Commercial Motor Vehicle? Definition and Examples

Most businesses fail to understand whether or not their vehicles meet the commercial motor vehicle definition.

This in turn, causes those companies to struggle with their compliance with FMCSA rules, because they don’t realize that they are regulated in the first place. 

Whether or not your company’s vehicles are regulated under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) requires that you understand two fundamental Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSR) definitions in 49 CFR part 390.5. 

Those definitions are:

  • Commercial motor vehicle
  • Interstate commerce

Notice In the first paragraph of the commercial vehicle definition above, it says “interstate commerce”. This means that in order for the commercial definition to apply, the vehicle (or business) must be engaged in interstate commerce. 

How is Interstate Commerce Defined By FMCSA?

Once the vehicles in your operation meets both the commercial motor vehicle and interstate commerce definitions, your company is regulated by U.S.D.O.T or more specifically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

You can read both definitions in part 390.5 here.

Examples of Commercial Vehicles, 390.5

Let’s go back to the definition of a commercial vehicle and look at some common examples. 

Paragraph 1 Examples

Vehicles that are included in paragraph 1 of the commercial vehicle definition are based on either the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) or how much the vehicle physically weighs.

First example:

An enterprise truck rented by a company to transport store items from Jacksonville, Fl to Brunswick Ga that has a GVWR of 10,500lbs as shown on the manufacturers door sticker. 

Second Example

A Ford F150 pickup with a GVWR of 7,300lbs pulling a trailer that has a GVWR of 5,000lbs. 

The total GVWR of each vehicle is added together, which is the GCWR. The GCWR is 12,300lbs which makes the combination regulated if it’s engaged in interstate commerce.

Section 2 and 3 Examples (passenger vehicles)

Remember that for passenger vehicles is that the number of passenger positions includes the driver. You also need to be aware of the ‘compensation’ vs. not for compensation in both paragraph 2 and 3 of the CMV definition.

Section 2 example

A Ford Econoline or transit van that holds up to 12 people or a limousine.

Section 3 example

Hotel shuttle bus or airport shuttle.

Section 4 Examples

Section four depends entirely upon whether or not a vehicle is required to be placarded under the placarding rules in 172.504. The size or type of vehicle is irrelevant.

Both examples below require that the vehicles are placarded which brings makes them regulated by FMCSA.

Example 1

A Ford ranger pickup transporting hauling non electric detonators for blasting. This requires that the vehicle must be placarded as outlined in 172.504 of the hazardous materials regulations (HMR).

Example 2

A Toyota Camry delivery/courier vehicle delivering a radioactive source to a hospital that requires a Yellow III label.

Next Steps

If you have a fleet or business that uses commercial vehicles, check out our dot compliance checklist article. You can also reach out to us for a free discovery call and we’ll help you assess your needs and get you pointed in the right direction.

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