Don’t let unauthorized passengers be your liability

It is not uncommon for professional drivers to bring along a friend, spouse, or child when out on the road.

Although it may help the emotional health of your driver to have companionship, the simple act of bringing an unauthorized passenger along on a trip puts additional risk and liability on the motor carrier, and possibly adds yet another distraction for your commercial drivers.

Most unauthorized passengers are friends and family, but they can file claims against the motor carrier, nevertheless.

Transportation Security & Risk Management Today
Transportation Security & Risk Management Today

This essential resource delivers best practices to help protect your employees, freight, facility, vehicles and data.

FMCSA passenger protocols

Because of the risks associated with someone from outside of the organization traveling in your commercial motor vehicle (CMV), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set up specific requirements that drivers must follow to protect the interests of all parties involved.

Section 392.60 states that no driver — unless specifically authorized in writing to do so — is able to transport any person or permit any person to be transported on any commercial motor vehicle other than a bus. It is important to note that §392.60 indicates this applies to “the motor carrier under whose authority the commercial motor vehicle is being operated.” This means even an owner-operator who has been leased does not have the authority to bring along friends or family members while working under someone else’s authority.

In the event the motor carrier allows for passengers, the authorization must state:

  1. The name of the person to be transported,
  2. The points where the transportation begins and ends, and
  3. The expiration date of the authorization.

A copy of this authorization does not have to be in the truck, unless specified by the motor carrier.

Authorization requirements do not apply if the driver is:

  • Bringing along other motor carrier employees who are assigned by the company to the vehicle, such as driver helpers.
  • Transporting someone when rendering aid in case of an accident or other emergency.

Motor carrier policies

Whether a carrier allows for authorized passengers or not, its drivers need to clearly understand what is required of them through effective policies and procedures. Any deviation from the policies needs to be addressed and corrective actions taken.

Examples of motor carrier policies include:

  • Only allowing for one guest in the vehicle under a Family Rider Policy
  • Prohibiting minors from accompanying the driver
  • Allowing small children, provided they are accompanied by the driver’s significant other
  • Requiring proof of relationship
  • Executing an indemnification and hold harmless agreement

Motor carriers may require the driver to agree to always maintain passenger insurance while transporting an authorized passenger, available through the company and paid by the driver.

A best practice used by some carriers is to tie the privilege of an authorized passenger with the driver’s safety record. Only those drivers who maintain an acceptable safety record based on company policy will be considered for the program. In any event, it is suggested that motor carriers work with their insurance provider when drafting such a policy and procedures.


Key to remember: To avoid putting the motor carrier at risk, it should draft a policy on unauthorized passengers and clearly communicate it to both company and leased drivers.

About the author
Kathy Close - Transportation Editor

Kathy provides regulatory support for a variety of products; her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, driver qualification, and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) enforcement model.

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