Florida's English-Only Law Defeated
April 1, 1999
A Cuban-born truck driver won a settlement against the state of Florida over a law that requires truckers to speak English.
The state agreed to pay Antonio Cuba about $15,000 in attorney's fees and agreed not to enforce the state law. The Florida law is an adaptation of federal regulations requiring commercial truck drivers to speak enough English to be able to converse with the public, understand road signs and signals, respond to official inquiries and make entries on reports and records.
In 1997, Cuba told a police officer in West Palm Beach, who was investigating a traffic accident, that he spoke only a little English. He got a ticket as a result. His attorney filed suit in early 1998 on the grounds that the law was unenforceable because Florida offers license exams in Spanish. Florida is not the only state to do so.
This isn't the first time the English language requirement for truckers has been challenged. In 1997, a New Jersey judge dismissed a similar case, ruling the state's law (like Florida's, modeled after the federal rule) was vague and unenforceable.