Written by attorney David P. Gilbert

Florida Commercial Drivers: CDL Basics and the Impact of Traffic Tickets on CDL Holders


What are the different types of commerical driver licenses?

There are three classes of commercial driver licenses ("CDL") in Florida. Those who hold aClass A CDL can operate trucks or truck combinations weighing with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating ("GVWR") of 26,001 lbs. or more, provided towed vehicle is more than 10,000 lbs. A Class B CDL allows a commercial driver to operate a straight truck weighing 26,001 lbs. GVWR or more. Holders of a valid Class C CDL may operate vehicles transporting placardable amounts of hazardous materials, or vehicles designed to transport more than 15 persons including the driver with a GVWR of less than 26,001 lbs.

What is a commercial vehicle?

Under Florida law, a commercial vehicle is any motor vehicle or motor vehicle combination used on the streets or highways, which has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more; is designed to transport more than 15 persons, including the driver; or is transporting hazardous materials and is required to be placarded in accordance with Title 49 C.F.R. part 172, subpart F.

Motorsports Exception - " A vehicle that occasionally transports personal property to and from a closed-course motorsport facility, as defined in s. 549.09(1)(a), is not a commercial motor vehicle if the use is not for profit and corporate sponsorship is not involved. As used in this subsection, the term 'corporate sponsorship' means a payment, donation, gratuity, in-kind service, or other benefit provided to or derived by a person in relation to the underlying activity, other than the display of product or corporate names, logos, or other graphic information on the property being transported."

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

It is important to be aware of the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of your motor vehicle or motor vehicle combination. The GVWR is not necessarily the weight indicated on your vehicle and/or trailer registration. The GVWR is "the value specified by the manufacturer as the maximum loaded weight of a single, combination, or articulated vehicle." The GVWR is normally indicated on a placard located on the frame near the driver's door or else it may be in the owner's manual.

If the GVWR of your motor vehicle or motor vehicle combination is over 26,001 pounds and the vehicle can be defined as a "commercial vehicle," you need to have a valid CDL. If you are caught operating a commercial vehicle without a valid CDL, you will likely be charged with a first degree misdemeanor offense (up to 1yr in jail, up to $1000 fine).

Those Exempt from CDL Requirement

There are certain classes of individuals that are permitted to operate "commercial vehicles" without a valid Florida CDL. Here are a few examples:

  • Drivers of authorized emergency vehicles that are equipped with extraordinary audible warning devices that display red or blue lights and are on call to respond to emergencies;or
  • Military personnel driving military vehicles; or
  • Farmers transporting farm supplies or farm machinery, or transporting agricultural products to or from the first place of storage or processing or directly to or from market, within 150 miles of their farm; or
  • Drivers of recreational vehicles used for recreational purposes; or
  • Drivers who operate straight trucks (single units) that are exclusively transporting their own tangible personal property which is not for sale.
  • An employee of a publicly owned transit system who is limited to moving vehicles for maintenance or parking purposes exclusively within the restricted-access confines of a transit system's property.

Pulled Over With A Florida CDL?

If you have received a moving-violation citation and you hold a valid Florida CDL, you may have discovered that you are not permitted to elect driving school to avoid being convicted of the traffic violation. Whenever you are convicted of a moving-violation, points are assessed to your driving record. A moving violation conviction could result in loss of employment, insurance increases, and temporary or permanent loss of commercial driving privilege.

We understand that you earn your living through your CDL and that you need to protect your driving privilege. In most cases, we can take your moving violation to court and request that the Judge enter a disposition where adjudication is withheld (no conviction - no points). While most CDL drivers have clean driving records, the Judge may require that you complete a driving course in exchange for withholding adjudication.

The impact of traffic violations on CDL holders is complicated by the number of regulatory agencies that govern commercial drivers. Due to the interstate qualities of commercial vehicles, the Federal Government heavily regulates all aspects of commercial driving (USDOT - Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). For this reason, CDL holders who receive a citation while driving a commercial vehicle must relentlessly fight this ticket because a 'conviction' under Federal law is a much broader concept and the accumulation of 'convictions' will result in temporary or permanent disqualification.

If you hold a commercial driver license (CDL) and you have been issued a traffic citation in the Tampa Bay area, please contact my office to discuss your options. These tickets can greatly impact your employment and your future. Call me for a free consultation at (727) 260-5754.

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