Can Texans Legally Ride in Truck Beds?


Shoes on the bed of a truck | Image by Drew McCollough, Shutterstock

A common sight in Texas is passengers riding in the bed of a truck.

However, knowledge about the state’s transportation laws is a little less common.

For Texans aged 18 and older, it is legal to ride in the bed of a truck, KXAN reported. The same is true for riding in the bed of a trailer. 

On the other hand, it is illegal for minors to ride in trailer or truck beds in Texas, and breaking this law can result in a fine of up to a few hundred dollars. 

“A person commits an offense if the person operates an open-bed pickup truck or an open flatbed truck or draws an open flatbed trailer when a child younger than 18 years of age is occupying the bed of the truck or trailer,” the state law reads. “An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $200.”

There are a few exceptions to Texas law, according to KXAN. These include operating the truck on a beach, operating the vehicle for a permitted hayride, operating the vehicle for transporting farm workers to and from specific destinations, or if the vehicle is the only one owned by a household. 

Operating the vehicle in an emergency situation or for a parade are also exceptions to the law. 

While the state has specific laws about people riding in truck beds or trailers, there are no such laws when it comes to pets, according to CW39 Houston. Even with no state laws, cities like Dallas and Houston have their own laws that prohibit having pets ride in the bed of a pickup truck within the city limits. Drivers are advised to look up information on the restrictions applicable to the areas in which they drive.  

The Texas Police Association recommends that Texans do not ride with their dog in an open truck bed.

“Any sudden start, stop, or turn may toss your pet onto the highway where it can get hit by oncoming traffic,” according to the association’s pet safety tips. “It is estimated that at least 100,000 dogs die this way each year.”

On sunny days, a dog’s paw pads can also suffer as a result of the metal floor of the truck bed becoming heated. Leashing the dog can also be dangerous, as the leash can cause injury if the animal goes over the side of the truck bed. 

Owners must also exercise caution even when dogs are kept inside the vehicle, as an animal’s head and paws should be kept inside for the entire ride. 

“Although most dogs love to stick their heads out open windows, wind can seriously irritate mucous membranes and blow pieces of grit into their eyes,” the Texas Police Association shared. “Insects or flying debris can also lodge in the nasal passages or get sucked into the windpipe. It may require veterinary attention to remove the foreign material, which could cause permanent damage.”

Texas also has specific rules when it comes to transporting extended loads, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“A trailer may carry a load that extends more than four feet beyond the rear of the trailer if the load consists of a motor vehicle that: is designed and intended to be carried at the rear of the trailer; is used or intended to be used to load or unload a commodity on or off the trailer; does not extend more than seven feet beyond the rear of the trailer; and complies with federal motor carrier safety regulations,” the rule states. 

Exceptions are made for vehicles that are transporting specific materials. This includes electric transmission poles, timber products, pipes, and poles. 

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