Lars has been in the trucking industry his whole working life. He started working in the shop when he was just 16 years old. After attending Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and earning his marketing degree, he started working in operations. Lars spent about 10 years in operations before moving to driver recruiting. He spent five years in recruiting before joining the ATS team as the vice president of driver recruiting. He loves the challenge driver recruiting presents; no day is ever the same. Changing a driver’s life by offering them a great opportunity is what keeps him going.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that this article is in no way a political piece or a dispute on gun laws. Instead, this article’s purpose is to provide well-researched facts to inform drivers of the firearm laws and regulations they must follow on the road. It’s a question we hear a lot: Can I carry a gun in my truck? The answer is murky. The answer is murky because it depends on several factors, from the company you drive for, to the state you’re licensed in, to the states and cities you’re driving through. Because of that, perhaps the simplest answer is, in most cases, there’s a greater risk than reward in carrying a firearm with you in your commercial vehicle. If you’re caught with a firearm and you’re not supposed to have one, the consequences can go from minor to ending up in a jail cell. That’s why, no matter your stance on guns, it’s important to understand the rules you must follow as a truck driver.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that this article is in no way a political piece or a dispute on gun laws. Instead, this article’s purpose is to provide well-researched facts to inform drivers of the firearm laws and regulations they must follow on the road.
It’s a question we hear a lot: Can I carry a gun in my truck?
The answer is murky. The answer is murky because it depends on several factors, from the company you drive for, to the state you’re licensed in, to the states and cities you’re driving through.
Because of that, perhaps the simplest answer is, in most cases, there’s a greater risk than reward in carrying a firearm with you in your commercial vehicle. If you’re caught with a firearm and you’re not supposed to have one, the consequences can go from minor to ending up in a jail cell. That’s why, no matter your stance on guns, it’s important to understand the rules you must follow as a truck driver.
There’s a lot of confusing information out there, so our aim is to make things a little bit clearer.
In this article, we’ll not only explain ATS’ policy on firearms to provide clarity for our current and future drivers, but we’ll also explain what rules truck drivers must follow according to what type of driver they are and where they’re driving.
Can A Truck Driver Carry a Gun? Company and Local Regulations
To safely and legally carry a firearm in your truck, you not only need to know your company’s rules, but you also need to understand the rules and regulations of every state and city you’re driving through. If you’re crossing country lines to go into Canada or Mexico, you have to know those rules as well.
Below, we’ll get granular on regulations you must follow by company and region. Keep in mind as you read, that, because you have multiple regulations to follow, you may be able to carry a firearm in one instance but not in the other.
But, first things first: Before you consider bringing your gun with you in your truck, make sure you have the proper permits if required by your state.
Gun Regulations For Truck Drivers By Trucking Company
If you’re a company driver, an independent contractor or an owner-operator signed on with a company to haul their freight, chances are that you cannot have a firearm on your person or in your truck. That includes when you’re at orientation, when you’re under a load and when you’re on duty.
Most major trucking companies have policies that don’t allow firearms. One of the primary reasons is that trucking companies want to keep their drivers safe from gun-related incidents. Another reason is that if an altercation escalates to violence using a gun, legally the company could be responsible for it.
In civil litigation, the court may hold the trucking company responsible for that driver who had a firearm with them while working.
Not only that, but the company also has customers to think about. Some customers may not allow any sort of weapon on their premises and that includes firearms.
If a driver were to be caught on site with a gun, the company they drive for could lose that customer. That’s potentially a lot of money they’re losing out on and the driver will most almost certainly be terminated immediately.
Check with your company to understand their policy.
If you’re an owner-operator operating under your own authority, it’s a different story. The simple answer is that yes, you can possess a firearm. The truck is your property. You take on the risk and you’re responsible for what happens. Even if someone breaks into your truck, steals your gun and uses it for a robbery, you take on the responsibility.
Gun Regulations For Truck Drivers By Location
Now that you have an understanding of how trucking companies regulate the use of guns for their drivers while they’re working, you need to understand the legality of transporting and storing guns in a regional sense. There is no federal law that prevents you from carrying a gun; it’s the state and city laws you need to be mindful of. You also need to be mindful of the laws in Mexico and Canada if you’re crossing the border into those countries.
As a truck driver, you’re constantly traveling. It’s quite literally your job. If you’re an over-the-road driver, there’s a good chance you’ve been to the Lower 48 (or have at least come close). If you’re a regional driver, you stick to a handful of states in a specific region — for instance, the midwest.
A local driver, on the other hand, may never haul a load out of the one state they drive in. A truck driver who doesn’t cross state lines is called an intrastate driver. When you cross state lines to deliver freight, it’s called interstate.
If you’re an interstate driver who’s traveling through countless states each week, you need to know what each state’s gun laws are; you need to be aware and adhere to state and local laws. State and city laws may differ.
For instance, a city may require you to store your gun differently than the state does, or you may not be able to carry it in public. There are an increasing number of cities that are enforcing ordinances (a local law) that ban certain types of guns. Chicago is a good example.
Be mindful of the gun storage rules for each region you drive through. In one state, you may be able to store it loaded as long as it's hidden and out of reach. Oftentimes, it has to be unloaded and out of reach. You may need to put your gun and your ammunition in different spots. The firearm shouldn’t be readily accessible by the driver or via the passenger compartment.
If you’re a local truck driver who only operates in one state, it’ll be a lot easier to follow local regulations.
This article would be extremely long if we listed out every state’s gun regulations, so we advise you to do some research on your own if you’d like to know what you can and can’t do. You can type a state’s (or city’s) name along with “gun regulations for commercial vehicle drivers” into your favorite search engine to find what you’re looking for.
For instance, we’re headquartered in Minnesota and here’s what our search turned up. Drivers that have no gun restrictions may have a firearm in a motor vehicle provided the firearm is unloaded and fully contained in a gun case. Drivers also need to maintain compliance with the permit-to-carry law in Minnesota.
The State Firearm Laws Database and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are also handy resources. Keep in mind that these resources are purely informational and should be used as such; they aren’t legal advice. Laws and regulations may have recently passed that aren’t included in these guides.
What Happens if a Truck Driver is Caught with a Gun?
The consequences of having a firearm in your truck when you’re legally not allowed to have one range in severity. Even if you unknowingly break the law, you can at minimum face penalties and fines, and at maximum, lose your job and go to jail.
It’s not uncommon for companies to have a zero-tolerance policy for guns. If you’re caught with a firearm, you’ll be terminated immediately.
But you may be left wondering how drivers get caught with firearms in the first place. For starters, if you have a firearm on you or it’s laying out in the open, and if someone at your trucking company or someone at a weigh station sees it, you can expect to have it called out.
Even if your gun is hidden, you can get in trouble. A Department of Transportation (DOT) officer has the right to investigate your truck if they suspect suspicious and/or illegal behavior. A police officer can as well. During a traffic stop, you may be asked if you have a weapon. If you say yes, they may inspect your truck.
What is ATS’ Stance on Firearms?
By now, you might be wondering what ATS’ stance is on firearms (and other weapons).
ATS does not allow its drivers to carry firearms and we have a zero-tolerance policy.
So, ARE Firearms Allowed in Commercial Vehicles?
After everything we’ve covered, you may still be scratching your head and asking yourself, “Umm, so can I have a gun then or what?”
Let’s say your company allows guns or you’re running under your own authority and you have the proper gun permits your state requires. Then what? At this point, it comes down to the laws of the states and cities you’re driving through and the customers you’re delivering to.
If you meet the criteria above, follow the gun storage requirements of each and every state/city you’re driving through and every customer you’re delivering to allows guns on their property, you can have a firearm in your truck. Keep in mind, though, that storage laws could deem the weapon unusable in a moment’s notice because it needs to be kept unloaded and therefore loaded to be used.
But, if your company forbids them, your customers don’t allow them on the premises and/or the states/cities you’re driving through have strict laws regarding firearms, it’s best to leave them at home.
Talk to Your Trucking Company
Legal experts have noted how murky gun regulations are for truck drivers. As a truck driver, it’s difficult to have a firearm in your truck or on your person when traveling across state lines. You could think you’re doing the right thing and end up in a situation where you’re being fined or arrested.
If you wish to carry a gun, it requires severe discipline and research. It also requires that you know how to operate the gun safely. Even if you have years of gun ownership, you still need to understand the rules.
If you’re wondering what your next step is, it should be to speak with your company to determine if they allow weapons. Carriers are somewhat free to define what a weapon is, and some go so far as to disallow bats.
Ask your company plenty of questions to understand what you can and can’t do. Especially if you’re looking for a new trucking company to drive for, this list of questions to ask your recruiter can be helpful to you.