Looking Both Ways
Riders in Your Ride
RIDERS IN YOUR RIDE
This post of Look Both Ways will discuss the realities of having riders in your Commercial Motor Vehicle. Let’s look at the Federal Regulations regarding passengers, the driver’s perspective, the perspective of the trucking company and the view for the insurance companies. Things are always more complex than they appear – especially in trucking.
The FMCSA Regulation
Subpart G - Prohibited practices
Â§ 392.60 Unauthorized persons not to be transported.(a) Unless specifically authorized in writing to do so by the motor carrier under whose authority the commercial motor vehicle is being operated, no driver shall transport any person or permit any person to be transported on any commercial motor vehicle other than a bus. When such authorization is issued, it shall state:
”¢ the name of the person to be transported,
”¢ the points where the transportation is to begin and end, and
”¢ the date upon which such authority expires.
No written authorization, however, shall be necessary for the transportation of:(1) Employees or other persons assigned to a commercial motor vehicle by a motor carrier;(2) Any person transported when aid is being rendered in case of an accident or other emergency;(3) An attendant delegated to care for livestock.(b) This section shall not apply to the operation of commercial motor vehicles controlled and operated by any farmer and used in the transportation of agricultural commodities or products thereof from his/her farm or in the transportation of supplies to his/her farm.
DOT officers have reason to remove unauthorized riders from a Commercial Motor Vehicle because it is the law. Their intent is to enforce the regulation and to protect the driver in event of hijacking, kidnapping, robbery or other potential dangers. Officers do issue citations, warnings and violations to drivers having unauthorized passengers in their vehicles – yep, more on your PSP report.
It is pretty clear that from the Federal Regulations, you are not to have passengers in your vehicle unless you have specific, written authorization from the company you operate for. Even for the owner-operator, this is certainly not a matter of “I own the truck so I will decide who I can take in my truck”.
The Driver’s Perspective
Professional truck drivers can be gone away from home for very long periods of time. It is difficult to imagine how trying it must be to be away from your spouse; children; loved ones; pets and home for long periods of time. Many times the phone is the only means of keeping those people close for the driver. The phone is also many times the only means of communication for the driver with the other people important to him or her – the company dispatchers or operations. Driving a truck can be very lonely. To some drivers, having a loved one with them on the road would surely make the profession much easier. If only it were that easy.
There can be accidents.
Many drivers are unaware that it is common practice for injured passengers to take legal action against the driver even if the injured passenger is a friend or a family member. When bills are building up due to lost income from injuries, drivers might discover that blood or friendship is not thicker than water.
The Trucking Company Point of View
The trucking company knows that it can be held liable for injuries sustained by passengers in vehicles operated under their Authority. As mentioned above, many injured passengers take legal action against the driver even if that driver is a friend or family member. Why? Because in most cases, the motor carrier’s liability insurance will ultimately be responsible for paying out for the claim, not the driver. This is true even if the accident was caused by the driver’s negligence. Now you can see why trucking companies are not quick to issue passenger authorizations.
Trucking companies surely need to be made aware each and every time you do have an authorized passenger in your vehicle. Should the vehicle be involved in an accident the company will need to notify authorities of an additional passenger. “Open-ended” passenger-authorizations make this task difficult. This is another reason that passenger authorizations are very date and rider specific.
In The Eyes of Insurance Companies
Insurance companies insuring trucking companies do not encourage passenger authorizations because of the extreme exposure of risk. Employee or contracted drivers are generally protected from accident injuries through Workers Compensation or Occupational Accident Insurance. Primary Liability Trucking Insurance and Non-trucking Liability insurance usually have no medical coverage like car insurance - unless perhaps mandated PIP (Personal Injury Protection) which are usually minimal amounts. Unfortunately passengers in the vehicle are not protected by Worker’s Compensation or Occupational Accident insurance. Because there is usually no medical coverage with Primary Liability or Non-trucking insurance, well, there is simply no coverage for that rider or passenger. It has always been the norm for injured riders or passengers to successfully win legal settlements against the trucking company’s insurance. Most trucking companies prohibit riders or passengers for this reason. Many truck insurance companies will not write insurance for trucking companies with passenger or rider programs. A company policy prohibiting passengers completely is the only foolproof way to eliminate all liability for both the trucking and insurance companies.
Pets – The “Other” Riders
Pets can surely provide fantastic companionship to a lonely driver. I think this is the reason dogs are called “man’s best friend”. Even a best friend can distract a person while performing the duties of the professional truck driver. Pets should always be restrained while in a CMV.
Trucking companies should consider establishing a clearly written pet policy and drivers should adhere to that policy. I’ll share the policy of our company with you:
“To promote safe driving and eliminate driver distractions it is the policy of Premium Transportation Logistics that no pets be allowed in the cab of any vehicle owned or operated (leased onto) our company. Should an owner operator exercise any rights they have to transport a pet in their vehicle, that pet must be contained in an appropriate pen, cage, tank or similar device intended to house or contain the pet. The pen, cage, tank or similar device must be maintained in the sleeper portion, or cargo box of the truck. No vehicle displaying PTL signs should ever be operated with a pet in the cab of the vehicle.”
The worst accident I’ve ever dealt with as a Safety Professional was the result of an unrestrained pet in the cab of a moving semi-tractor.
Ideas, Solutions and Protections for All
”¢ If you wish to take your spouse in the truck then consider having your spouse become a qualified driver like yourself – then they can go, and drive, whenever they want. At that point, like the Beatles said – “she’s (or he’s) got a ticket to ride.”
”¢ If you are operating with a passenger authorization please be sure to have that written authorization in vehicle with you. Ensure the passenger has good identification on their person.
”¢ If you are a fleet owner of trucks, and employ or contract drivers for those vehicles, be sure to have very specific passenger authorization and pet policies written into contracts between yourself and drivers of your vehicles.
”¢ Always offer the passenger or rider the option to purchase Passenger (Rider) Insurance. Allow the passenger to elect to purchase insurance coverage though the insurance company. Have the passenger sign that he or she elected to accept or decline the offered coverage.
”¢ Within your written policies, require passengers to use seat belts and/or safety harnesses.
”¢ Require passengers to stay away from the truck in a safe area when being loaded or unloaded. Do not allow passengers or riders to perform any duties of the driver – such as tarping, load securement, driver paperwork, etc.
”¢ Require release of liability within a properly executed Passenger or Rider Agreement. This document should be signed by the proposed passenger, the driver and a company official and should also contain a hold harmless agreement between all parties (driver, rider and company).
”¢ The Passenger or Rider Agreement should also make the passenger or rider aware of the dangers associated with trucking, and that the passenger or rider is expected to comply with all safety regulations of the company.
Disclaimer: This blog is NOT intended to give legal advice, nor be a substitute for any training required by the Regulations.
Till the next blog, Thank you drivers for all you do! Please be safe!
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©John Mueller, CDS, COSS