As the curtains draw to a close on the 2023 regular legislative session, we reflect upon the remarkable achievements that have been attained. This legislative term will be remembered as an extraordinary success story for the Florida trucking industry, with far-reaching implications destined to shape the future of trade.
Throughout this session, dedicated advocates and stakeholders tirelessly endorsed the cause of trucking, pushing forward a series of transformative initiatives. These landmark victories hold the promise of delivering substantial benefits, some with results promptly after their passage.
With a sweeping array of accomplishments, ranging from comprehensive tort reform to historic investments in our state’s road and bridge infrastructure and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) programs, alongside determined efforts to enhance highway safety, the 2023 legislative session has laid a solid foundation for the continued growth and prosperity of Florida trucking companies.
Key Highlights on Passed Bills
CDL Training Enhancement: State Budget Appropriations
The Florida Legislature has taken significant steps to bolster CDL training by allocating $35 million to the Open Door Grant Program this year. This substantial funding infusion comes with a pivotal change brought about by SB 240, which eliminated the previous $3,000 per student cap. As a result, the state now has the capacity to cover up to 100% of the training costs for qualified programs, ushering in a new era of accessibility for aspiring CDL professionals.
Advancing Florida's Transportation Infrastructure: State Budget Appropriations
The Moving Florida Forward Infrastructure Initiative stands as a momentous investment into state-owned roadways, championed by Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature. The project has garnered substantial support, with the Legislature committing to allocate up to $4 billion in new funds for pivotal transportation infrastructure projects. In partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Governor DeSantis has identified approximately 20 critical areas of congestion that can be effectively addressed through this newfound financial commitment to the Florida State Transportation Trust Fund.
Florida has been experiencing a population surge, with estimates projecting an influx of 600 new residents daily over the next three decades. In certain regions, growth rates have already exceeded a staggering 20 percent. In response to this unprecedented demographic shift, the Moving Florida Forward Infrastructure Initiative emerges as a pivotal solution poised to alleviate congestion, bolster safety measures, foster seamless trade, and strengthen the resilience of our roadway transportation.
Thankfully, some bills did not make it into law that could have wreaked havoc on Florida’s trucking industry. Up for discussion was House Bill 7055: Duty of Care Regarding Commercial Motor Vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to specify design, construction, performance, and durability requirements for motor vehicles and related equipment. As expected, these regulations are periodically updated. What HB 7055 was aiming to accomplish was to limit the scope of liability for commercial motor vehicles (defined as over 6,000 pounds and used for interstate or intrastate commerce) in the event of an accident. Per the proposal, “CS/HB 7055 creates s. 768.0429, F.S., to limit the scope of civil liability for a person who owns or operates, or leases or rents to another person, a commercial motor vehicle that is involved in an accident.”
Basically, it was suggested that commercial motor vehicles should be permitted on the roads with only the safety features required at the time of manufacture. That being said, the bill also stipulated that it, “does not shield from liability an owner, lessor, or operator of a commercial motor vehicle, or a person who rents the vehicle to another person, who fails to comply with a law or regulation issued after the vehicle was manufactured or sold that would require a recall or retrofit.”
Some supporters of HB 7055 claimed the trucking industry is in need of more trucks on the road, but the outdated trucks could have created a whole sea of issues. All told, the NHSTA exists to implement regulations for the safety of everyone on the road. With Florida leading other states in the number of trucking accidents, including those with fatalities, HB 7055 was denied.
The journey of Florida’s trucking industry advocacy does not end here, and further unfulfilled objectives will continue to be on the agenda for upcoming legislative sessions. We can rest easy until the next session, as ground logistics defenders continue to campaign for efficient and necessary infrastructure updates on behalf of the trucking industry.