According to California Vehicle Code 23116, no one is permitted to transport other people in the bed or moving motor trucks. This includes transporting occupants on a highway, unless the bed of the truck is equipped with a restraining system which meets or exceeds the federal motor vehicle safety standards for seat belts. In the case that an occupant is riding in the back of a truck unrestrained, both the driver and the occupant may be subject to punishment for the offense.
There are exceptions to this code. For instance, if a driver operates the truck with an unrestrained occupant in the back of the truck on a farm or ranch, though it may be unsafe, it is not illegal. A driver is permitted to transport people in a truck bed without proper restraints if the vehicle is used exclusively within the boundaries of land owned by the farmer or rancher and not on a highway.
It is also acceptable to transport people in the back of a truck if the truck or flatbed is being used in an emergency response situation by a public agency. "Emergency response situations" include times when necessary measures are taken in order to prevent injury, death, or the destruction of property.
The last instance when it is lawful to carry passenger in a motor truck's flatbed is if the truck is being transported slowly in a parade supervised by a law enforcement agency. Trucks in this situation are not permitted to travel over 8 miles per hour.
Drivers and passengers should always wear safety restraints to prevent serious personal injury in the case of an accident or collision.
Generally speaking, with a few minor exceptions, according to the California vehicle code, it is never okay to be riding in the back of the truck.
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