Florida’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain a Florida CDL and the reasons for disqualification.

In order to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in Florida, the operator must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL). There are many different classes of CDLs and various endorsements that are required for certain cargo. Each license permits the operation of a certain size or type of vehicle and comes with different requirements. This article outlines the requirements for obtaining the different types of commercial licenses and how an operator can lose this privilege.

When a CDL is Required

A CDL is required to operate any combination of vehicle(s) weighing 26,001 or more pounds or vehicle designed to carry hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. Exceptions to these requirements exist for farm machinery used around the farm, military and emergency vehicles, and RVs and personal property transports.

CDL License Classes

There are three classes of CDLs corresponding to the weight of the truck and/or trailer(s).

Combined Weight

Tractor Weight

Trailer(s) Weight

Class A

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

Over 10,000 pounds

Class B

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

10,000 pounds or less

Class C

Less than 26,001

Less than 26,001

10,000 pounds or less

The driver’s license must meet or exceed the applicable weight limits. For example, a class A CDL can be used to operate any size or weight of CMV.

Endorsements. While classes govern the weight of the vehicle, the type of vehicle and cargo can require special endorsements. Carrying passengers or hazardous materials requires a hazmat or passenger endorsement. Each endorsement carries special rules and testing requirements.

CDL Testing and Requirements

Generally, to obtain a CDL in Florida, an applicant must first hold a Florida driver’s license, followed by a commercial learner’s permit (CLP). The CLP requires a valid driver’s license, proof of residency, and a background check. The CLP applicant must also pass a written test. A CLP holder can operate a CMV while under the supervision of a CDL-holder who’s at least 21 years old. After 14 days of practice, the CLP holder can take the driving test to obtain a CDL.

Age

Applicants must be at least 18 years old to obtain a CLP or CDL. However, drivers who are younger than 21 years old can’t transport hazardous materials or operate a CDL out-of-state.

Medical Exam

All applicants must obtain a medical certification from their physician indicating proper physical health to operate a CMV. This certification must be updated every two years.

Exemptions

A driver with at least two years of military service operating a CMV can be exempted from the CDL driving test.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

An operator can face CDL disqualification or revocation for certain rule violations and criminal convictions. A disqualified driver can’t obtain a hardship or work CDL.

Serious Traffic Offenses

The commission of multiple “serious traffic offenses” within three years will result in license revocation. Two offenses in three years results in a 60-day revocation and having three or more violations in three years carries a 120-day revocation. “Serious traffic offenses” include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, improper lane change, following too closely, driving a CMV without a proper CDL, and any traffic violation involving a fatality.

Out-of-Service Order

Certain rule violations (like driving after consuming alcohol) can result in an immediate out-of-service order (OSO). The OSO is often issued by the investigating police officer and driving during an OSO will result in license disqualification.

  • First offense. 180-day to one-year license disqualification (180 days to two years if in hazmat CMV or vehicle designed for more than 15 passengers).
  • Second offense in ten years. Two-to five-year license disqualification (three to five years if in hazmat CMV or vehicle designed for more than 15 passengers).
  • Third offense in ten years. Three-to five-year license disqualification.

Railroad Crossings

CMV operators must take care around railroad crossings. Failure to leave enough room in front of or below the CMV can result in a violation. A railroad crossing violation will result in a 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license revocation for a first, second, and third violation in three years.

Criminal Convictions

A CDL will be disqualified for one year upon the following convictions: chemical test refusal, DUI (driving under the influence), a DUI in a CMV, leaving the scene of an accident, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, driving a CMV while disqualified, and negligently causing a CMV-related fatality. The revocation will be for three years if the violation occurred in a hazmat vehicle. Any subsequent conviction of the above-stated violations will result in lifetime CDL disqualification. The production or transportation of controlled substances using a motor vehicle will also result in lifetime CDL disqualification.

Implied consent. All CMV operators are considered to have given consent to a test of the driver’s blood, breath, or urine to identify the presence of alcohol or drugs. An officer who has reasonable cause to believe the driver has consumed alcohol or drugs can request a chemical test. Test refusal will generally result in license disqualification and possible criminal penalties.

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