Rules and Regulations for Truck Drivers in Florida

a truck driver wearing a hi-vis vest posing in front of her trailer truck

Commercial truck drivers are held to specific federal and state rules and regulations when operating on Florida roads. If you suffered injuries in a collision with a large truck, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries, property damage, and other losses if the truck driver or other trucking industry parties were responsible. Contact the Pensacola truck accident lawyers at Cardoso Law, PLLC, to discuss your legal options during a free consultation.

Who Governs the Trucking Industry in Florida?

The trucking industry must follow federal and state laws and regulations. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations typically apply to interstate trucking, while the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) governs trucking operations limited to intrastate travel.

What Do Trucking Laws Cover?

State and federal trucking laws cover various aspects of safety and operations for the trucking industry. Critical trucking regulations include:

Truck Driver Qualifications

Truck drivers must possess a commercial driver’s license issued by their state of residence if they operate a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more or a vehicle combination with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more with a towed unit weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Truck drivers must obtain the class of CDL applicable to the type of vehicle they intend to operate. They may also need endorsements on their CDLs that permit them to transport certain cargo. 

Truck drivers also require a valid medical examiner’s certificate, which certifies the driver’s fitness to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

Hours of Service

Federal hours of service regulations apply to truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce. These rules include:

  • Drivers may drive up to 11 hours following at least 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Drivers may only drive up to the 14th consecutive hour on duty after an off-duty period of at least 10 straight hours.
  • Drivers must take at least a 30-minute break after driving for eight cumulative hours without an interruption of at least 30 minutes. Drivers may spend their break on-duty but not driving, off-duty, or in their sleeper berth.
  • Drivers may not drive after spending 60 hours on duty in a seven-day period or 70 hours on duty in an eight-day period. These seven- and eight-day periods reset after an off-duty period of at least 34 consecutive hours.
  • Drivers may extend the 11- and 14-hour limits by up to two hours when they encounter adverse driving conditions.

Florida’s hours of service regulations, which apply to drivers driving solely within Florida, include:

  • Drivers may drive up to 12 hours after an off-duty period of at least 10 consecutive hours.
  • Drivers may not drive past the 16th hour on duty after an off-duty period of at least 10 consecutive hours.
  • Drivers may not drive after spending 70 hours on duty in a seven-day period or 80 hours on duty in an eight-day period, which reset after an off-duty period of at least 34 consecutive hours.

State and federal laws regarding hours of service regulations typically do not apply to truck drivers who transport non-placarded cargo, operate within a 150-air-mile radius of their work reporting location, and spend no more than 14 hours on duty. If truckers drive while drowsy or fatigued, the risk of truck accidents increases.

Inspection Requirements

Under federal regulations, truck drivers must inspect their vehicles at the end of their daily shift and prepare and file a written report if they identify any issue on their vehicle that would affect safe operation or result in a breakdown. Drivers must inspect their vehicles every time before operating to ensure the vehicle’s safe condition. If the driver identified any defect or deficiency in their last vehicle inspection, they must certify that required repairs have been made. 

Trucks must undergo inspection at least every 12 months. The inspection must cover all items listed in the federal minimum periodic inspection standards

Distracted Driving

Trucking regulations generally prohibit truck drivers from driving while distracted. Federal rules specifically focus on distracted driving involving cell phone use. One rule prohibits truckers from holding a cell phone to make a call or dialing by pressing more than a single button. Truck drivers must use cell phones to make calls or exchange text messages in a hands-free mode. Another rule prohibits truck drivers from holding cell phones to send or read text-based communications. 

Alcohol and Drug Restrictions

Federal trucking regulations require motor carriers to implement an alcohol and drug testing program for their drivers, including initial testing upon hire, random screening, and post-crash testing after severe accidents. Motor carriers must remove any truck driver from service who tests positive for controlled substances or a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more until they complete a “return to duty” process. 

Size and Weight Limits

Florida trucking regulations impose size and weight limits for commercial trucks, which include:

  • Gross Weight – 80,000 pounds, although a truck driver must use the bridge formula to calculate their truck’s maximum permissible weight
  • Maximum Weight on a Single Axle – 22,000 pounds
  • Maximum Weight on a Tandem Axle – 44,000 pounds
  • Semi-Trailer Length – 48 feet, with a permissible overhang extending the length to 53 feet
  • Auto and Boat Transporter Semi-Trailers – 50 feet
  • Single Unit – 40 feet
  • Straight Truck-Trailer Combination – 68 feet
  • Maximum Permissible Width – Eight feet, six inches
  • Maximum Permissible Height – 13 feet, six inches
  • Maximum Front Overhang – Three feet

Trucks that exceed size or weight limits must obtain an overweight or oversized permit from the state. 

Cargo Securement

Federal regulations require trucking companies and truck drivers to use cargo securement devices and systems to prevent cargo from shifting or falling off the truck during travel. They may use chains, wire rope, steel strapping, or synthetic webbing in a sufficient quantity to prevent the maximum forces or working load limits from exceeding regulatory limits.

Hazardous Materials

Trucks that carry hazardous materials must comply with various rules and requirements. Depending on the type of cargo, a truck driver may require an endorsement to their CDL that authorizes them to transport a specific type of hazardous material. Many types of hazardous materials also require the truck to display a placard informing others of the nature of the cargo. 

Accident Recordkeeping Rules

Trucking companies that have a vehicle involved in a crash must report the accident to the FMCSA and retain an accident register or report. Accident reports must include the date of the accident, the location of the accident, the truck driver’s name, the number of injuries or fatalities, and whether the accident released hazardous materials (other than fuel from the truck’s fuel tanks).

Why Do I Need a Lawyer After a Commercial Vehicle Crash?

Many trucking accidents occur because the truck driver or the trucking company violates state or federal regulations. A lawyer can help truck accident victims by investigating the crash and reviewing trucking company records to determine whether a regulatory violation may have led to the accident. A lawyer can help you stand up to the trucking and insurance companies to demand maximum compensation for your injuries and losses. 

Get Legal Help Now – Contact Cardoso Law, PLLC Today

After suffering serious injuries in a truck accident, you deserve to pursue accountability and compensation from a negligent truck driver or trucking company. Contact Cardoso Law, PLLC, for a free, no-obligation consultation with our Pensacola truck accident lawyers to discuss your eligibility to file a personal injury claim.