Riding in the back of a pickup truck can be a quick, easy way to transport over short distances. This is especially true if you have more people than can fit in the passenger seats. Nowadays there seem to be safety regulations for everything. Because of this, you may be wondering if you can still ride in the back of a pickup truck? We’ll take a closer look at each state to see where it’s legal, where it’s not, and the states that fall somewhere in between.
Yes, with restrictions. You can ride in the bed of a pickup truck in all states, but there are varying restrictions for each state. These restrictions include the age of the person riding in the truck bed, the speed the truck is moving, and the type of road you are driving on. The restrictions also include the type of work being done, such as farm work, and if the bed is enclosed or not. Some states have laws making riding in the back of a pickup truck completely illegal except in very specific situations. The states with the least restrictions include:
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The most lenient states listed above may still have some basic restrictions such as the age of the passenger, but for the most part you will not get pulled over or ticketed by law enforcement. For the remaining 31 states, it depends on a range of things. In some, it is illegal altogether except in very specific circumstances.
States Where Riding in The Back of a Truck Is Illegal and Why
There are only two states where riding in the bed of a truck is completely illegal. Arkansas and New Jersey. Even in these two states, there are circumstances where it is legal. In addition to Arkansas and New Jersey, it is very limited in California and New York to special circumstances. We’ll break down each state to see the specifics:
Arkansas: According to AR Code 27-35-104 “No person shall ride on any vehicle upon any portion of the vehicle not designed or intended for the use of passengers.” Flatbeds of trucks are not designed for passengers. Therefore, this code would apply to anyone riding in the bed of a truck.
New Jersey: According to NJ Rev Stat 39:4-69 “No person shall ride on…a street car or vehicle, or on a portion thereof not designed or intended for the conveyance of passengers.” Similar to Arkansas, this would apply to passengers riding in the bed of trucks. This area is not intended for passengers. New Jersey does have a caveat that this law does not apply to those who must ride in the bed of a truck for their job.
California: According to vehicle code VEH, division 11, chapter 12, article 1 “No person driving a pickup truck or a flatbed motortruck on a highway shall transport any person in or on the back of the truck.” California has a few more exceptions: if there are federally-approved restraints in the bed, if the person is engaged in farming activities, during emergency situations, and during parades (can’t exceed 8 mph).
New York: New York has very specific and somewhat strange situations. According to section 1222 of New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, riding in the bed of a truck is illegal except:
- When driving less than five miles
- When less than 1/3 of passengers are in the bed
- When side racks are 3 feet above the floor of the truck and the tailgate is closed (still must be less than 5 miles).
- When performing work duties
States with Age Restrictions, Including Variations
25 states have age restrictions for riding in the back of a vehicle. Age restrictions are meant to keep children safe while in the vehicle.
States Where Rider Must Be Nineteen Years or Older
- Maine: Must be 19 or older. Exceptions include hunters being transported to and from hunting locations.
States Where Rider Must Be Eighteen Years or Older
- Florida: Must be 18 years or older.
- Georgia: Must be 18 years or older if riding on a highway or interstate. Any age is okay if driving on smaller roadways.
- Michigan: Must be 18 years or older. Speed restrictions apply.
- Missouri: Must be 18 years or older. Exceptions include when travelling off a highway or outside corporate city limits.
- Nebraska: Must be 18 years or older.
- Nevada: Must be 18 years or older.
- New Mexico: Must be 18 years or older
- Oregon: Must be 18 years or older. Exceptions include if carrying a minor to and from hunting locations (the minor must have a hunting license). Legal if performing work duties and under 18.
- Pennsylvania: Must be 18 years or older (speed restrictions apply), unless performing farm work, travelling between hunting locations (minor must have hunting license), or for work.
- Texas: Must be 18 years or older and must sit in the bottom of the bed. Exceptions include if driving on a beach, performing farm work, emergency situations, and parades.
- West Virginia: Must be 18 years or older.
States Where Rider Must Be Sixteen Years or Older
- Connecticut: Must be 16 years or older.
- Maryland: Must be 16 years or older. Speed restrictions apply.
- North Carolina: Must be 16 years or older. Exceptions include if an adult is also riding in the bed, for farm work, parade, or emergencies.
- Ohio: Must be 16 years or older, speed restrictions apply. If under 16, the cargo area must be enclosed (tailgate closed with side racks).
- Rhode Island: Must 16 years or older.
- Virginia: Must be 16 years or older unless performing farm work, or during a parade.
- Wisconsin: Must be 16 years or older, and must be seated on the bottom of the bed.
States Where Rider Must Be Fifteen Years or Older
- South Carolina: Must be 15 or older. This does not apply when an adult is supervising the child in the back, parades, and emergencies. Does not apply when travelling to and from hunting sites or for farm work.
States Where Rider Must Be Fourteen Years or Older
- Kansas: Must be 14 or older.
States Where Rider Must Be Twelve Years or Older
- Louisiana: Must be 12 or older.
- Massachusetts: Must be 12 or older unless related to farm work.
- Utah: Must be 12 or older. This applies only if driving on a highway or interstate. Does not apply for work duties.
States Where Rider Must Be 6 Years or Older
- Tennessee: Must be 6 years or older to ride in the truck bed. If under 12, cannot ride in the truck bed on interstate or highway.
States with Other Restrictions
Some states have other restrictions that must be abided before riding in the back of a pickup truck. These include restrictions based on enclosures, speed of the vehicle, and number of passengers in the vehicle.
States with Enclosure Restrictions
- Colorado: No age restriction, but the bed must be enclosed on all four sides.
- Hawaii: Tailgate must be securely closed. Must be seated on floor of bed.
- New York: Side racks must be 3’ above truck bed floor. Tailgate must be closed.
- Oregon: Tailgate must be closed.
- South Carolina: Tailgate must be closed.
States with Speed Restrictions
- Maryland: Must be traveling less than 25mph if passenger is under 16 years old.
- Massachusetts: Must be travelling less than 5mph if passenger is under 12 years old.
- Michigan: Must be travelling less than 15mph if passenger is under 18 years old.
- Ohio: Must be travelling less than 25mph if passenger is under 16 years old.
- Pennsylvania: Must be travelling less than 35 mph
- South Carolina: Must be travelling less than 36mph if passenger is between 8 and 15 years old.
States with Other Restrictions
- Alabama: Can get pulled over if passenger is under 15 due to seatbelt law.
- Arizona: Will get a written warning if passenger is under 18.
- Georgia: Must be driving on small roadway if passenger is under 18.
- South Carolina: In rural counties less than 3,500 population, minors may sit in bed of truck.
States Where It’s Legal and Why
16 states have no laws regarding passengers riding in the back of a pickup truck. With so many dangers, you may be wondering why it is legal in these states? The main reason is that many people think the seat belt law will be a blanket law enforcing those riding in the back of a truck. The truth is, seatbelt laws generally only apply to seating where belts are available.
There are some states, such as Alabama and Arizona where you may get written up if you are carrying a minor, but for the most part seat belt laws just don’t apply to riding in the bed of a truck. Here is a list of states where riding in the bed of a truck is completely legal. Beside the states is the ranking in population, with lower numbers signifying less population:
- Alaska (48)
- Deleware (45)
- Idaho (39)
- Illinois (5)
- Indiana (17)
- Iowa (31)
- Kentucky (26)
- Minnesota (22)
- Mississippi (34)
- Montana (43)
- New Hampshire (41)
- North Dakota (47)
- Oklahoma (28)
- South Dakota (46)
- Vermont (50)
- Wyoming (51)
With the exception of Illinois, these states rank near the lower end of the population statistics. It’s possible that there are no laws in these states due to the large swaths of rural land running through the state. Farmers often haul workers in the beds of trucks for easy transportation between parcels of land. With more rural lands there are also smaller roadways and slower speed limits.
In addition to these 16 states, a number of states will allow you to ride in the bed under certain circumstances. The four most popular circumstances include:
- If there is a federally-approved restraint installed in the bed of the truck
- If performing farming duties
- If in a parade
- During an emergency
We all know riding in the bed of a pickup truck comes with certain dangers. There are no safety restraints, and no cushion protection if an accident were to occur.
The Risk: According to a study done between 1987-1996, fatalities were 7.9 times more likely than that of a restrained front seat passenger during a crash event. The number is much higher in the event of a non-crash event. This means it is more likely for passengers to die during simple swerves or bumpy roads when in the bed of a pickup truck than those properly restrained.
The Numbers: It’s estimated that about 50 people under the age of 21 are killed due to riding in the bed of a pickup truck every year.
The Consequences: In cases where a person is injured from riding in the bed of a truck, the most common injuries include spinal cord injuries, scarring, broken bones, paraplegia, road rash (if thrown), and internal organ damage or bleeding.
The law varies greatly between each state. A large portion of states simply have no laws, while many have age or speed restrictions. Still some, such as New Jersey, make it altogether illegal. It’s important to understand the safety concerns while riding in the bed of a truck, and the possible consequences. If you’re not sure about your states’ law, do research before allowing any passengers to ride in the bed of a truck.
Hi, I am Brad. Car Independent is your source for independent views on cars and car accessories. Whether you looking to buy a new car or something cool for your car, you have many options. My aim to help you make the best-informed choices.