Commercial truck driving is a very lonely job. Drivers can be gone away from home for weeks at a time. To some drivers, having a loved one with them on the road would surely make the job much easier. Unfortunately, this is where things get complicated.
Unauthorized guest passengers are a huge liability concern for motor carriers. Consider the following scenario: A truck driver brings his girlfriend for a trip (she did not sign a waiver and she was not authorized to ride along per FMCSA rules). The truck was rear-ended, causing serious injuries to the passenger. She sued the trucking company for negligence and collected over $650,000 in settlement. It may be unthinkable that friend or a family member can sue for negligence. However, claims of this sort are paid by the motor carrier’s liability insurance and in fact are commonly pursued.
Insurance companies generally do not allow guest passengers because of the significant liability risks. Unlike passengers, drivers are generally protected from accident injuries through Workers Compensation or Occupational Accident Insurance. There is simply no stand-alone coverage for guest passengers. A relatively new product called Guest Passenger Liability, is available as an Add-On to some Occupational Accident policies. It provides limited coverage (typically $100,000 in med pay) and costs about $10 per month.
What can a trucking company do?
The only way for motor carriers to avoid liability issues is to prohibit guest passengers under any condition. Unfortunately, these restrictions rarely work as they are difficult to enforce. A good risk management technique may be authorizing passengers under certain conditions. It is better to know about passengers and attempt to control the exposure.
Motor Carriers should carefully adopt and enforce a guest passenger policy subject to some general guidelines:
- The motor carrier should develop, adopt and enforce strict passenger authorization policy written into contracts between yourself and drivers of your vehicles.
- Require all passengers to sign a release of liability with a properly executed Guest Passenger Agreement.
- Truck drivers should maintain a copy of the Agreement in their trucks at all times.
- As a company policy, require all drivers purchase Passenger Accident Insurance.
- The minimum passenger age must be at least 18 years old
- No passenger will be allowed on a customer dock at any time
- No passenger is allowed to drive the truck at any time or assist in any loading or unloading