What is Considered a Commercial Vehicle?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a series of regulations pertaining to all issues concerning motor vehicles.

In these regulations, they set out terms for what is considered in law as a commercial motor vehicle, or CMV.

What counts as a CMV?

The biggest factor of what counts as a commercial vehicle is that it is used as part of a business and is involved in interstate commerce.

Interstate commerce counts as the vehicle being used for commercial purposes across 2 or more states.

This applies to all self-propelled and towed motor vehicles that are used on a highway. 

It must also fit one or more of the following descriptors,

  • Weighs over 10,001 pounds (GVWR - gross vehicle weight rating)
  • It has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds plus 
  • It is designed for transporting more than 15 people (including the driver) not for compensation
  • It is used or designed for the transportation of more than 8 people (including the driver) for compensation
  • It is used to transport hazardous materials in a quantity that needs placards.

Hazardous materials are defined under the Secretary of Transportation’s 49 U.S.C. 5103. The quantity that can be transported is set out in 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter 1, subchapter C.

Categories of commercial vehicles

There are 8 separate classes of commercial vehicles. These classes are split into 3 categories - defined as heavy-duty, medium-duty, and light-duty.

Class 1 - these vehicles have a GVWR of between 0 and 6,000 pounds. They fall into the light-duty category.

Class 2 - these vehicles have a GVWR of between 6,001 and 10,000 pounds. They are in the light-duty category. 

Class 3 - these vehicles have a GVWR of between 10,001 and 14,000 pounds. They fall into the medium-duty category.

Class 4 - these vehicles have a GVWR of between 14,001 and 16,000 pounds. They are also in the medium-duty category.

Class 5 - these vehicles have a GVWR of between 16,001 and 19,500 pounds. They too are a medium-duty vehicle. 

Class 6 - these vehicles have a GVWR of between 19,501 and 26,000 pounds. These are also categorized as medium-duty vehicles.

Class 7 - these vehicles have a GVWR of between 26,001 and 33,000 pounds. They are classed as heavy-duty vehicles.

Class 8 - these vehicles have a GVWR that is larger than 33,001 pounds. All tractor-trailers will fall into this class. All are categorized as heavy-duty vehicles. 

What type of commercial driving license will you need?

These differ from regular driving licenses and you will need to complete specialist training and pass tests in order to receive one. These tests are both written and practical and you must pass both. 

There are rules associated with holding a commercial driver's license. These are as follows:

  • You can only drive commercial vehicles that correspond to the class on your license
  • Some licenses are only valid for intrastate (one state) commerce, rather than interstate (2+ states) commerce
  • There are hours of service regulations (discussed below)
  • There is a legal limit on your blood alcohol concentration, which sits at 0.04%
  • You must have endorsements in order to drive under certain departments and transport certain types of cargo
  • You must also produce a certificate of medical competency for this task.

Not all commercial motor vehicles need a specific driver’s license, but this varies from state to state. In Texas, for instance, you can drive military vehicles, farm vehicles, emergency vehicles, fire trucks, air-carrier-owned vehicles, and recreational vehicles for personal use without a commercial driver’s license.  

They may require you to hold a class A or B non-commercial license for some types of vehicles. 

What are the regulations for commercial vehicles?

Commercial vehicles must stop at all state weigh and inspection stations. The FMCSA has a Safety Measurement System which they use to track safety violations against drivers and vehicles. 

These are categorized according to the BASICs system - meaning Behaviour Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories. There are 7 categories within this system. 

Unsafe driving

This includes basic driving safety regulations such as using a phone while operating a vehicle, speeding, reckless driving, and driving while disqualified. 

It also encompasses any form of improper driving such as ignoring traffic rules. 

Crash indicator

This is a formula that is used to discover the ranking of a commercial vehicle relative to others with similar numbers of inspections, violations, and crashes.

It is calculated using the formula 

Crash Indicator Measure = (Total of Time and Severity Weighted Applicable Crashes)
                                              ÷ (Average PUs x Utilization Factor)

Hours-of-Service compliance

You should not operate a vehicle while you are ill or fatigued. There are many different rules about how long you are legally allowed to operate a commercial vehicle without a break. 

This limit usually falls between 10 and 14 hours. 

Vehicle maintenance

This covers things like having a flat tire or lights that have burnt out.

You should also be keeping regular records of vehicle inspection and its maintenance schedule. 

Controlled substances and alcohol

As the operator of the vehicle, you should not be in possession of, or under the influence of any kind of controlled substance or alcohol. 

The regulations state that you must not have an alcoholic drink in a 4 hour period preceding the operation of a motor vehicle.

Hazardous materials compliance

If you are using your vehicle to transport hazardous materials you should ensure they are secured and safe.

They should be clearly marked with an indicator of the hazardous nature of the material.

You are also responsible for providing security awareness training for handling hazardous materials.

Driver fitness

You must be able to speak a level of English sufficient to respond to official inquiries. YOu must have a valid medical certificate and be over 21 years of age. 

You are also likely to need to purchase a specific insurance policy for commercial vehicles and stay up to date with all regulations. 


Thank you for visiting. This website is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided is intended to constitute, nor does it constitute, legal advice, and none of the information necessarily reflects the opinions of Misty Rock Capital LLC dba whocanisue.com or anyone associated, employed or affiliated with Misty Rock Capital LLC dba whocanisue.com.