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What Is Considered a Commercial Motor Vehicle?

Commercial motor vehicles are vehicles designed that operate in purely commercial applications. Commercial drivers do not use a vehicle for business purposes. Commercial vehicles can not transport goods or items of any kind. Generally speaking a commercial automobile must have certain requirements in order to be able to carry more weight. Several organizations have laws geared specifically toward CMVs. The personal injury lawyer here assesses the definition of a commercial vehicle here.

truck, trailer, freight

It is important for every truck accident attorney to know the difference between normal vehicles and commercial vehicles.  But, it is also important to know when a vehicle could be a non-traditional commercial vehicle.

At first glance, a car or truck may not appear to be considered commercial.  But, your attorney needs to look deeper to see if it may still be a commercial vehicle.  Meaning, the vehicle may not be not an 18-wheeler, but it still could be subject to the FMCSRs due to the weight limits.

A commercial vehicle is not always what it appears to be

Would you ever think that a normal pickup truck can be classified as a commercial motor vehicle?  Probably not.

Under the federal regulations, a pickup truck can be a commercial vehicle even though it is not an 18-wheeler or big-rig truck.  If a lawyer is handling a severe injury or wrongful death case, and a pickup truck is involved, the lawyer might be leaving a lot of compensation on the table by failing to realize that a commercial vehicle is involved.

Often, a lawyer who does not look at the potential for a commercial vehicle could be leaving hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars on the table.  This is a huge mistake that, unfortunately, happens when inexperienced lawyers try to take on a truck accident case.

What is a commercial vehicle?

Most of us have an idea of what a “commercial vehicle” is.  We think of commercial plates, large box trucks, buses tow trucks, 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, and tanker trucks.  All of these commercial trucks are regulated and subject to the FMCSR.

However, many attorneys who take on truck accident cases make a mistake by thinking these are the ONLY commercial trucks.  This is a misunderstanding by many lawyers who handle truck cases, and it can lead to lower recovery for the client.

According to the FMCSR, a commercial motor vehicle is defined as a motor vehicle that:

“ . . . has towed vehicle with a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more), whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds), whichever is greater.” (49 CFR § 383.5(1))

So, what does this mean?  It means that a commercial vehicle is NOT defined by the actual weight.  Instead, it is defined by the weight rating.  Lawyers need to be careful not to fall into the trap of missing out on commercial vehicle status by failing to understand the difference between actual weight and gross weight rating.

truck, lorry, red

Can Ordinary Vehicles Qualify?

The following are other ways that a normal vehicles might actually be classified as a commercial vehicle:

  1. Transporting passengers

If a vehicle is designed to either transport passengers or property, your truck accident attorney should focus on the number of people the vehicle is designed to transport.  If that number is 16 or more passengers, then the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5(3)).

  1. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

If the vehicle has a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, then it is a commercial vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5(2)).

  1. Transporting Hazardous Materials

Also, emergency vehicles that are used to transport hazardous materials as the other vehicles as defined in the FMCSRs are considered commercial.

Insurance Requirements for Commercial Motor Vehicles

CMV operators are required to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance to cover potential damages resulting from accidents. The specific insurance requirements vary depending on the type of vehicle, the cargo being transported, and the operating region.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Requirements

To operate a CMV, drivers must obtain a CDL. The requirements for a CDL vary depending on the type of vehicle and its intended use.

CDL Classifications

CDLs are classified into three classes: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Each class corresponds to a specific type of CMV, based on the vehicle’s size, weight, and function.

Obtaining a CDL

To obtain a CDL, drivers must pass a written test, a skills test, and a medical examination. They may also be required to complete specialized training, depending on commercial driver’s license and the type of vehicle they plan to operate.

Gross vehicle weight rating issues for attorneys to remember

Truck accident attorneys need to remember that the regulations provide another statutory definition for a commercial motor vehicle.  In 49 CFR § 390.5, a commercial motor vehicle is a vehicle that “has a gwvr or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater.” (49 CFR § 390.5(1)).

Further, under 49 CFR § 390.5(2), attorneys can get an ordinary passenger vehicle put into the “commercial vehicle” category if the vehicle “is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation.”

It is important to note the distinction between § 383.5(3) and § 390.5(2).  The difference between 16 passengers and following vehicles with 8 passengers is compensation. Meaning, when the vehicle is being used for hire or to transport more than 8 people–for compensation–then we are in commercial territory.

Practice Pointer for Truck Accident Lawyers

I encourage every single truck accident lawyer to investigate the truck weight limits and GWVR of the commercial vehicles involved in commercial vehicle accidents.

If the vehicle in your case is used for business, and it weighs more than 10,001 pounds, or 26,001 pounds–then a truck accident lawyer should be immediately thinking that you have a semi-truck or a motorcoach.

Also, always be on the lookout for a trailer.  If a trailer is being towed by a vehicle, then you should investigate whether the vehicle and trailer combination move the overall auto or truck into the commercial classification.

What We do on every accident case.

As a truck accident lawyer at Georgia Auto Law, I always keep the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations close by at all times.  I can not tell you how many times I have seen other lawyers fail to realize that they were dealing with a commercial vehicle.  And this leads to lower compensation for the client (and also possibly legal malpractice).

A deep knowledge of the regulations is a requirement for any lawyer who is taking on truck accident cases.

So, whenever I start working on a new case, the first thing I do is determine whether there are any commercial vehicles present in the case.  I do a thorough investigation in the beginning to see if I can move any of the autos involved into the “commercial vehicle” territory.

This can turn a case from a minimum policy limits case of $25,000 to one with a minimum policy limit of $750,000 (or more).

But, what really matters here is safety.  And the regulations are in place to keep the roads safe by requiring these big companies to be accountable and keep their commercial vehicles safe.  Big trucking companies are always trying to make more and more profit, and they often put their “bottom line” above all else–including safety.

That is why I focus so closely on the regulations in my truck accident cases.  Because it allows us to hold these big trucking companies accountable and make the roads a safer place.

FAQs

Q1: What is a commercial motor vehicle?

A1: the motor carriers. A commercial motor vehicle is a vehicle that operates purely for commercial purposes, and can transport items of any kind. Generally, a commercial vehicle must meet specific requirements to carry more weight and is subject to laws geared toward commercial motor vehicles.

Q2: Can a normal pickup truck be considered a commercial vehicle?

A2: Yes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a pickup truck can be considered a commercial vehicle if it meets certain weight rating requirements. If a lawyer is handling a severe injury or wrongful death case involving commercial driver of passenger automobile or a pickup truck, they should be aware of its potential for being classified as a commercial vehicle.

Q3: What are the weight rating requirements for a vehicle to be considered a commercial motor vehicle?

A3: A towed motor vehicle with a gross combination vehicle weight rating gvwr, of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more), inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gvwr or gross vehicle weight of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds), whichever is greater, is considered a commercial motor vehicle under 49 CFR § 383.5(1).

Q4: How else can a normal vehicle be classified as a commercial motor vehicle?

A4: A normal vehicle can be classified as a commercial motor vehicle if it is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, if leased vehicle has a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or is used to transport hazardous materials as defined in the FMCSRs. Additionally, a vehicle designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation may also be classified as a commercial vehicle.

Q5: Why is it important for a truck accident lawyer to understand the regulations regarding commercial motor vehicles?

A5: It is important for a truck accident lawyer to understand the regulations regarding commercial motor vehicles because it can impact the compensation their client receives. A deep knowledge of the regulations is a requirement for any lawyer taking on truck accident cases. Additionally, understanding the regulations helps hold big trucking companies accountable for keeping their commercial vehicles safe, making the roads a safer place for everyone.

When is a vehicle considered a commercial vehicle?

It is important for every truck accident attorney to know the difference between normal vehicles and commercial vehicles.  But, it is also important to know when a vehicle could be a non-traditional commercial vehicle.

At first glance, a car or truck may not appear to be commercial.  But, your attorney needs to look deeper to see if it may still be a commercial vehicle.  Meaning, the vehicle may not be not an 18-wheeler, but it still could be subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) due to the weight limits.

A commercial vehicle is not always what it appears to be

Would you ever think that a normal pickup truck can be considered a commercial vehicle?  Probably not.

Under the federal regulations, a pickup truck can be considered a commercial vehicle even though it is not an 18-wheeler or big-rig truck.  If a lawyer is handling a severe injury or wrongful death case, and a pickup truck is involved, the lawyer might be leaving a lot of compensation on the table by failing to realize that a pickup trucks, a commercial vehicle is involved.

Often, a lawyer who does not look at the potential for a commercial vehicle could be leaving hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars on the table.  This is a huge mistake that, unfortunately, happens when inexperienced lawyers try to take on a truck accident case.

What is a commercial vehicle?

Most of us have an idea of what a “commercial vehicle” is.  We think of delivery trucks, large box trucks, buses, 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, and tanker trucks.  All of these commercial trucks are regulated and subject meet federal safety standards due to the FMCSR.

However, many attorneys who take on truck accident cases make a mistake by thinking these are the ONLY commercial trucks.  This is a misunderstanding by many lawyers who handle truck cases, and it can lead to lower recovery for the client.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a commercial vehicle is defined by federal laws as a motor vehicle that:

“ . . . has a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more), whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds), whichever is greater.” (49 CFR § 383.5(1))

So, what does this mean?  It means that a commercial vehicle is NOT defined by the actual weight.  Instead, it is defined by the weight rating.  Lawyers need to be careful not to fall into the trap of missing out on commercial vehicle status by failing to understand the difference between actual weight and gross weight rating.

Can Ordinary Vehicles Qualify?

The following are other ways that a normal driver qualifications recreational vehicles that might actually be classified as a commercial vehicle:

  1. Transporting passengers

If a vehicle is designed to transport passengers, your truck accident attorney should focus on the number of people the vehicle is designed to transport.  If that number is 16 or more passengers, then the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5(3)).

  1. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

If the vehicle has a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, then it is a commercial vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5(2)).

  1. Transporting Hazardous Materials

Also, vehicles fire trucks that are used to transport hazardous materials as defined in the FMCSRs are considered commercial.

Gross vehicle weight rating issues for attorneys to remember

Truck accident attorneys need to remember that the regulations provide another definition for a vehicle meets a commercial motor vehicle.  In 49 CFR § 390.5, a commercial motor vehicle is a vehicle that “has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater.” (49 CFR § 390.5(1)).

Further, under 49 CFR § 390.5(2), attorneys can get an ordinary vehicle into the “commercial vehicle” category if the vehicle “is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation.”

It is important to note the distinction between § 383.5(3) and § 390.5(2).  The difference between 16 passengers and 8 passengers is compensation. Meaning, when the vehicle is being used to transport more than 8 people–for compensation–then we are in commercial territory.

Practice Pointer for Truck Accident Lawyers

I encourage every single truck accident lawyer to investigate the truck weight limits and gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicles involved in the case.

If the vehicle in your case is used for business, and it weighs more than 10,001 pounds, or 26,001 pounds–then a truck accident lawyer should be immediately thinking that you have a semi-truck or a motorcoach.

Also, always be on the lookout for a trailer.  If a trailer is being towed by a single vehicle only, then you should investigate whether the vehicle and trailer combination move the overall auto or truck into the commercial classification.

What I do on every accident case.

As a truck accident lawyer at Georgia Auto Law, I always keep the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations close by at all times.  I can not tell you how many times I have seen other lawyers fail to realize that they were dealing with a commercial vehicle.  And this leads to lower compensation for the client (and also possibly legal malpractice).

A deep knowledge of the regulations is a requirement for any lawyer who is taking on truck accident cases.

So, whenever I start working on a new case, the first thing I do is determine whether there are any commercial vehicles present in the case.  I do a thorough investigation in the beginning to see if I can move any of the autos involved into the “commercial vehicle” territory.

This can turn a case from a minimum policy limits case of $25,000 to one with a minimum policy limit of $750,000 (or more).

But, what really matters here is safety.  And the regulations are in place to keep the roads safe by requiring these big companies to be accountable and keep their commercial vehicles safe.  Big trucking companies are always trying to make more and more profit, and they often put their “bottom line” above all else–including the federal safety standards.

That is why I focus so closely on the regulations in my truck accident cases.  Because it allows us to hold these big trucking companies accountable and make the roads a safer place.

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