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Is It Legal To Drive A Truck Without A Tailgate?

Is It Legal To Drive A Truck Without A Tailgate?

Driving a truck is fun until you get pulled over. “Why did I get pulled over?” is the thought that’s going to be running through your head as the police officer comes walking towards you.

Is it a broken tail-light? Were you over-speeding? Yeah sure, the tailgate is down, but that’s not illegal, is it? Is it illegal to drive without a tailgate?

You are not required to have a tailgate on your truck. Some states prohibit driving with the tailgate down if there is not a load that physically prevents it from closing. Objects that extend past the tailgate are often required to be marked by a flag to make them more visible to other drivers.

Most people drive with the tailgate down because they think they’ll get better gas mileage, or maybe it’s too hectic for them if they’re in that sort of line of work. 

But the best thing to do when you’re out driving is to have the tailgate secured if you have it attached to your truck.

Is it legal to drive with your tailgate down?

It depends from state to state, but generally, you shouldn’t drive with your tailgate down unless you have any load that restricts the tailgate from being closed shut. 

If that is the case, you are allowed to have your tailgate in the down position if you meet the following conditions.

If the load in your truck bed exceeds the length of the vehicle by four feet, you should mark the luggage with a red, yellow, or orange flag to warn other drivers that they should give you ample space. 

Driving with such a load at night also requires you to place a red light that is visible from at least 500 meters.

Your pickup truck shouldn’t have the tailgate down if it is obstructing the view of the license plate either. 

This can have you pulled over if your tailgate is open, you have no load in the back, and your license plate is hidden from view.

Does a truck have to have a tailgate?

Although you are not legally required to have a tailgate for your truck, there are several reasons why you should have one.

Having a tailgate, first and foremost, distributes the weight loaded on the vehicle. 

If you load everything in the middle of the vehicle, this can cause excessive strain on the truck’s suspension over time. 

The tailgate also helps to spread the weight on the tires, reducing the wear and tear on any one tire.

Having a tailgate also helps you load larger objects, since the tailgate itself has a high weight capacity, meaning you can load objects onto the tailgate itself as well. 

However, make sure that the tailgate is in the open position when it is flat and level with the truck bed, and that the cables attached to it are in ideal condition.

You also increase the amount of stuff you can carry without having it spill out onto the road.

If you’re transporting something like gravel or sand, having a tailgate would help you immensely since you can drive knowing nothing is going to fall out.

Having a tailgate is great when you’re frequently transporting stuff to hilly areas.

Generally, any slope will cause your truck to be in an upwards position, meaning your stuff in the back is more likely to fall out if it isn’t tied securely.

Does removing the tailgate improve my mileage?

The general theory is that removing the tailgate causes your truck to be more aerodynamically efficient, meaning you can save up on gas.

However, different tests and reports show that removing the tailgate, or leaving it down, or adding a tonneau cover barely helped save any fuel, and that the truck is designed with the tailgate to be in the closed position for it to be fuel-efficient.

Different tests were carried out on trucks, and they were driven in three different methods. 

One with the tailgate closed, one with the tailgate open, and one with a tonneau cover. 

The final report concluded that the best way to drive a truck with the highest mileage was with the tailgate closed.

Why the tailgate shouldn’t be left open.

Leaving your tailgate open can be a serious hazard for other drivers when you’re out on the road since accidents can occur with serious damage to those behind you. 

Having a tailgate open can cause a lot more damage to the car crashing into you from the back than compared to having your tailgate closed.

Driving around cargo with an open tailgate can also cause your stuff to spill out onto the road, which is dangerous for other drivers and can have you pulled over.

Tailgates also help alleviate the stress on the truck bed walls, so it’s better to have them closed. 

An open tailgate can cause wear and tear on the truck bed in the long term.

Leaving your truck tailgate open can also make it a target for car thieves, who can remove the tailgate and sell it for good money. 

A locked tailgate, on the other hand, is much harder to remove and will deter thieves from trying to jack your vehicle.

General Advice

It is always advised to use genuine OEM cables with your tailgate when transporting cargo on the tailgate, and that to spread the load evenly onto the tailgate. 

It is advised that you should place an extra load on only one side of the tailgate since that can cause strain on one side and cause the tailgate to break.

Also remember to check the exact weight capacity of your tailgate, which varies from truck to truck. 

Some trucks are designed to bear light loads, so it won’t do you good if you load excessively heavy cargo onto a tailgate that isn’t designed for it.

Well, there you have it! The laws differ from state to state, but the conclusion is that you shouldn’t drive with your tailgate down unless there is a sufficient load in the truck bed.

You can drive without a tailgate, but that would cause wear and tear on your vehicle over time. 

So it’s best to have a tailgate and keep it closed while driving.

We hope this article helped, and you’re well on your way already. Happy driving!

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!