Is It Legal to Ride in the Back of a Truck in Texas?

If you grew up in Texas, you are well aware of the joke that pickup trucks outnumber people in many state counties. The sight of children, or even adults, in your neighborhood riding in the back of a pickup truck was probably a common sight throughout your life. However, the question has probably lingered in the back of your head as to whether or not it is legal to ride in the back of a truck.

The current Texas Transportation Code section 545.414 subjects a person to a misdemeanor offense if they operate a pickup truck when a child under the age of 18 is in the bed of the truck. The offense is chargeable by a fine of up to $200. The person will not be subject to the fine and offense in the following situations:

  • The person was operating or towing a truck in a parade or emergency;
  • The person was operating the truck to transport farm workers from one field to another on a farm-to-market road, ranch-to-market road, or county road outside a municipality;
  • The person was operating the vehicle on a beach;
  • The person was operating the only vehicle owned by members of the household; or
  • The person was operating the vehicle in a hayride permitted by law enforcement or governing body of the county or municipality.

Absent any extraneous circumstances, the driver of the truck could be ticketed for an offense.

However, Texas law does not provide any fines or penalties for a passenger over the age of 18 who is riding in the back of a pickup truck.

Texas prides itself on maintaining safe roadways for drivers and passengers alike. The “click it or ticket” campaign has been hailed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as saving over 5,000 lives since its inception 15 years ago. However, the Texas Transportation Code only considers the citation of “failure to be secured by a safety belt” as an offense if the “seat” is equipped with a safety belt. A pickup truck bed is not a seat for all intents and purposes and does not offer safety belts. As such, an adult over the age of 18 cannot be ticketed for the failure to buckle a seatbelt when riding in the bed of a pickup truck.

While Texas law cannot fine or penalize a person for driving with passengers in the bed, or passengers themselves for riding in the back of a truck, drivers may be subject to other repercussions. Accidents are far too common on the Texas roadways but unfortunately, can have dire consequences for unsecured riders in the back of a pickup. These passengers are able to bring a claim for their resulting medical and emotional damages against the driver of the pickup and can allege negligent behavior. This claim can become more complex in situations where the driver is the employer and was transporting employees during the course of their employment. Drivers always run the risk of potential personal injury claims after any car accident in Texas, but the extensive damage that can occur to passengers after a pickup truck accident could be life-shattering.

At the end of the day, Texas does not impose any restrictions on the ability of adults to ride in the back of a pickup truck while on Texas roadways. However, it is often in the best interests of the driver to prohibit this behavior from occurring, as it could subject them to extreme civil claims in case of an accident.