Trucker faces time limit dilemma on Florida Turnpike

| 10/18/2011

After spending nearly a day at a shipper waiting to get his trailer loaded, OOIDA Member Dick Butler of Roslindale, MA, was out of hours.

He was facing a hefty decision: Drive on and risk possibly being put out of service if pulled over for an inspection, or stop and pay the additional cost for violating the Florida Turnpike’s 12-hour time-limit policy.

Butler told Land Line on Friday, Oct. 14, that he made the decision to shut down and take his 10-hour federally mandated break and was charged the full toll amount of $34.50, instead of the $20 he normally would pay.

“It’s kind of a catch-22 for us drivers,” Butler said. “On one hand, we are supposed to be safe and take our mandatory breaks. But on the other hand, your 12 hours are over, so get the hell off my turnpike. They can’t have it both ways.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said he agrees with Butler’s statement that more drivers are facing these types of dilemmas as more states and private groups push for toll roads.

“These kinds of policies are simply off the chart and send a crystal clear message about what would happen if all roads were tolled as some advocate,” Spencer said.

Butler said that he tried to explain to the toll taker that he was required by law to stop his truck and rest, but the response he received back was “the law’s the law and it states there is a 12-hour limit right there on his ticket.”

Butler said that in the 23 years he’s been trucking, he’s never been ticketed for being on a road too long.

Nichole Kalil, public information officer for the Florida Turnpike, told Land Line on Friday that they do not have signs notifying drivers of the 12-hour time limit on the turnpike because they “would confuse the majority of drivers.”

“We have thought about the signage on the roadway, but again, there’s already so much signage, between SunPass and speed limits, cash rates for toll plazas, then the Disney World signage,” she said. 

She said the turnpike has agreed to reimburse Butler for the additional amount he paid, but has no plans to revise its time limit policy, even though truck stop electrification services are being installed at some plazas along the turnpike to entice drivers to stop and rest. 

“We’ve had way too many security issues in the past with drivers staying over at plazas, which can cause problems with their security and sometimes our patrons’ security,” Kalil said. “We don’t have a lot of parking at our plazas.”

She said since the turnpike is just 150 miles long, it’s only about a two-hour drive for most drivers.

“It’s not like you are in Siberia,” Kalil said. “It’s stated on the ticket, that if you decide to stop, that’s fine, we’re glad to have you. We’re very appreciative for our multi-axle drivers; they are our best customers. We put a note on the ticket about the time limit.”

“We realize they make the choice to get on the turnpike and pay the tolls when they could be on I-95 for free,” Kalil said. “But it’s a two-hour trip, so it’s not like that many people get on (the turnpike) and say they need to take a 12-hour nap.”