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Looking to take a family member with you on the road? In this post we’ll talk about the DOT passenger rule and what you need to get started so you can bring a travel buddy.
Can truck drivers have a passenger?
Under USDOT rules, passengers are not allowed to be transported in a commercial vehicle unless written authorization has been granted by a motor carrier. The written authorization must contain the name of the person transported, the date and where the transportation starts and ends.
If you’re getting started driving or you’ve been driving a commercial vehicle for a while already, there’s one thing about the job that becomes apparent pretty quick.
Driving a truck for long periods by yourself can be a pretty lonely gig.
Your isolated in a truck cab and away from home for potentially weeks on end, often not knowing exactly when you’ll be able to make it home.
You know what would be nice?
Having a family member with you to keep you company and swap road stories with.
The thing is –
It’s just not as simple as loading up that family member and away you go. Between DOT rules and insurance companies a simple issue can get a bit murky depending on which company you work for.
Common truck passenger questions
There are several common questions that most drivers (and maybe even their families) have about whether or not you can have a passenger in a truck.
I’ve gathered as many of these common questions about having passengers as I can find and answer them for you.
Keep in mind that these questions are answered in light of the DOT rule, not what a trucking company may allow. Companies more than likely have a more stringent standard that’s required for passengers due to insurance requirements.
Are you allowed to have passengers?
Yes, you just need to jump through your company’s hoops and have a passenger waiver in place. They should have a policy and the necessary paperwork you’ll need to fill out.
Do I need a CDL to ride in the truck?
Nope. When you read the rule, there is no mention of CDL requirements for passengers. If you’re foolish enough to put them behind the wheel, that’s a different story (don’t do it). Many companies that allow passengers specifically do NOT want cdl drivers in their vehicles because they don’t want them behind the wheel.
Does the passenger have to be your spouse?
There is no spousal requirement in the DOT rule that your passenger has to be your spouse. As intrusive as government is, it’s not that bad yet.
Is there a minimum age requirement?
There is no minimum age requirement, but a company may impose one in their policy.
Can you have more that one passenger in a truck?
There is no limit in the DOT rule for how many passengers you can take with you. That being said, a truck cab is not a large area and can get cramped quickly. Having multiple passengers would get cramped and could be a distraction to the driver.
What if I’m helping out a motorist?
Yes, you can. If there is an emergency (emergency is the operative word here) and a motorist is broken down you can offer them a ride to the next town.
When I was young, I was the beneficiary of a few truckers that were nice enough to give me some help and a ride into the next town (thank God).
Having said all that, I would suggest that you know your company’s policy for allowing riders in emergency situations. You may want to even want to give your dispatch a call or message them to let them know what’s going on.
[blockquote align=”none” author=”Truckers Insider”]
The DOT passenger rule (edited):
392.60 Unauthorized persons not to be transported.
(a) Unless specifically authorized in writing to do so by the motor carrier under whose authority the commercial motor vehicle is being operated, no driver shall transport any person or permit any person to be transported on any commercial motor vehicle other than a bus. When such authorization is issued, it shall state the name of the person to be transported, the points where the transportation is to begin and end, and the date upon which such authority expires.[/blockquote]
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule for employees, rendering aid in emergencies and attendants for livestock. You can read entire DOT rule on passengers here.
Truck driver passenger waiver
There are several things that companies (and even owner operators) have to keep in mind when considering allowing passengers in the vehicle.
If you’re checking out potential trucking companies and you think there might be a possibility of taking a passenger with you at some point, just ask the company a couple of quick questions:
- Does the company have a ride along or passenger program?
- What is the company policy for passengers?
Whenever possible, ask for a copy of the company’s rider policy so that you understand the details of the rider program. The policy will give you guidance on what the rules are and provide you with specifics on information that the company will want when applying for your passenger waiver.
These are general rules, but some restrictions or guidelines may be:
- Restrictions on age
- Husband or wife only (possibly other family members depending on company)
- Having the DOT waiver in place
- Health considerations of passenger
- How long the passenger will be riding with you
- You must be with the company at least 90 days
In addition to giving guidance on what the requirements for truck passengers, some companies also have very specific exclusions or limitations on passengers, which include but aren’t limited to:
- No pregnant passengers
- No hitchhikers
- Age restrictions. Keep in mind age rules will vary from company to company.
- Passengers that have a CDL
- Only 1 passenger at a time
There may be even more restrictions on who can ride with you in your truck, make sure you ask and understand company policies. If your riding with a pet cat or other animal, just make sure you have a plan for it during the inspection.
For folks who are owner operators, you’ll need to check with your insurance company to see what they will allow.
Required documents for riding in a CMV
Now you’re ready to hit the open road right?
Hold on, there are still more bureaucratic hoops to jump though!
While not all companies are the same, there are several documents that both you and your potential passenger will need to get in order before you can start creating those cool road stories that you share with friends around a beer.
Some additional information that may be required for a truck passenger:
Drivers license or some other form of ID. Remember that if your passenger has a CDL, the company will more than likely not allow them to ride along.
If your spouse has a different last name, you may need to show a copy of your marriage certificate.
A social security card. Make sure that the name on the social security card match your passengers name on the ID they submitted.
WHTI form. If your travels will be taking you into Canada your passenger will need to fill out a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative form. You can find out more about the WHTI form from the US Customs website.
Health Insurance information. If your passenger has their own health insurance, a company may ask that they provide that information.
You will need to make sure that your passengers medical insurance program will qualify. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to get with someone from your company and see if passenger insurance policy can be purchased.
Generally, companies that have a passenger program will offer a passenger insurance policy, check with the HR department. With some companies, they will do a payroll deduction for family members.
The amount deducted varies but I’ve seen as low as $12/month. Ask your HR folks.
There is a lot potential for someone to get injured in or around a truck. Many companies require that passengers either have their own or purchase insurance so that they aren’t liable for passengers.
Indemnification Agreement. Companies will require that your passenger fill out, sign and notorize a document that releases the company from any liability for the passenger.
These were all examples of items that may be covered in your company’s rider policy. Sorry to beat a dead horse here, but make sure that you talk to your company or any company that you’re interested in working for what their requirements are. They may have many more rules and requirements.
Can a child ride in a commercial truck?
There is no age limit in the DOT rule for passengers that ride in a commercial vehicle. Any age restrictions for a passenger will be imposed by the company at the direction of their insurance company.
Insurance company’s push motor carriers to have policies in place in order limit guest passenger liability.
If it were up to insurance companies, there wouldn’t be any riders allowed but even they know that’s not realistic. Both trucking and insurance companies usually work together manage their risk by striking a balance between what’s good for them and having a driver that’s happy.
If you’re allowed to travel with small children (infants and toddlers etc) there’s another important thing you’ll need to keep in mind.
Child safety seats.
Always remember that if you are traveling with a small child, you may need to install a car safety seat. Check with your home state for size and weight requirements and make sure that you are able to get that seat secured properly in the vehicle.
Do you have to have a copy of the authorization with you?
The DOT rules do not require that the passenger authorization has to be carried in the truck. You have one on file with the company (and it can be verified with a phone call) you should be good to go.
Although the DOT rules say that you’re not required to have the waiver with you, it’s recommended that you have a copy with you during your trip.
That way if you’re stopped or brought in for an inspection you can show that everything is all ok and will help prevent delays getting the inspection completed.
Summing it up…
If you want to have a passenger out on the road get with your company and follow their guidelines. Failure to do so will cause you far more headaches than it’s worth.
Getting caught with an unauthorized passenger can get you held up at an inspection station and a ticket. Those headaches will probably translate into migraines when you get back to your home terminal.