Do Trucks Have Airbags? (All You Need To Know)

You would think that all trucks have airbags, but depending on the year and trim model you’re referring to, your truck might not have been mandated to have an airbag system yet.

Like all laws, they usually start out with small mandates, and as they show progress, those mandates become more widespread. So, do trucks have airbags? If you’d like to find out, keep reading!

Do Trucks Have Airbags?

The federal government passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 that required all light-duty trucks and cars to have front driver and passenger side airbags by Sept. 1, 1998. On newer trucks, side airbags are not mandatory but can be optioned up on certain higher trim models.  

If you’re wondering if your truck or which trucks have airbag systems, keep reading to find this answer and other related facts!

When Did Airbags Become Mandatory in Trucks?

In the late 1980s, the Federal Government saw the potential in airbag systems because of the constant rise in automotive fatalities since the 60s. Therefore, in 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act was passed.

This Act put into law that all passenger cars and light-duty trucks must come with front airbag systems by Sept. 1, 1998.

Do Airbags Work Without Seat Belts?

Do Airbags Work Without Seat Belts?

Airbags will deploy whether you have your seat belts connected or not. However, airbags do not work effectively if you don’t have your seat belts connected, in fact, you’re likely going to do more harm to yourself.

Studies have shown in minor accidents that when airbags deploy on occupants who are not wearing their seat belts, they will suffer much worse injuries than if they had not been wearing their seat belts and no airbag was deployed.

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Are Side Airbags Mandatory?

Side airbags are not mandatory for any truck models, but they can be ordered on certain higher trim model trucks.

To meet safety regulations, most higher-end passenger cars come standard with side airbags. However, on most higher-end trucks, side airbags have to be ordered.

Why Do Semi-Trucks Have Air Bags?

Semi-trucks have airbags for the same reason any other vehicle has them. They are not mandated, nor do they come on all semi-trucks.

Semi-truck airbags are also much less sensitive, as in a regular automobile accident, they won’t go off as easily because the need for them is minimal.

However, there could be a time when a semi-truck hits something structurally stronger than the truck itself and an airbag would be beneficial.

Can You Drive A Truck Without An Airbag?

There may be laws forcing manufacturers to put airbags into trucks, but there is no law that requires a driver to have a functioning airbag.

Why Is There a Passenger Side Airbag On/Off Switch?

Why Is There a Passenger Side Airbag On/Off Switch?

Airbags are expensive to replace, and if you are not carrying a passenger with you, there is no reason for that airbag to deploy, which is why you’re given the option to turn off the side airbag.

Overall, this is mainly a convenient money-saving issue, but it can also be a dangerous one as well if you forget to turn it back on when you have a passenger.

Do All Airbags Go Off At The Same Time?

All airbags are hooked to one airbag control unit, so if one sensor sets off the airbag sequence, then all of the airbags will deploy.

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This is actually more of a safety issue, because if only one airbag sensor was altered, the rest still might need to be deployed during an accident.

Will The Airbag Work If The Light Is On?

If your airbag light is on, it means you have a problem within the system, and for safety reasons, none of the airbags in the vehicle should open.

Can a Blown Fuse Cause an Airbag Light to Turn On?

If your airbag light is on and you think it’s only a blown fuse, check your fuses and change if necessary.

If you don’t have a blown fuse, you have a bigger problem that needs to be looked at by the dealership, or your airbags won’t go off when you need them to.

Can an Airbag Go Off Accidentally?

Airbags can deploy by accident, but this is quite rare. Sometimes, if you hit a parking block hard enough or hit a big pothole at a high rate of speed, an airbag can go off accidentally.

This rare occasion is even rarer in new vehicles and bigger vehicles for two reasons: newer vehicles have softer suspensions that can take potholes better, and bigger vehicle airbags are less sensitive due to their size.

How Long Does It Take For An Airbag To Deploy?

How Long Does It Take For An Airbag To Deploy?

When you get into an accident in your truck, it will not take long for your head to go forward and cause spinal damage. However, airbags are designed to beat you to that problem by being fully deployed in 55-milliseconds.

Unfortunately, the powder that is used in the airbag system that irritates your skin and can cause respiratory issues is what helps this 55-millisecond deployment to happen.

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What Triggers An Airbag?

When you get in a front-end accident at speeds of 10-12 MPH, a signal is sent to the airbags control unit to deploy the airbag.

Inside of the airbag, there’s an ignitor that starts a chemical reaction that produces a gas (usually nitrogen) which inflates the airbag.

To know more about airbags, you can also read our posts on how to disable airbags, what are advanced airbags, why does the airbag light come on, why didn’t my airbags deploy, and what are curtain airbags.


All trucks built past Sept. 1, 1998, will have front airbag systems in them. Some newer truck models may have side current airbags, but if they do, they were specially ordered.

If you have a truck that was built before 1998, you might still have an airbag system, because manufacturers started putting them in their trucks before the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act was passed.

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