A fully loaded 18-wheeler truck weighing as much as 80,000 pounds is a lethal force on Florida’s roadways. Both federal and state regulations serve as protection for Florida drivers to minimize the risk of dangerous truck accidents. When a trucking company, vendor, or independently contracted truck driver breaks these laws, it’s actionable negligence. If you were injured from the negligence of a truck driver, contact the tuck accident attorneys in Sarasota and Bradenton from Shapiro | Delgado | Hofmann. We will pursue justice and ensure you get the recovery you need for your injuries.
The Florida Highway Patrol Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (OCVE) enforces the state’s laws regulating commercial motor vehicle operations, while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) establishes, regulates, and enforces federal laws.
Commercial trucks that drive within Florida must register with the Florida Department of Transportation and prominently display their FDOT registration numbers on their trucks. Before each trip, FDOT requires drivers to inspect the following:
Drivers must report any malfunctions and may not drive their vehicle if the problem makes the truck unsafe to drive.
Trucking companies in Florida must abide by both state and federal regulations for all vehicles on the road, including the following size and weight restrictions for commercial trucks:
Federal laws only place limits on truck length for some combination vehicles, or trucks with one or more attached trailers. Florida’s state regulations, however, limit truck and trailer lengths to no greater than 75 feet.
Federal regulations don’t include height limits for commercial trucks, but Florida restricts trucks to heights of no more than 13 feet, 6 inches. Only automobile carriers may exceed this limit, but by no more than six inches for a total of 14 feet.
Both state and federal entities limit commercial truck width to 8 feet, 6 inches not including the truck’s mirrors. Truck drivers must also abide by further width limits on some side streets.
State and federal regulations limit truck weights to no more than 80,000 pounds on interstate highways, but further limits may exist on other roads, bridges, and side streets in Florida. In addition, the legal weights for some types of trucks may differ depending on the number of axles.
Florida’s Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement regulates commercial truck weights to protect highways, bridges, and other road systems from damage and excessive wear and tear. Trucks traveling on Florida’s highways must stop at every weigh station along their route.
The federal government places hours of service restrictions on commercial truck drivers to prevent driver fatigue. These laws limit the number of consecutive hours a driver may remain on the road or can be on duty without a rest. The following time limits apply to truck drivers in Florida:
Florida commercial drivers carrying passengers may drive no more than 10 hours per day.
Truck drivers and trucking companies must maintain meticulous logbooks of their driving hours. Most trucking companies do this electronically.
If a driver or trucking company exceeds their driving limits, it’s an act of negligence that leaves them liable for damages in an accident, including property damage, medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering to victims. In some cases, criminal charges and financial penalties could also apply.
Federal laws require truck drivers to leave one second of following distance for every 40 feet of their vehicle length when traveling at 40mph and add further seconds of following distance for higher speeds. Florida’s regulations require truckers to leave a distance of 300 feet between the front of their truck and the rear of the vehicle in front of them.
Both federal and state laws prohibit truck drivers from texting and driving. Truckers cannot use hand-held devices like cell phones or tablets while driving. They may use voice-activated technology or one-button devices to make calls. Drivers may not watch videos, check emails, or scroll through social media behind the wheel at any time. Texting while driving is illegal for all Florida drivers.
All licensed commercial truck drivers must consent to drug and alcohol testing at any time. Commercial motor vehicle drivers are subject to random drug and alcohol tests as well as mandatory testing after an accident. State and federal laws prohibit commercial drivers from getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04% or higher. This law is more restrictive than the 0.08% (BAC) limit for drivers without commercial licenses.
Mandatory tests also detect levels of prohibited substances including the following:
A conviction for driving under the influence, or a charge of possession of prohibited substances in a commercial vehicle results in a one-year suspension of a commercial driver’s license in Florida for a first offense and permanent revocation of the commercial driver’s license for a second offense. A first offense for a driver transporting hazardous materials in Florida results in a three-year license suspension. Refusing DUI testing results in an automatic one-year suspension of a commercial driver’s license.
Florida restricts commercial trucks from using the far left lane on six-lane highways. They may use the left lane on four-way highways only while passing. Interactive maps showing sections of highways where six lanes exist and restrictions are in place are available through the Florida Department of Transportation’s website.