With trips that last from a few days to weeks on end, truck drivers spend a considerable amount of time away from home. While each driver deals with it in his or her own way, many like to break their pattern of solitude by bringing their loved ones along for an occasional trip. Unfortunately, unauthorized passengers can bring substantial liability. Transporting an unauthorized passenger without filing the proper paperwork violates regulations set by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
FMCSA has developed a number of regulations to increase safe practices among commercial drivers and their employers. Regulation section 392.60 covers transportation of unauthorized persons.
The concern over unauthorized passengers is not exclusive to long-haul trucking. Drivers must receive written authorization from their employer to carry additional passengers no matter the duration of the trip. An exception to this is if the vehicle is specifically authorized otherwise (i.e., buses.) According to FMCSA regulations, the authorization must include the following:
- The name of the passenger
- Where the transportation will begin and end
- The dates for which the authorization is valid
The written authorization does not need to be carried on board the vehicle. However, it must be on file with you, the carrier. In a few specific situations, written authorization is not necessary. Exceptions to section 392.60 of FMCSA regulations include:
- Those assigned to the vehicle by the motor carrier whether they are 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 Passenger Decision
The FMCSA regulation is not an outright ban of passengers from CMVs. It gives you the power to know and regulate who rides in your vehicles. That way, you have the ability to effectively manage your risks. Indeed, the FMCSA has left the toughest decision up to the individual company. Allowing your drivers to take additional passengers can be a nice perk to offer your employees. But you must weigh that decision against the risk of litigation in the event a passenger is injured while in your company’s vehicle.
While it may come as a surprise, many injured passengers are quick to take legal action against the driver. Shockingly, it even happens when the driver is a friend or a family member. This is because in most cases, the motor carrier’s liability insurance is responsible for paying out the claim. It is almost never the responsibility of the driver, even if the accident was caused by the driver’s negligence. Consequently, prohibiting additional passengers completely is the only foolproof way to eliminate all liability.
Should you decide to allow your drivers to take passengers, it is important that you comply with FMCSA guidelines. You should also institute a risk management plan. Instead of an overriding policy that allows additional passengers, authorization should be on a case-by-case basis. You can even use it as a reward system for your company’s safest drivers. If your drivers have worked for the company for a certain amount of time, kept a clean driving record, and have had no other safety compliance issues, you can guarantee that those taking additional passengers present the least amount of risk.
No matter how you choose to regulate your company, clearly communicate the unauthorized passengers policy to the drivers. For more information on commercial motor vehicle regulation and passenger authorization, visit FMCSA.