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Your Guide to Basic Florida Trucking Laws

Tractor-trailers are large trucks that carry heavy loads across our country. These vehicles are staples of the American economy and responsible for delivering goods to various businesses in every state. We depend heavily on these vehicles, but unfortunately, there are some very real risks inherent to tractor-trailers.

The Risks of Tractor-Trailers

The sizes of these vehicles are an obvious concern. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds and is several times larger than most other typical passenger vehicles on the road. There are several federal and state laws surrounding trucking to ensure the risks inherent to these vehicles are mitigated as much as possible because of their size, the amount of time they spend on the road, and the frequency they are driven.

It’s important to be aware of legislative changes affecting the trucking industry. After the 2008-2009 economic collapse, the trucking industry was moving much more slowly than usual, resulting in less business but, by extension, fewer fatal crashes. As the economy has recovered, trucking industry lobbyists have put increasing pressure on Congress to alleviate some of the restrictions placed on truckers and the trucking industry. Many people are worried that these relaxed positions place people in danger.

Truck Accident Statistics in Florida

In 2016, there were more than 300,000 reported vehicle accidents in the state of Florida, and more than 40,000 of the cases involved commercial vehicles, such as tractor-trailers. This number is frighteningly high, and attorneys who represent trucking-accident lawsuits often will cite the growing number of accidents to support their clients’ cases. Trucks and trucking companies owe it to the other people on the road to enforce every safety regulation and ensure their vehicles – and their drivers – pose no unnecessary risks to other drivers.

Truck Driver Safety

Truck drivers spend more time on the road than just about any other category of driver. As such, there are numerous regulations these individuals must follow to ensure their own personal safety as well as the safety and wellbeing of the other drivers on the road.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has recently been a hot topic in public discussion concerning motor vehicle crashes. When you read a text or talk on the phone while driving, you’re not giving the road and the vehicle your full attention. Even diverting your eyes from the road for just a few seconds can mean your vehicle is travelling hundreds of yards essentially blind – this is a serious hazard, especially if a truck driver were to become distracted and drift into another lane.

Fatigued Driving

Truck drivers often are required to meet tight deadlines for pickups and drop-offs. Unfortunately, some truck drivers push their bodies too far and do not get adequate rest and nutrition on the road. Driving while fatigued is almost as dangerous as driving drunk. A truck driver who falls asleep at the wheel while attempting to meet a deadline can wreak havoc on the other drivers nearby.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is incredibly dangerous in any situation, and the state of Florida enforces strict punishments for drivers who endanger the lives of others. Drivers found guilty of DUI in Florida typically face fines and probation. If an individual incurs multiple DUI offenses, the penalties increase with each offense. DUI drivers who are extremely intoxicated (with a blood-alcohol content of .15 percent or more) and repeat offenders risk losing their drivers’ licenses and face jail time.

Every driver on the road has a duty of care. Essentially, drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care as they operate their vehicles. Since truck drivers are on the road for business purposes and operate vehicles that are inherently more dangerous than most others are, the duty of care is considered higher for them. A truck driver found guilty of DUI in Florida will face penalties under Florida state laws and will most likely lose his or her job. If a truck driver injures or kills another driver due to driving under the influence, the truck driver may also face punitive damages, as well as be forced to pay compensation to the victim and/or the victim’s surviving family members.

Training

Trucking companies have a duty to train every driver they employ in the proper use and care of their vehicles. If a driver causes an accident because of improper training, the trucking company can face liability for the resulting damages or injuries to other drivers. The truck driver also may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the company for failing to provide adequate training or shirking compliance requirements.

Trucking companies also must ensure that all technicians who perform vehicle maintenance follow all necessary procedures and exercise the utmost care when servicing tractor-trailers. These trucks are on the road much more than other vehicles are, so wear-and-tear is an important area of concern. If poor or incomplete vehicle maintenance causes a crash, the people responsible for ensuring the maintenance was done correctly will be held liable for the damages.

Cargo Loading

Tractor-trailers carry large amounts of cargo, and it’s important for trucking companies to balance loads properly. An imbalanced load can cause a tractor-trailer to tip over while making a tight turn. Some types of cargo also require specialized safety mechanisms and security fixtures. Lumber, framing studs, construction equipment, concrete pipe segments, and other large cargo must be stowed safely and in accordance with federal and state laws.

Pursuing a Lawsuit

If you find yourself in need of an attorney for a trucking accident lawsuit, it’s important to find one with a reliable work history and track record of successes in trucking accident cases. Once you connect with an attorney, he or she will review the details of your case and help you determine who is at fault for your injuries and damages. In order to prove fault, you will need to establish negligence. Essentially, you must prove three facts in court:

● The defendant (the person or party you’re suing) had a duty to act with reasonable care. Examples of reasonable care could include the fact that truck drivers are expected to follow the rules of the road and drive sober; and trucking companies must ensure vehicles meet all industry safety requirements.

● The defendant breached this duty of care in some way. This could include a driver operating the vehicle without adequate rest or a trucking company that did not properly enforce cargo-loading regulations.

● This breach of duty directly resulted in your injuries. These damages can include your medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income or the loss of the ability to earn income, and damage to your personal property, such as your vehicle.

Safety Tips to Prevent Trucking Accidents

The best way to prepare for an accident is to prevent one from happening. Truck drivers should follow safety guidelines, but there are a few tips that can help other drivers feel safer around tractor-trailers on the road. Most of the following tips are best practices for any driving situation, but they are more important when driving around larger, more inherently dangerous vehicles:

Don’t tailgate. Tractor-trailers are so big that unless you’re driving a large car, the truck driver won’t be able to see you if you are following very close behind the truck. This not only restricts the truck driver’s visibility, but yours as well, and you won’t have enough time to stop completely should the truck driver suddenly engage the brakes.

Allow the truck to have plenty of room. Tractor-trailers are much larger and heavier than other vehicles, and subsequently require much more room to come to a complete stop. These vehicles also are nowhere near as maneuverable as smaller passenger cars, so making turns and navigating traffic are much more difficult. Try to avoid crowding tractor-trailers to ensure they have enough room to maneuver safely.

Always signal. If you intend to change lanes or pass around a tractor-trailer, be sure it is legal to do so in your location. If you pass a truck and intend to get in front of it, make sure you leave plenty of space between your car and the truck. If you pull in too close to the front of a tractor-trailer and misjudge its speed, you and your car will be the ones to suffer. Many fatal trucking accidents occur when the truck hits another driver from behind.

Drive defensively. Eliminate distractions and follow the rules of the road. If you encounter any hazards that startle or worry you, try to avoid panicking and safely move out of harm’s way. A big part of defensive driving is maintaining situational awareness, so turn off your cell phone while you’re behind the wheel and try to refrain from fiddling with your car stereo or other distractions.

The results often are deadly when everyday drivers collide with tractor-trailers. Any motor vehicle collision can cause serious, life-threatening, or permanently disabling injuries. It’s vital for Tampa citizens to know their rights and to have some understanding of the laws pertaining to trucking accidents.

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