One question that crops up a lot about long haul trucking is whether truckers are allowed to bring passengers along with them. While bringing a travel buddy can lessen the emotional strain on the lonesome trucker, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) rules are strict when it comes to what cargo is and isn’t allowed on commercial motor carriers.
So do trucking companies allow passengers? The answer is that individual motor carriers can allow passengers based on corporate rules, but according to the USDOT, all passengers must have written authorization from the motor carrier to legally be on board during transit. This passenger manifest has to contain the following pieces of information:
- The name of the passenger being transported by the motor carrier
- The dates that the passenger will be on board the motor carrier
- The starting point and destination of the passenger’s intended trip
There are also other issues that affect whether a trucker is able to carry passengers, such as the insurance policy requirements of the motor carrier. Read on to find out more about how truckers can carry passengers and the circumstances in which they can’t.
Passengers on Motor Carriers: Allowed or Not?
In many cases, a passenger is allowed on a motor carrier as long as they possess the right paperwork to allow it. However, some companies may be stricter about allowing this due to the vehicular insurance policies involved. To cover liability for a passenger, companies are often required to pay much more per policy than a policy that does not cover additional riders.
For many companies, it is cost-prohibitive to pay for these kinds of more expansive insurance policies, so they simply ban passengers entirely. This works to their benefit as well, since they do not have to worry about the driver allowing a non-CDL certified person behind the wheel, and they don’t have to worry about the driver being distracted.
In addition, many trucking companies will want a trucker to have made several solo runs reliably before allowing them the freedom of bringing along a passenger if the company allows passengers at all. This is to establish trust and show the company that the trucker is serious about hauling under deadline.
Reasons Trucking Companies Restrict Passengers
There are a variety of different reasons why trucking companies feel the need to restrict either the number or type of passengers allowed to ride along in a long haul truck. Here are a few of them:
- Safety: A trucker that does not have passengers is not distracted and will not have to stop as often for calls of nature. Each time a big rig is forced to merge onto or off the interstate is a potential risk to other vehicles and should be minimized for safety.
- Smuggling prevention: One of the major problems with long haul trucking is that this form of transport is often used for smuggling contraband or even human trafficking. To reduce the incidence of this, many companies put tight restrictions on who is allowed in their trucks and under what circumstances.
- Insurance liability: Insurance policies that cover passengers are usually more expensive and have more regulations and loopholes attached to them than insurance policies that don’t. For this reason, many companies will restrict the number of passengers in a motor carrier or ban them entirely just to be safe.
Types of Passengers Allowed on Motor Carriers
While passengers on commercial motor carriers are only allowed in some circumstances, there are certain types of passengers that are allowed across the board. Here are some of the restrictions (or lack thereof) placed on truckers when choosing who to bring along as a passenger:
- There is no USDOT minimum age for passengers on motor carriers (though your company may well impose one).
- Passengers are not required to be family members or spouses.
Can I Bring My Family on the Road?
Motor carriers that allow passengers will usually allow family, but in the case of small children, it isn’t recommended that truckers bring their children on the road with them.
This is because long haul trucks lack the space, light, fresh air, and company of other children that children require in order to develop well. Bringing up a child on the road in a motor carrier is equivalent to bringing them up in a closet—it is a repetitive, boring lifestyle for children.
Besides the tedium of living on the road, children who are hauled along in motor carriers are also exposed to dangers such as wrecks that they would not otherwise be at risk of. In any case, many companies impose an age limit on passengers. Brett Aquila, one of the moderators of Trucking Truth’s forums, states that there is typically an “8-12 years-old minimum, but that varies wildly from company to company.”
A trucker with passenger privileges is free to bring their spouse along with them, but while some spouses might enjoy going on a road trip or two, most will prefer to take advantage of amenities back on the home front, rather than stick it for the long haul.
Can You Bring Multiple Passengers?
While there are no USDOT restrictions on bringing multiple passengers on a motor carrier as long as they have authorization from the company that owns the truck, many companies will impose a passenger limit themselves.
This is because the living space of a motor carrier is very small, and even one person can make for a cramped situation. More than one person and you’re practically going to be sitting on each other’s laps.
Not only is having multiple passengers on the road with you uncomfortable a lot of the time, but it can also be dangerous to the trucker to have that many passengers because the more passengers you’re carrying, the more likely you are to be distracted while behind the wheel.
Consequences of Unauthorized Passengers
The consequences imposed by state troopers, police, and weight stations for not having a proper passenger manifest and company authorization for any passengers found on board the motor carrier can be dire. These consequences can run the gamut from stiff fines and penalties to the suspension or loss of your commercial driver’s license (CDL) and, consequently the loss of your trucking job.
By not following simple instructions, you can potentially torpedo your entire trucking career in one fell swoop. So to avoid such a catastrophe, it’s vital to read the restrictions concerning passengers in your company’s ride policies carefully and follow them to the letter.
And don’t think for a second that you won’t get ratted out by a fellow employee if you ride with unauthorized passengers in your rig. Whether out of a sense of righteous rule-following or out of petty rivalry, other truckers can and will happily turn you over for DOT violations. It’s up to you as the person in charge of your motor carrier to deny them that chance by adhering to company policy.
Can I Bring My Dog or Cat as a Trucking Passenger?
The answer is (usually) yes! Many motor carrier fleets will allow truckers to bring along a dog or cat with them for companionship, and some will even allow pets before they’ll allow human passengers to ride along. Here is a list of trucking companies that will allow their drivers to bring along a pet.
Dogs and cats require significantly less room than a human passenger, but still provide the trucker with company for their long hours on the road. Drivers should be sure to account for the needs of an animal if they plan on bringing one as a passenger, however.