is it illegal to drive with truck bed open
Kristina Davis

Truck owners often wonder is it illegal to drive with truck bed open?

While there is no national law prohibiting you from driving with your truck bed open, certain states do have laws limiting the ability to drive your truck with the truck bed down.

Driving with your truck bed open or unsecured is a violation in Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, and Maryland. Rest states have no such rules!

Understanding Truck beds and Tailgates

the truck bed

Tailgates provide added protection for your truck when hauling items. They are also instrumental if you like to tailgate at games!

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In most vehicles, the tailgate is a metal or plastic piece hinged at the rear of the truck bed, allowing it to be opened upward or downward.

It can also have different types of smearing, but most are made from plastic, while some come in aluminum and even steel frames.

The different types of tailgates are:

  • Bolt-on (which requires tools to remove)
  • Drop-in (a kind of bolt-on that doesn’t require tools)
  • Built-in (a kind of drop-in)

Legality by State

State laws aren’t strict when it comes to whether or not you’re allowed to drive your truck with your tailgate down.

Generally, there’s an exception in most states that will enable you to drive your truck with an open tailgate if your bed is full of items that can only be transported this way.

legality in state

To keep yourself on the right side of every law, always double-check your state’s regulations to confirm if it’s legal driving your truck with an open tailgate is legal.

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If it isn’t, it’s recommended to watch out for cops because you could get a ticket running around this way!

The following states have no laws restricting driving a pickup with the truck bed open:

  • Alaska, Arkansas,
  • California, Colorado,
  • Connecticut,
  • District of Columbia,
  • Delaware, Florida,
  • Georgia, Hawaii,
  • Idaho,
  • Iowa,
  • Kentucky,
  • Louisiana,
  • Maine,
  • Massachusetts,
  • Mississippi,
  • Missouri Nebraska,
  • New Hampshire New Jersey,
  • New York North Carolina,
  • Ohio, Oregon,
  • Pennsylvania,
  • South Carolina,
  • Tennessee,
  • Virginia,
  • Vermont,
  • Wisconsin, and
  • Wyoming.

Expect to be Pulled Over

If you’re driving without a full truck bed and with your tailgate or rear hatch open, you may get pulled over for an unsafe condition.

You may even get a ticket for failing to obey laws about safety.

However, there are some exceptions in some states that allow you to drive your truck with the tailgate down when you’re carrying heavy items in the truck bed.

Other states say it’s totally fine if everything is appropriately secured.

Fact: Drivers with one-ton trucks in Nebraska can face up to a year in jail for this offense — even if their tailgates are securely fastened!

The FBI: Just Close It

just close it

This is the FBI’s take on is it illegal to drive with truck bed open. For the Bureau, It’s a matter of preference and that you can keep your tailgate up as long as it’s not an excessive load.

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This, therefore, piggybacks on the fact that you should always check your state’s traffic laws about tailgates before trying anything that might be illegal.

Driving with the truck bed down can damage your truck’s property and its tailgate.

So it may not be worth putting those extra loads behind your vehicle. You’re allowed to leave your tailgate open, but only if carrying a heavy load.

Note: If it's really up to you and your car's rules whether they want to keep their tailgates open, don't do it! 

Anyway, there are some exceptions that might make it worth putting those extra loads behind the vehicle (like Arkansas, Texas, Minnesota)

Safety

Safety is important. The media and motor experts spend a lot of time talking about it.

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But we don’t always take the time to discuss which rules are worth following and which ones can be broken.

Many of us have heard the urban legend that driving with a truck bed down is dangerous. This is true but also a common misconception.

the safety

Driving with your truck bed open is an interesting case study that shows how different safety concerns apply in different situations.

The tailgate has many safety features built into its design, including a gas spring that helps hold the gate tight against the frame and a double-hinge that allows it to swing shut on its own if you forget to close it.

Truck Speed and Safety Features of The Open Tailgate

The important thing is to make sure you don’t overload your pickup truck when driving with the truck bed down.

Generally, it’s safe to drive at speeds up to 45 mph with your truck’s tailgate down — provided there are no large, heavy items sitting in the bed and nothing else blocking your view outback.

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Why You Shouldn’t Drive with your Tailgate Open

Here are some of the significant reasons why it’s a bad idea to drive your truck with the tailgate down:

You Risk Ruining or Losing the Tailgate

risk of ruining

Remember that your goods are also at risk of being damaged when you drive with truck bed open.

If the truck bed is down, it may shake a lot all through your drive and this increases the likelihood of it falling off.

Theft can easily occur in case of an open tailgate, especially if you are away for some time.

If you are in California, always lock your tailgate in before driving out of your apartment; a majority of tailgate thefts take place in California and Texas.

Loss of Goods

To answer the question, can you drive with your tailgate down requires that you consider the loss of goods you’re carrying.

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Your truck’s tailgate is the most critical section of your vehicle, so you should always check it to see if it needs to be replaced.

It can be used to hold loads that you carry in the back of your pickup, but it can also help keep an eye on what gets placed in the bed of your truck.

Note: Even in states where it’s legal to drive your truck with your truck bed open, remember to avoid carrying too much weight on it, as heavy loads can make items fall off!

Damaging Other Cars

Even if you have a safe trip, flying objects could damage other cars!

There is the only way you should ever leave your tailgate down, and that’s when you have so much stuff in your vehicle that it won’t fit otherwise.

damage cars

Remember, no matter how many Ford F-450s you own, don’t try to carry too much weight.

Too much weight could lead to an accident or damage to expensive equipment, including your vehicle’s fuel economy loss.

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Your Options when Hauling Items

The best way to transport heavy items is by taking multiple trips or making sure everything too big or heavy has been removed before getting started.

If you’re driving around with everything you need in the trunk and most of the other weight in the back of your trunk, some items won’t fall off, but maybe they should.

It can be challenging to tell if something falls off because you focus on other cars and watch out for other drivers.

Fact: It's tough to watch the tailgate all at once; so many things can happen if you don't make sure what is being hauled and how much weight it carries.

Debunking the Myths

Many people believe that opening their truck’s tailgate will save them money on gas. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

myths debunk

Air drag is a force acting on your vehicle while it’s moving, and it can cause your vehicle to consume gas at a higher rate.

But if you opened the tailgate to let air flow through it, the wind wouldn’t cause as much air drag on the truck’s body because there would be less of it exposed to the wind.

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It might help reduce how much your truck consumes gas, but since this would only happen when you’re in motion, you’d have to drive your vehicle all day long to make any difference.

Final Thought

In this article, you have learned how to manage your truck bed when driving a truck now to the verdict; is it illegal to drive with truck bed open?

The answer is YES and NO. Various states across the country have laws that punish truck drivers that operate their vehicles with open tailgates.

It’s a harmless action, but it causes a few safety concerns.

Much of the country allows truck owners to cruise with tailgates down if they’re not on expressways.

However, it’s important to note that some places that prohibit this are: Texas, Kansas, New Jersey, etc.

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