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What Is Considered a Commercial Motor Vehicle?

April 13, 2019 |

Under United States law, all commercial motor vehicles are subject to strict regulations to help keep all drivers safe on the road. The drivers and companies who operate these vehicles must comply with packing and loading requirements, maintenance schedules, and even keep track of hours spent driving on the road. However, it can be difficult to know what is a commercial motor vehicle and what is not.

The Definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a commercial motor vehicle is any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle that a company uses on a highway in interstate commerce. Interstate commerce refers to trade, transportation, or traffic within the United States that involves one of the following three scenarios.

  • The commerce takes place between a state and a place outside of the state, including another country.
  • The commerce takes place between two places within a state and passes through another state or another country.
  • The commerce takes place between two places within a state and is part of a trade, transportation, or traffic that either begins or ends outside of the state or the country.

The primary activity or use of the vehicle helps determine if it is a commercial motor vehicle subject to the requirements of the FMCSA. A commercial vehicle must satisfy at least one of the following four conditions to fall under this definition.

  • The vehicle has the capacity or the company uses the vehicle to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver. The company does not use the vehicle to transport these passengers for compensation.
  • The vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating, a gross combination weight rating, a gross vehicle weight, or a gross combination weight of at least 4,536 kilograms or 10,001 pounds.
  • The company uses the vehicle to transport or designed the vehicle to transport more than 8 passengers for compensation.
  • The company uses the vehicle to transport hazardous material defined under the Secretary of Transportation and the regulation 49 U.S.C. 5103. The vehicle transports the substance in a quantity regulated by the Secretary of Transportation under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C.

A commercial motor vehicle can transport passengers or property and belongs to a company or corporation. In addition, a commercial vehicle can either be for business in an individual’s name as a sole proprietor or be a leased vehicle in the name of the leasing financial institution. Commercial motor vehicles can include trucks, buses, trailers, taxis, heavy equipment, trailers, and travel trailers.

Classifications of Commercial Motor Vehicles

The United States Department of Transportation further defines commercial trucks into a series of classifications. The Department bases these classifications on gross vehicle weight ratings, or GVWR. The GVWR of a vehicle is the maximum operating mass or weight of a commercial vehicle. The manufacturer defines the GVWR, taking into account the engine, engine fluids, body, chassis, accessories, fuel, passengers, drivers, and cargo that the truck carries. However, the GVWR does not include any weight that the trailers may carry in cargo.

The Department uses GVWR to classify trucks into the following eight classifications.

  • Class 1: GVWR ranging between 0 pounds to 6,000 pounds.
  • Class 2: GVWR ranging between 6,001 pounds to 10,000 pounds.
  • Class 3: GVWR ranging between 10,001 pounds to 14,000 pounds.
  • Class 4: GVWR ranging between 14,001 pounds to 16,000 pounds.
  • Class 5: GVWR ranging between 16,001 pounds to 19,500 pounds.
  • Class 6: GVWR ranging between 19,501 pounds to 26,000 pounds.
  • Class 7: GVWR ranging from 26,001 pounds to 33,000 pounds.
  • Class 8: GVWR is any number above 33,000 pounds.

Commercial motor vehicles have the duty to operate in a safe manner and their drivers and companies must comply with all federal regulations. If you suffer injuries in an accident caused by a commercial motor vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury claim. If you have been injured in a commercial motor vehicle accident, contact the experienced Wisconsin commercial motor vehicle attorneys at Cannon & Dunphy today.


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