Truck drivers must exercise extreme caution when on Florida roads and highways. Failure to follow the rules can lead to devastating accidents.
Federal laws were created to limit how long a truck driver can be on the road and behind the wheel. Unfortunately, these laws are not always effective in preventing drivers from remaining on the road for extended periods. When drivers fail to adhere to the set laws, fatigue can occur, which is a serious danger to other drivers.
If you are involved in an accident with a truck driver in Florida, our truck accident lawyers at Zimmet & Zimmet can help. We understand the injuries and losses this type of accident can cause and will provide you with the aggressive representation you need to recover the compensation you deserve.
Florida’s Definition of a Commercial Truck
According to Florida law, commercial motor vehicles include any vehicle not operated or owned by a government entity with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more and at least three axles.
Qualifications to Drive a Commercial Truck in Florida
Truck drivers must be licensed to operate any commercial vehicle in the state of Florida. To obtain this license, the following qualifications must be met:
- Age: Drivers must be 18 for intrastate travel and 21 for interstate travel.
- Language: Drivers must read, speak, and understand English well enough to comprehend traffic signs, talk to officials, and make records.
- Vision: Drivers must be able to physically operate a commercial truck, which includes vision of 20/40 (a minimum), the ability to recognize yellow, green, and red traffic signals, and a field of vision that is a minimum of 70 degrees from the horizontal meridian.
- Licensure: Drivers must have a valid CDL (commercial driver’s license).
- Driving history: Drivers are not permitted to have any disqualifying traffic offense on their record.
Truck Driver Logs and Records
Driver fatigue is reported to cause approximately 13% of all commercial truck accidents. To combat these issues, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) created hours-of-service laws dictating how long a driver can remain behind the wheel before taking a break and resting.
Drivers must also record the time they spend driving (on duty) to ensure they comply with the federal and state hours-of-service rules. The motor carrier or employer is required to inspect the record to ensure compliance. The logs can also be maintained via an electronic recording device installed in the truck’s cab.
If a driver falsifies the logbooks, the motor carrier employing them may be liable for an accident. Additionally, the motor carrier must create a delivery schedule and route that ensures drivers can reach their destination without violating the hours-of-service rules or the set speed limits.
Hours-of-Service Laws in Florida
The state’s set hours-of-service laws must also be followed for truck drivers who operate only in the state. According to these laws, drivers may not use the trucks:
- For over 12 hours after 10 hours off duty
- After the 16th consecutive hour of being on duty, after 10 hours off duty
- After being on duty for 70 hours in a seven-day consecutive period or 80 hours in a consecutive eight-day period. These reset once the driver has spent a minimum of 34 consecutive hours off duty.
There are exceptions to these rules. A driver who operates in intrastate commerce and stays within a 150-mile radius of their base or who transports agricultural products inside the state from a harvest place or farm to a processing facility (or to market) may not have to follow the state’s hours-of-service requirements.
Any driver operating as an interstate driver must also follow the federal hours-of-service laws, which include the following:
- Drivers cannot drive over 11 cumulative hours after a minimum of 10 consecutive hours of being off duty.
- Drivers cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour while on duty after a minimum of 10 consecutive hours of being off duty.
- Breaks of at least 30 minutes are required after eight consecutive hours since the prior off-duty or break period.
- Drivers cannot spend over 60 hours on duty in seven days or over 70 hours in eight days. The periods reset after a minimum of 34 hours of being off duty.
Combating Cases of Truck Driver Fatigue
Fatigue is caused by mental or physical exertion that impairs performance. It can be caused by inadequate sleep, extended hours working, strenuous non-work or work activities, or a combination of these factors.
Because of how serious truck accidents can be, drivers need to follow the above mentioned regulations. There are other steps they can take to help prevent accidents, too, which include the following:
Get Plenty of Sleep before Driving
Truck drivers must get plenty of sleep each night. They should avoid driving while drowsy or when “natural drowsiness” is likely (between the hours of 12 AM and 6 AM or 2 PM and 4 PM). Cases of drowsiness impair drivers’ response time to hazards and increases the potential of an accident.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating irregularly throughout the day or skipping meals can lead to food cravings or fatigue. Going to bed with an empty stomach or right after a big meal can impact sleep. Eating a small snack before bed may help improve sleep.
What truck drivers eat affects their ability to drive without feeling fatigued.
Take a Nap
Truck drivers should nap when they feel less alert or drowsy. Naps should be a minimum of 10 minutes, but 45 minutes is ideal.
Get Help with Your Truck Accident Claim
Drowsy and fatigued driving can lead to serious truck accidents. The possibility of wrongful death during a commercial truck accident is shockingly high. However, even in cases where fatalities do not occur, the injuries and damages can be serious.
In these situations, it is in your best interest to contact our truck accident lawyers from Zimmet & Zimmet. We will review the facts of your case, determine liability, and create a plan to help you recover a fair amount of compensation.
When you first call our law firm, we will schedule a free consultation to learn more about your case. Based on this information, truck accident lawyers from our law firm will work to help you determine if your case will be successful. If so, we can provide legal representation for the duration of the case and work to ensure you receive a fair amount of compensation for your losses.
Contact our legal team today to get started.