We've gotten a lot of questions about our truck and child safety. Friends have questioned if it's even possible to fit six people in a crew cab without putting someone at risk. It seems to be a long-standing belief that trucks aren't family cars and therefore can't properly handle car seats. I'm proud to say that our truck gets the highest crash test ratings in its class, but I'll admit it's not without its issues. As a one-ton vehicle created more for hauling gear than for hauling people, there are certain comfort and ease-of-use features that are missing. That said, it IS possible to safely and securely install a car seat in a truck.
You can even install three side-by-side in the back bench if your cab is big enough. Go on, ask me how I know! It just takes a little extra care and some added bells and whistles from the car seat manufacturer. It's actually a lot easier to buy the right car seat when you know exactly which features you need to look for to help complement your vehicle.
Car Seat Truck Considerations
The car seat that we have for our littlest dude in the truck is the convertible Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0. As you probably guessed by the fancy name, this things comes PACKED with cool safety features. See that chest clip? It actually monitors my baby's well-being in real-time and lets me know if he's been left behind, if he unbuckles himself while the car is moving, if it's too hot or too cold…all sorts of stuff! We'll get into the specifics of how that works in a minute. But before that, let's talk about the nitty-gritty, oh-so-important basics.
LATCH is helpful, but not required
The first thing that most people ask about with the truck is whether or not we have LATCH connectors. As you see above, all forward-facing seats and most rear-facing seats nowadays come with an awesome latch system to anchor the bottom of the seat in the vehicle and a tether to hold the back of the seat steady when it's forward-facing. However, heavy-duty trucks are not required to come with LATCH anchors! This totally freaked me out at first. It was almost a dealbreaker, but then I spoke with several car seat experts and learned that installation with a seatbelt can be just as safe as anchor installation. You don't need anchors in order to install a rear-facing seat, although they do make the process easier.
So in our case, we tuck those into the handy in-seat storage area that Cybex designed. I love that these pieces don't dangle or get removed altogether, so we can quickly access them if we ever move this seat to a vehicle that does have LATCH connectors.
That brings me to my next and most important consideration for car seats in trucks: the lock-off. A lot of older trucks don't have the type of seatbelt that locks, and even newer ones can be very finicky. I've heard numerous parents complain that they couldn't get their truck lock-off to cooperate, or the middle seatbelts wouldn't lock. For that reason, built-in lock-offs are on the top of my list for secure car seat installation in a truck. Without that, it's nearly impossible to keep the seat from wiggling around.
The Sirona M has one of the most intuitive lock-off systems I've seen, requiring a simple pull-through and tug upward for both rear-facing and forward-facing configurations. While we don't plan to take the seat in and out frequently, it's reassuring to know that my husband can do this without my help. He's just as concerned with safety as I am, but he's pretty averse to long instruction manuals (and asking for directions, as I'm told most guys are).
Side impact protection
Side impact is another big concern for parents with trucks, since trucks generally don't score as high on side pole crash tests as their minivan counterparts. Unlike some vulnerabilities, though, this is something we can bolster against with added car seat features! See that little bump sticking out of the side by the headrest? The Sirona M is equipped with an adjustable Linear Side-impact Protection system that can be individually adjusted on the door side facing the car seat. Together with the head and shoulder protectors, it can absorb up to 25% more impact force in a side-impact collision.
Longevity and ease of use
This seat also has a 12-position adjustable headrest, a newborn inlay and a track incline-adjusting system that comfortably transition from the newborn/rear-facing stage all the way to a 65-pound front-facing kid. It also has magnetic belt-holders so you don't have to plop your baby on top of the straps and then try to wrangle him or her into them. Oh, and there's a cupholder that clips onto either side as opposed to being stuck in one place (which is somehow always the wrong place, isn't it?). Hello, German engineering!
Last but certainly not least is that super-cool gadget I promised to tell you more about. SensorSafe 2.0 communicates details about the child's wellbeing from the chest buckle clip to this vehicle receiver that gets installed in a port in the vehicle. It alerts you if baby is in any sort of danger and even dialogues with an app on your cell phone. It sounds technical, but the app walks your through installation, telling you where to find the port in your car. The app actually isn't required to get the alerts, so you can keep both hands on the wheel if your copilot has the day off.
For me, THIS was the biggest concern about putting a car seat in the truck. I know if I were to lead with a post about “how to not leave your baby in a hot car,” I'd probably elicit some eye rolls. The truth, however, is that the minivan is our everyday vehicle when we're home and I do the majority of the shuffling around in it. Nate sometimes takes over, but the point is that we have a system there, right down to which kid gets buckled last. We make the same motions and run the same errands around town and take the same collection of people and things in and out and back in again.
The truck is different. The truck is our adventure vehicle. It gets hooked up to trailers and taken all over the country during all hours of the day and seasons of the year. When we're in the truck, our routine is shaken up. There's no order. The truck is used for activity pickup and drop-off only if Nate happens to be on his way back from a photoshoot or the van's in the shop. When he rolls up in the truck, either something exciting is going on or something's out of whack! That's why I was extra mindful about the safety features for the car seat that we put in there. That's why I totally flipped when I found this one that has a monitor to actually keep track of my child's wellbeing. While we certainly don't plan to ever leave our baby in a car or be in an accident, it doesn't hurt to plan for every contingency.
Being kind of a minimalist, I used to think that simpler was better when it came to baby gear. No frills needed…people have been doing this for ages! Now I realize that with multiple cars and tons of kids to juggle in this busy modern world, sometimes those extra features can be a real lifesaver (pardon the pun).
Do you have a car seat in a truck? Did you encounter any difficulty getting it installed properly?