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When Is A Truck Considered A Commercial Vehicle?

Updated on: 7/8/2020

‚Äčsemi-truck accident bookA truck is defined as “a motor vehicle designed primarily for the transportation of property or special purpose equipment.” There are many different types of trucks, many of which will match this definition. But there are other qualifications that determine whether a truck is truly considered a commercial vehicle, which are subject to very strict regulations and legal standards. 

When we hear the term “commercial vehicle,” most people picture a semi-truck, box trucks, delivery trucks, motor coaches, shuttles, and buses. But the shape and look of a truck have very little to do with its classification. Pickup trucks do technically fit the definition mentioned above and can be considered a commercial motor vehicle in some cases, but most pickups are not considered commercial vehicles. The purpose of a truck or large vehicle involved and its unique characteristics are important factors in determining whether or not it is legally considered a commercial vehicle. 

Size Is Determined By Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

Whether or not a truck is legally considered a commercial vehicle depends on the size of the truck. Size is not based on height or width, but rather on the gross weight of the vehicle and its cargo. This is measured by the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). 

GVWR of 10,000 or More

If a truck weighs more than 10,000 lbs. (i.e. 10,001 lbs. or more), it may be considered a commercial vehicle. Most Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations apply to vehicles with a GVWR greater than 10,000 lbs. 

While drivers of vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 lbs. but less than 26,001 lbs. must have certain qualifications, vehicles in this class are not subject to the same stringent regulations that a vehicle greater than 26,001 lbs. may be. These truck drivers are not required to hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), undergo drug or alcohol testing, or keep logs of their time to ensure compliance with hours of service (HOS) rules. 

Below is an example of a truck that falls into this category, weighing in at approximately 18,000 lbs. 

GVWR of 26,001 or More

These vehicles, which typically involve 18-wheelers, big rigs, semi-trucks, tractor trailers, and other types of large trucks, are subject to much more stringent federal regulations. Drivers are required to carry a CDL, undergo drug and alcohol testing, and must also log their work hours so as to comply with Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and other FMCSA regulations. 

Here is an example of a typical semi-truck weighing more than 26,001 lbs: 

Other Factors Affecting Commercial Vehicle Status

There are some other scenarios that a qualified attorney must be prepared for when handling a serious injury trucking accident case. One particular factor that can make a significant difference in a vehicle’s classification as a commercial vehicle - even if it weighs less than 10,000 lbs. - is the number of passengers the vehicle is designed to carry. 

If a vehicle is designed to transport more than 16 people, including the driver, then the vehicle will almost certainly qualify as a commercial vehicle. There are also scenarios where a vehicle designed to transport eight (8) or more people, including the driver, would qualify as a commercial vehicle. 

Why This Is Important After An Accident

Drivers of commercial trucks face a much higher standard of care than drivers of regular passenger vehicles do. The drivers of these vehicles have the potential to do a great deal of harm and bear a greater responsibility to the general public than someone driving their own private passenger vehicle does. 

The resulting harm and other damage from an accident involving a commercial vehicle is typically much higher due to the difference in size and weight between these vehicles and regular passenger vehicles. That’s why federal regulations also require the companies responsible for ensuring these vehicles are safely operated to carry much higher levels of insurance than regular people are required to purchase for their own vehicles. 

Consult With A Qualified Attorney To Protect Your Rights

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, it may be in your best interests to consult with an qualified attorney with extensive experience handling motor vehicle accident claims. The attorneys at Davis Law Group are well-versed in identifying whether the person responsible for causing an accident was operating a commercial vehicle. 

Commercial vehicle companies and their insurers are notorious for aggressive defense of all accident claims, as they know their high-priced legal teams are an advantage over the average person. That’s why it is often important to consult with an attorney sooner rather than later, as evidence can spoil and witnesses can be harder to track down. 

Call our award-winning personal injury legal team today at (206) 727-4000 or use the confidential contact form on this page to request a free legal consultation with the trucking accident attorneys at Davis Law Group. We offer a complimentary case review to all accident victims and will help you better understand your legal rights and options.

Chris Davis
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Chris Davis is the founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.
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