Trucking Laws and Regulations in Florida

Two truck drivers talking in front of a fleet of semi-trucks

Florida truckers and interstate drivers carrying loads through the Sunshine State must follow Florida Department of Transportation regulations for commercial shipments. In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets regulations for the trucking industry to follow. If truck drivers fail to follow these safety laws, they are more likely to cause truck accidents.

The effects of truck accident injuries can be life-changing. If you were involved in a semi-truck collision in Florida, an experienced Pensacola truck accident lawyer from Cardoso Law, PLLC, can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Call us today to learn more about your options for getting justice.

What Is a Commercial Motor Vehicle in Florida?

Florida law defines a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) as that which is not owned or operated by a government agency and has a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more or transports hazardous materials that require specific signage or carries more than 15 people.

Truck Driver Qualification Requirements

All commercial motor vehicle operators in Florida must hold a commercial driver’s license, be at least 18 years old, and pass a vision test. If the driver is under 21, they may only operate commercial vehicles intrastate.

Commercial Driver License (CDL) applicants in Florida must first obtain a Conditional Learner’s Permit (CLP) to allow them to practice driving a semi or commerce vehicle on public roads as long as a qualified CDL holder is in the vehicle supervising.

CLP requirements are:

  • Have a Florida driver’s license
  • Pass a vision test
  • Pass the CLP knowledge exams
  • Have your driving record from the last ten years reviewed
  • Pay the DMV fees

You must also provide proof of your identity and Florida residency. To obtain your CDL, you have to pass the Division of Driver Licenses medical examination, as well as the following:

  • Complete all CLP requirements, then, after 14 days:
  • Take a commercial driving road test
  • Undergo a vehicle inspection test
  • Complete a basic controls test

Florida Hours of Service Laws

Florida drivers must follow the driving hours limits set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These state that a driver may not drive the vehicle for more than 11 hours at a time and may not be on duty for more than 14 hours after 10 hours off duty. Drivers must take mandatory 30-minute breaks after driving for eight consecutive hours.

Furthermore, Florida laws set forth hours of service for Florida truck drivers who operate only in intrastate commerce. The Florida intrastate trucking regulations include:

  • Drivers are permitted to drive 12 hours after ten consecutive off-duty hours
  • Drivers may not drive after 16 hours, after coming on duty after the 10-hour rest period
  • Drivers cannot drive over 70/80 on-duty hours within 7/8 consecutive days. A total of 34 hours off-duty must follow the 7/8 days.
  • Drivers who travel in more than a 150-air-mile radius are required by state and federal laws to log their on-duty time and driving time.

Truck Inspection Requirements

The Florida Highway Patrol’s Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement may stop a commercial vehicle anytime and require the driver to submit to a vehicle inspection. The inspection includes an examination of the vehicle’s:

  • Brakes
  • Coupling devices
  • Frame
  • Fuel system
  • Windshield wipers
  • Lighting
  • Exhaust system
  • Tires
  • Steering mechanism
  • Suspension
  • Overall vehicle condition

Truckers must have regular vehicle inspections to operate. Failure to maintain the vehicle can result in fines. If the driver operates a vehicle with a lapsed or absent safety inspection, they risk vehicle impoundment.

Size and Weight Limits for Truck Drivers in Florida

The Florida Department of Transportation limits the size and weight of commercial vehicles in Florida, and those limits vary depending on the maximum Gross Vehicle Weight of the tractor-trailer. For a vehicle that is at least 43 feet long and has four weight-bearing axles, the maximum weight allowed is 80,000 pounds. The weight is to be distributed in a particular way among the axles, depending on which Bridge Restriction Map the driver will be using to travel his route. There are rules for overweight vehicles up to 95,000 pounds.

Trucks in Florida cannot be more than 14’ 6” high, 14’ wide, and 95’ long. These measurements include the rig and the trailer. Drivers must have weight checks at every weigh station and log their weigh-station check-ins.

Florida Requirements for DOT Numbers on the Truck

A DOT number is the Department of Transportation vehicle number that identifies a commercial vehicle. All commercial vehicles must be registered and have a USDOT Number. This number must be displayed on all vehicles and equipment chassis. The registration must be updated every two years. Failure to maintain a registered USDOT number can result in fines and other penalties.

Florida requires commercial motor vehicles to have USDOT numbers. The registration must be updated bi-annually, even if the company has gone out of business. Failure to register or display a USDOT number can result in penalties and fines. Displaying a false USDOT number is a misdemeanor.

Hazardous Materials Regulations

It’s mandatory for any commercial vehicle operator transporting hazardous materials to obtain a Hazardous Material Registration from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Any carrier transporting hazardous material must also fulfill training requirements and register with the FMCSA. Different hazardous materials, including radioactive material, may require a different permit or placard.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving can be just as hazardous as drunk driving. Federal laws regulate the use of handheld devices by commercial vehicle operators in the following ways:

  • Drivers must use the speakerphone feature of an earpiece for voice calls. They cannot touch the phone.
  • Drivers must use hands-free features to operate an electronic communication device.
  • No texting and driving is allowed.
  • Divers cannot program streaming services or GPS while driving.

Alcohol and Drug Testing

The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) holds commercial drivers to a higher standard for driving under the influence. Unlike a private driver, who may be cited for a DUI if their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is .08, a commercial driver is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol if their BAC is .04 or higher.

Contact Our Pensacola Truck Accident Attorneys to Learn More

Have you been hurt in a commercial vehicle accident? Do you need help getting compensation for your medical care and pain and suffering? We can help you, and you can learn more in a free consultation with a Florida truck accident lawyer from Cardoso Law, PLLC. Contact us today to get started.