With trips that last from a few days to weeks at a time, the average truck driver spends a considerable amount of time away from home. While each driver deals with it in their own way, for many, bringing loved ones along for the occasional trip may seem like the perfect idea.
Unfortunately, these passengers can bring substantial liability. What’s more, if the proper paperwork hasn’t been filed, transporting unauthorized passengers may be a violation of DOT and FMCSA regulations.
If you’re unclear what the FMCSA does, refer to this blog for more information (what is FMCSA).
The authorities have developed several regulations to increase safe practices among commercial drivers. In accordance to the FMCSA, section 392.60 covers the transportation of unauthorized passengers.
The concern over unauthorized passengers is not exclusive to long-haul trucking. No matter the duration of the trip, a driver needs to receive written authorization from their employer to carry passengers. Of course, passenger vans and buses are excluded from this ruling.
According to FMCSA regulations, the authorization must include the name of the passenger, where the transportation will begin and end, and the dates for which the authorization is valid.
In a few situations, written authorization isn’t necessary. Exceptions to section 392.60 include the following:
- Those assigned to the vehicle by the motor carrier whether they’re driving or not.
- Any person being transported for aid reasons in the case of an accident or other emergency.
- An attendant to care for livestock, where livestock is the authorized load.
The Issue with Unauthorized Passengers
The FMCSA regulation isn’t meant to be an outright ban on passengers; rather, it’s meant to give you the power to regulate who’s riding in your vehicles. While allowing drivers to take passengers can be a nice perk to offer your employees, the pros and cons must be weighed.
It may come as a surprise but many injured passengers are quick to take legal action against the driver, even when they’re a friend or family member. This is because the motor carrier’s liability insurance is responsible for paying out for the claim, not the driver’s. This is even the case when truck crashes are caused by driver negligence. This makes prohibiting passengers completely the only foolproof way to eliminate all liability.
If you do decide to allow drivers to take on passengers, it’s important that comply with FMCSA guidelines and institute a risk management plan. Instead of an overriding policy that allows passengers, authorization should be situational or used as a reward system for your company’s safest drivers. After all, fleet safety should be of utmost importance.
No matter what amount of regulation your company chooses to put on unauthorized passengers, it’s important that the policy is clearly communicated to the drivers. For more information on commercial motor vehicle regulation or on passenger authorization, visit the FMCSA website at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
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