Those who are new trucking find out quickly that despite the benefits and pay, there are some uglier aspects of life and employment within the commercial truck driving industry. One of those aspects is the loneliness of being gone for long periods of time.
In many cases you can take family members and even pets with you on the drive, however, it’s not the same for everyone as policies are different according to each company. Being an owner-operator is a bit different as well.
All company policies are dictated, to some degree, by the Department of Transportation. According to the DOT, a potential passenger must obtain written authorization from the trucking company in question, as well as turn over certain personal information.
Passengers: Allowed or Not Allowed?
Some companies simply don’t allow it altogether. The reason behind it isn’t necessarily a cruel one, but it costs the company more when it comes to insurance rates and liability factors.
Other companies will allow it to a certain degree but only after they have ascertained certain knowledge about the driver by requiring several solo trips for a period of time before they will allow the addition of a passenger.
When it is allowed, the passenger usually has to provide four things, at the very minimum:
- Full, written consent from the trucking company
- The passenger must provide their full name
- The full date of the trip
- The departure point and the destination point of the trip
This information covers the Department of Transportation end of things, but not necessarily the additional company policies.
Many trucking companies differ on what they will and will not allow. It’s a rare thing to be authorized to carry more than one passenger, however, so it’s a one-passenger deal 99% of the time.
Though the DOT is non-specific about who can travel with you, individual companies make decisions based on a much larger set of requirements.
- Minimum age limit
- Relationship of the passenger to the driver
- No passengers at all
- Limited to one passenger only
- Pets are allowed instead of regular passengers
- Either pets or a passenger is allowed
- A minimum amount of time on the road is required prior
There is a minimum age limit amongst most trucking companies and the age range could be anywhere between 8-years-old and 12-years-old. It is largely understood that children don’t develop well sitting in a passenger seat day in and day out and their requirements are different.
Most companies will only allow close family members. For instance, you can bring your son along but not your niece. Then again, as aforementioned, some trucking outfits won’t allow anyone to travel with you as a passenger, regardless of your time on or how safe you drive.
Any company that does allow passengers will rarely allow more than one. Insurance rules most of these decisions and if it goes up to cover the liability of one passenger then it only doubles for an additional passenger. For most companies, that’s simply too much.
Pets are often allowed on trips. In fact, many trucking companies will be more than happy to let you bring a cat or a dog well before they will allow you to bring a human passenger along for the ride.
Some are more open and will allow you to go with pets or a single passenger. Or, your passenger can bring along the family pet. Lastly, some companies just want you to be on the road for a little while first so there is ample time for you to build up some trust with management.
Penalties for an Improper Passenger Manifest
If you get pulled over in a semi or stop at a weigh station, you’ll often have to present the authorities with a passenger manifest. If you bring your 13-year-old daughter along and she’s not on the manifest, it could potentially dump a world of problems at your feet.
- Potential loss of your CDL
- Steep fines and penalties
- Suspension of your CDL
- Termination from your place of employment
- It could destroy your trucking career
So, needless to say, you don’t want to get caught carrying a passenger when you aren’t supposed to. Not only are you violating standards and procedures with the Department of Transportation, but you’re also risking your job and long-term livelihood within the industry.
Reasons Companies Heavily Restrict Passengers
Some of the primary reasons that you may consider are liability reasons, however, it goes well beyond even that.
- Insurance liability
- Human trafficking
- Safety purposes
- Transporting contraband
Safety reasons may seem silly. After all, you probably drive around town with family members in your car all of the time, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the way that trucking companies see it. They view family members, especially children, as a distraction.
A brief distraction in an F-150 is one thing, while a brief distraction in a semi is quite another. Bringing kids along is especially onerous, as kids seem to have an overwhelming need to pee every fifteen seconds or so.
They can last upwards of an entire minute on brief occasions and the next thing you know, you’re looking for the nearest exit again.
Human trafficking and carrying contraband is a big deal nowadays, especially in the trucking industry. Many trucking companies will apply serious restrictions on who can ride passenger in your truck because of it.
Lastly, there are the aforementioned liability reasons. It simply costs these companies a lot more when you bring along a passenger. These additional insurance policies are often riddled with loopholes and can cause no end of headaches for the company in question.
As a result, there are many trucking companies who either severely restrict additional passengers or disallow it altogether. If you’re a long-haul trucker looking for a job in a new area, it’s something you may want to consider if you’re used to taking family members over the road with you.
It’s completely understandable that life on the road gets lonely. That’s why even the most strict companies will often allow pets. Human beings, even the most introverted of us, need companionship and socialization from time to time.
Its also understandable why some companies take the position that they do. So if you have a shiny, new CDL and are looking for a long-haul trucking job, take some extra time to find out who your potential employer is before you make the leap.