truck. While the wind in your hair and the sun on your face may be tempting, make sure you are doing it legally with the help of an injury lawyer near you.

The Dangers of Riding in a Cargo Area of a Truck

Most states have addressed the issue of passengers and children riding in the backs of trucks by instating special rules regarding cargo areas. State and federal laws recognize the inherent dangers of riding in cargo areas and put provisions in place to protect vehicle passengers. Riding in the back of a truck is dangerous because manufacturers design pickup truck beds to carry cargo, not people. Truck beds do not provide any protection to passengers in a crash.

Federal vehicle manufacturing standards require a passenger vehicle to have designs that integrally protects occupants in the event of a crash. These elements include airbags, safety belts, shatterproof glass, and a metal frame that secures passengers during a rollover crash. Manufacturers do not design truck beds to hold passengers and thus do not have to include any passenger-protecting measures. For this reason, riding in the bed of a truck poses significant health risks.

Children and adults can easily fall from the bed of a truck while in motion or get ejected in crashes, even at low speeds. If a driver takes a turn too sharply, maneuvers the vehicle quickly to avoid an obstacle in the road, or has a fender bender, passengers riding in the cargo area are at risk. If you do meet the qualifications to legally ride in the bed of a truck, make sure you and your passengers stay safe on the roadways.

California Cargo-Area Riding Laws

Each state has its own laws restricting how passengers may ride in the cargo areas of vehicles, excluding the 17 states that currently have no relevant laws regarding the subject. In California, you can ride in the back of a truck if you do it according to our state’s rules and regulations.

California addresses the hazards of riding in cargo areas by restricting all riders, with just a few exceptions. According to California law, you cannot ride in the bed of a truck unless you comply with one of these situations:

  • A federal-approved restraint system restrains you while in the bed of the truck.
  • You are riding in a farmer-owned vehicle driven only on farming land or on one mile of highway between one part of a farm to another.
  • You are in a parade (as long as the vehicle does not drive over eight miles per hour).
  • You have an emergency situation that calls for the need to ride in the bed of a truck.

If your situation does not match one of these four acceptable scenarios, you cannot legally ride in the bed of a truck in California. When you travel out of state, look up each state’s restrictions on riding in cargo areas to ensure you do not break state laws. If a police officer catches you riding in the bed of a truck unlawfully, you will face penalties. There is a $100 fine for the first offense, $200 for second offense within a year of the first, and $250 for each subsequent offense.

Injured in the Bed of a Truck?

If you have been injured while riding in the bed of a truck, contact the Law Offices of Howard Kitay for advice from a team of experienced personal injury attorneys. We are based in California with offices in San Diego, El Cajon, and Chula Vista. Our lawyers can help you navigate any type of personal injury case using expert knowledge of California’s laws.


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