Truck Accident Laws & Regulations in Florida
If you recently got hurt in a Florida truck wreck, you probably have many questions about what happens next. The team at Paul Knopf Bigger understands how overwhelming this process can be, especially when unfamiliar Florida and federal trucking laws and regulations come into play.
Understanding the laws and mandates that apply to the liable parties in a truck accident serves an essential purpose. It helps you recognize the standards they must meet and the duties they owe to other road users. Knowing these regulations is also vital in determining whether any violations might have contributed to the collision that harmed you.
At Paul Knopf Bigger, our dedicated attorneys provide compassionate legal guidance to truck accident injury victims throughout Florida. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn how we can demand justice and compensation for your losses in a free initial case review.
Florida Truck Speed Limits
When operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in Florida, drivers must abide by the same speed limits as other motorists. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has set speed limits of up to 70 miles per hour (mph) on interstate roads and 65 mph on four-lane highways outside urban areas. The maximum speed on other state roads is 60 mph.
There are no separate or specific speed limits for CMVs in Florida. Drivers of all vehicles, whether commercial or private, must follow the same posted speed limits statewide. A truck driver exceeding the Florida speed limit in a CMV carries the same fines and penalties as speeding in a standard passenger vehicle.
Drivers of tractor-trailers, buses, and other large trucks should take extra caution to drive at safe speeds, as these heavy vehicles take longer to accelerate and decelerate. A truck is far more likely to cause catastrophic damage and devastating injuries if it’s speeding in the moments before a collision.
Florida Truck Weight Limits
The FDOT’s Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement oversees weight limits for CMVs operating in the state. These weight restrictions aim to protect Florida’s roads and bridges from damage caused by overweight trucks.
Florida’s commercial vehicle weight regulations focus on several specific types of weight limits, including the following:
- Gross Weight – This is the total weight of the vehicle and its load. The weight on the highway from each of a vehicle’s axles should not exceed the gross weight limit specified for the distance between the first and last axles.
- Specialty Gross Weight – This category applies to certain types of vehicles, like dump trucks, concrete mixing trucks, waste collection trucks, and fuel oil and gasoline trucks, when operated as single units. You can determine the legal weight limit by reading the tire width on the vehicle’s tires. However, regardless of tire size, no axle may exceed the lawful weight limit of 22,000 pounds. Maximum gross weight should not exceed 70,000 pounds.
- External Bridge Weight – This refers to the weight imposed upon the highway by all the axles of a vehicle. The weight should not exceed the outer bridge weight limit for the respective distance between the first and last axle.
- Internal Bridge Weight – This applies only on Interstate highways. A vehicle must meet specific requirements to be subject to internal bridge limits. The vehicle must operate on interstate roads, meet specific axle and wheelbase requirements, and weigh more than 73,271 pounds.
- Axle Weight – This refers to the weight placed on the road by all the wheels of one axle. Axle weight Limits consider the distance between each axle’s two parallel transverse vertical planes. There is also a definition for tandem axle weight, referring to two axles with specific distance requirements.
Florida Height, Width, and Length Rules for Trucks
Florida requires CMV and truck drivers to adhere to certain size and weight limits. An overweight/oversize permit is necessary to move a vehicle over state highways if its size or weight exceeds the following legal limits:
- Width – A permit is required if the maximum width of a vehicle or vehicle combination and load exceeds 102 inches or 96 inches on a less than 12-foot wide travel lane.
- Height – A permit is necessary for automobile transporters if a vehicle or vehicle combination and load is taller than 13 feet 6 inches or 14 feet.
- Length – Drivers must carry permits if the maximum length of their vehicle exceeds specific limits. This includes a single-unit vehicle exceeding 40 feet, a truck tractor with a semi-trailer exceeding 48 feet with a kingpin distance exceeding 41 feet, or a straight truck with a trailer when the combination exceeds 68 feet. Additionally, the front-end overhang should not exceed three feet.
- Weight – A permit is necessary if the gross weight of a vehicle or vehicle combination and load exceeds the legal limits under Florida law.
Florida CDL Requirements
Drivers need commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to operate commercial vehicles in Florida. The type of CDL required depends on the vehicle’s weight class and type:
- Class A CDL – Required for vehicles over 26,000 pounds, including tractor-trailers. Applicants must pass knowledge tests on general knowledge, combination vehicles, air brakes (if applicable), and complete skills tests.
- Class B CDL – Required for single straight trucks and buses over 26,000 pounds. Knowledge tests include general knowledge and air brakes (if applicable). Skills tests are also mandatory.
- Class C CDL – Required for vehicles carrying hazardous materials or designed for 16 or more passengers. Knowledge and skills tests are required.
All CDL applicants must hold a regular operator’s license, meet vision standards, be at least 18 years old (21 for interstate operation), and pass written exams in English or Spanish. Licensing is reciprocal for out-of-state CDLs. Military personnel can waive skills tests with proper documentation.
CDL drivers need license endorsements to operate certain CMVs or carry certain types of cargo. Available endorsements in Florida include hazardous materials (H), tank vehicle (N), passenger (P), school bus (S), double/triple trailer (T), and combined tank/hazmat (X) endorsements. All endorsements require additional written tests and sometimes skills tests.
Florida Load Securement Rules for Trucks
Florida does not have CMV-specific cargo securement regulations. But federal load securement regulations and other state laws still apply to trucks operating in the state.
All CMV drivers must comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations on proper load securement. These regulations cover factors like securement systems, cargo tie-down requirements, and the prevention of shifting or falling cargo.
State law also mandates that all drivers, including CMV drivers, must load their vehicles to prevent contents from escaping, dropping, shifting, blowing, or leaking onto roadways. Drivers and vehicle owners are responsible for containing cargo with tarps, cargo covers, or other devices as necessary. However, there are exceptions to the cargo covering requirement for agricultural and farming vehicles operating locally at speeds under 65 mph for less than 20 miles.
Requirements for Truck Owners and Fleet Managers
Companies and individuals that own or manage CMV fleets operating in Florida must comply with several state and federal registration requirements:
- IRP Registration – Florida-based fleets engaged in interstate commerce must register under the International Registration Plan and display apportioned plates. This allows for registration in multiple jurisdictions.
- IFTA Licensing – Interstate carriers operating in Florida and another IFTA jurisdiction must license their qualified vehicles under the International Fuel Tax Agreement. This centralizes fuel tax reporting and payments.
- Florida Registration – Intrastate fleets can register under the state’s straight truck plate program through local tax collectors.
- Trip Permits – Out-of-state vehicles must obtain Florida trip permits before entering the state for temporary operation.
Fleet managers must stay current with IRP, IFTA, and state registration requirements.
State and federal regulations also require all interstate and intrastate commercial fleets to register for USDOT numbers and display them on all registered CMVs.
Regardless of operational changes, fleet owners must update their USDOT registrations every two years. Companies should also update their registrations when business activities change, as these changes could affect carrier safety scores.
Trucking Insurance Coverage Requirements
Florida law requires specific minimum levels of insurance for commercial trucks. These minimums are in addition to the state’s basic automobile insurance requirements. The required minimum insurance coverage varies as follows based on the gross vehicle weight of the CMV:
- $50,000 per accident for a CMV with a gross vehicle weight of 26,000 to 35,000 pounds
- $100,000 per accident for a CMV with a gross vehicle weight of 35,000 to 44,000 pounds
- $300,000 per accident for a CMV with a gross vehicle weight of 44,000 pounds or more
Moreover, any CMVs subject to United States Department of Transportation regulations must maintain specific minimum insurance amounts under federal law.
Federal Trucking Regulations
Numerous federal regulations apply to commercial trucking operations in the United States. The FMCSA imposes the following rules for CMV drivers and carriers:
Contact a Florida Trucking Accident Lawyer Today
Don’t let the complexities of Florida trucking laws deter you from seeking justice after a truck accident. If you or a loved one has been affected by a Florida trucking accident, we can provide the legal support you need. Contact Paul Knopf Bigger today for your free consultation.