Driving a commercial truck is inherently risky. For this reason, state and federal laws impose strict regulations on the trucking industry to prevent truck accidents. When those rules are violated, the responsible party(s) can be held liable for the injuries and damages they cause.

Understanding how Florida trucking laws and federal safety standards work is critical if you need to pursue compensation after a truck accident. If you’ve been hurt in a collision with a tractor-trailer in Florida, talk to a truck accident lawyer at Brooks Law Group today.

At Brooks Law Group, you get the very best of what we have to offer — a team of dedicated attorneys fighting for the rights of injured people throughout Central Florida. We never stray from our mission of obtaining justice for you.

Let us guide you on the path to compensation. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.

What Is Considered a Commercial Motor Vehicle in Florida?

Under Florida law, a commercial motor vehicle is defined as any vehicle, not owned or operated by a government entity, with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more or has three or more axles.

Truck Driver Qualifications

Drivers may only be licensed to operate a truck or other commercial vehicle in Florida if they meet the following qualifications:

  • Age: 18 years old for intrastate travel, 21 years old for interstate travel
  • Language: Must understand, speak, and read English well enough to understand traffic signs, make records and report, and converse with officials.
  • Licensure: Must possess a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL).
  • Vision: Must have the physical capability to operate a commercial truck, including vision of at least 20/40 in each eye (corrected or uncorrected), a field of vision of at least 70 degrees from the horizontal meridian, and the ability to recognize red, green, and amber/yellow colors on traffic signals.
  • Safe driving history: May not have committed a disqualifying traffic offense, such as driving with a suspended/revoked license, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, or reckless driving.

Truck Driver Logs

Driver fatigue is a contributing factor in as many as 13 percent of truck accidents. To combat the problem, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established hours-of-service rules that dictate how long drivers can stay behind the wheel before resting.

Truckers must log the time they spend on duty to ensure that they comply with state and federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules. The driver’s employer or the motor carrier that hires a driver must inspect the driver’s log to confirm compliance. Logs are kept on a 24-hour basis by using an electronic recording device in the truck cab.

The motor carrier that hires or employs a driver can be held responsible for a driver who falsifies their logbooks. The motor carrier is also responsible for developing delivery schedules and routes that ensure that drivers can make it to their destinations without violating hours-of-service rules or posted speed limits.

Florida Hours-of-Service Laws

For truck drivers operating solely within Florida, the state’s hours-of-service laws state that a driver may not use their vehicles:

  • For more than 12 total hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty, or;
  • After the end of the 16th consecutive hour after coming on duty following ten consecutive hours off duty, or;
  • After spending more than 70 hours on duty in any 7-day consecutive period, or more than 80 hours on duty in any 8-day consecutive period. These periods reset after the driver has spent at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.

Drivers who operate in intrastate commerce within a 150-mile air radius of where their vehicle is based, or transport agricultural products within the state from farm or harvest places directly to a processing facility (or directly to market), may be exempt from the intrastate hours-of-service requirements.

Drivers who operate in interstate commerce must adhere to the following federal hours-of-service requirements:

  • May not drive more than 11 cumulative hours following at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • May not drive past the 14th consecutive hour on duty after at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Must take a break of at least 30 minutes after 8 consecutive hours since the last break or off-duty period.
  • May not spend more than 60 total hours on duty in any 7-day consecutive period, or more than 70 total hours in any 8-day consecutive period, with these periods resetting after at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

Inspection Requirements

Truck drivers must inspect their vehicles at the beginning of every shift and each time before resuming their trips. Drivers must check the following parts of their rigs to ensure they are functional and in good repair:

  • Brakes
  • Windshield wipers
  • Headlights, warning lights, and reflectors
  • Dashboard gauges
  • Horn
  • Turn signals
  • Emergency equipment
  • Underride protection
  • Cargo-securing equipment
  • Tires and wheels, including mudflaps
  • Engine, clutch/transmission, axles, and steering

Drivers must report any broken or malfunctioning items and may not operate the vehicle if they determine that any damage or malfunction renders the truck unsafe to drive.

Size and Weight Limits for Trucks

Under Florida and federal law, size and weight limits for commercial trucks include:

  • Length: Truck tractor-trailer combination, 65 feet under federal law; all other trucks, 75 feet under Florida law
  • Overhang: No more than three feet, under Florida law
  • Height: 13.5 feet, or 14 feet for automobile carriers, under Florida law
  • Width: No more than 102 inches (8 feet, 6 inches), under state and federal law, exclusive of side mirrors and other safety equipment
  • Weight: Gross vehicle weight limit of 80,000 pounds; no more than 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle and no more than 20,000 on a single axle

DOT Numbers on Trucks

Vehicles that operate solely intrastate within Florida must register with the Florida Department of Transportation and clearly display their FLDOT registration number outside the truck. Trucks that operate in interstate commerce receive a registration number from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which similarly must be clearly displayed on the outside of the truck.

Hazardous Materials Regulations

Federal law regulates the transportation of hazardous materials. Drivers and motor carriers wishing to transport hazardous materials must obtain a Hazardous Material Registration or a Hazardous Materials Safety Permit to transport certain classes of hazardous materials.

Depending on the type of materials, drivers may be required to obtain an endorsement to their CDL that permits them to transport certain hazardous materials. Drivers must also prepare and carry shipping papers that describe the hazardous materials they are transporting.

Containers carrying hazardous materials must also be marked appropriately or labeled per federal regulations. Finally, trucks transporting hazardous materials must also have visible placards that describe the nature of the hazardous materials being carried.

DUI Laws for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers must follow much more strict DUI laws than other motorists. A truck driver may not report for duty or remain on duty with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or greater or under the influence of any controlled substance.

Truck drivers may also not consume alcohol at any time while performing a “safety-sensitive” function. Drivers may not consume alcohol within four hours of starting a duty shift, nor within eight hours following an accident or until a post-accident BAC test is performed.