A Question About Riding in Truck Campers

We recently received this question regarding seat belt regulations and whether it’s safe for passengers to ride in truck campers while driving.

Hi, Mike! I’m curious if you have any resources on the potential of safely transporting passengers in a truck camper? I really appreciate any insight you can provide!

—Geth in California

This is actually a great question that we see asked from time to time. Can passengers ride in the back of a truck camper while traveling? According to state laws, the short answer is yes, but we don’t recommend doing it. Why? Primarily because truck campers aren’t equipped with safety belts. Seat belts are actually required by federal law in all RV motorhomes (class A, class B, and class C), yet no requirement exists for truck campers, fifth wheels, or travel trailers. In motorhomes, well-anchored seat belts are required for all designated seating positions equal to at least the number of sleeping positions provided in the RV. As a matter of fact, seat belt inspections are actually a required part of every motorhome PDI.

Not surprising, laws regarding riding in travel trailers, fifth wheels, and truck campers vary by state. The RVIA actually maintains an excellent database that tracks which states allow it, which states don’t, and which states fail to even address the topic by law. Legal or not, we don’t recommend doing it because it’s unsafe. Aside from having seat belts, the prime advantage that motorhomes have over truck campers is that you can watch and communicate directly with family and friends riding in the back. You can’t really do that effectively in a truck camper. And unlike trucks and automobiles, that are required to undergo exhaustive crash testing, truck campers and other types of RVs—consisting of either aluminum, wood, or fiberglass construction—aren’t constructed for high-speed vehicle accidents and collisions. Have you ever seen an RV after an accident or rollover? It isn’t pretty.

We realize that some may ignore this advice and allow passengers to ride in the back anyhow. That’s your prerogative and one of the great things about living in a free country. However, if you decide to allow it, we recommend installing a sufficient number of lap belts with adequate anchoring for security (only forward/backward facing seats should have lap belts not seats facing sideways), that it only be allowed when driving at low speed (25 mph and below), and that hand-held FRS radios be used to communicate with those who are riding in the back.

Motorhome dinette lap belts

Of course, adequate seating is why we prefer rolling in a crewcab truck. The extra row of seats comes in handy whether we’re hauling the camper or not. We normally use the backseat for storage when hauling the camper, but occasionally, we’ll unload everything so family and friends can ride with us. Of course, we always wear our seat belts and recommend that you do so as well. Just remember to have a way to cut the seat belts if you’re ever in an accident and need to get out of the truck quick. We’ve published three stories recently where this was an issue. It’s best to always be prepared.

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About Mello Mike 548 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently rolls in a 2013 Ram 3500 with a 2021 Bundutec Roadrunner truck camper mounted on top. A communications expert, he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side.

2 Comments

  1. Mike, Totally agree with the safety issues on a camper. We had an accident with a alpenlite 811 in 2007 that pulled the camper off the truck after hitting a low hanging branch when I was run off the road. Speed was about 35 mph. The truck then hit a tree (2007GMC2500) and was totalled. The camper was intact but totally destroyed by the branch collapsing the sleeping area. Anyone inside would have been injured with the deceleration and stuff flying around. The Fastguns simply bent in the brackets and released the camper. The four passengers in the truck were all fine due to seat belts.

    Bottom line – do not ride in the camper. I have photos if you want them that illustrate this point.

    Virgil

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