Is it legal to ride in the bed of a pick-up truck?

Pick-up trucks are a popular choice of automobiles due to the fact that they can be used for many different purposes. Sales of this type of vehicle are on the rise[1] and people buy them for all sorts of reasons.[2] I can attest to the convenience of a pick-up truck because it eased the process of moving my children from home to college. One downside to owning a pick-up truck is that there may be less room for passengers to sit in seats inside the cab. For that reason, it is not unusual to see people riding in the back of a pickup truck. Is it legal? In Virginia, the answer is yes, if the passenger is over sixteen years of age.

Virginia law covering passengers in the rear cargo area of a pickup truck

Virginia law defines a pickup truck as “(i) every motor vehicle designed for the transportation of property and having a registered gross weight of 7,500 pounds or less or (ii) every motor vehicle registered for personal use, designed to transport property on its own structure independent of any other vehicle, and having a registered gross weight in excess of 7,500 pounds but not in excess of 10,000 pounds.[3]”  Virginia Code §46.2-1156.1 prohibits the transportation of persons under sixteen years of age “in the rear cargo area of any pickup truck on the highways of Virginia.[4]”  However, there are two narrow exceptions to the prohibition.

  • It is permissible for persons under sixteen to ride in the cargo section during certain organized parades, such as a town’s annual Fourth of July Parade, or
  • For very limited purposes in connection with farming operations.

Is it safe to ride in the bed of a pickup truck?

As we all know, “legal” doesn’t always mean “safe.” Persons riding in the back of a pick-up truck don’t have seatbelts to keep them secure in the event of an automobile crash, which increases the risk of ejection from the truck in the event of a collision. Even without a collision, there are reported instances of persons falling from the cargo beds of pickup trucks during turns or sudden stops. An article by the American Academy of Pediatrics discusses at length the increased risk to passengers riding in the cargo bed.[5]

The number of injuries, the severity of the injuries, and the risk of death are all dramatically increased by riding in a cargo bed rather than in the cab of a pick-up truck. Even when the law permits passengers in the cargo bed, safety concerns should be a major consideration whenever possible. At Allen & Allen, we have experience helping clients injured in car or truck accidents. Call us for a free consultation at 1-866-388-1307.

About the Author: Tammy Ruble is an attorney with the personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. She serves as a resource on issues in her special fields of expertise which include the crafting of Complaints and documents relating to infant settlements, wrongful death settlements, due diligence, and discovery.