What comes to your mind when you think of commercial driving? A large truck? Right?
Most drivers consider big rigs part of commercial driving but few drivers know that even smaller vehicles such as vans can also be considered CMV's if these tow a trailer depending on its weight. Yet even a standard pickup truck towing a trailer could be considered a commercial vehicle depending on its weight.
Commercial driving is an aspect of the trucking business where the driver or the carrier charges money for this service.
But not every driver or vehicle is eligible for commercial driving.
Commercial drivers need to have a special driving license while commercial vehicles should have specific weights. And commercial drivers who drive commercial vehicles must follow specific Federal rules to stay compliant with this industry reality.
So, if you are wondering what is considered commercial driving, I've got you covered.
Below, I'll explain what commercial driving is and all its details.
What is considered commercial driving?
When businesses use commercial motor vehicles that must be driven by CDL drivers who must follow the FMCSA federal regulations regarding commercial vehicles to conduct interstate (transportation of goods or people across state lines) commerce is considered commercial driving. See the difference between interstate vs intrastate.
For example, when you make money by building an expedited trucking company, you as the owner of the company might not need a CDL but the company drivers will need to have CDLs.
Now, let's define each aspect of commercial driving below.
What is considered a commercial driver?
A commercial driver is different from a driver with a simple driver license.
While the simple driver license allows to drive a vehicle for personal use only, the commercial license allows to make money as a the truck driver. He helps businesses to haul heavy freight and earns a share from that.
To become a commercial driver, he needs to go through a CDL training program to get a class A, B, or C CDL type.
The commercial driver license allows the driver to operate CMV's (commercial motor vehicles) to haul freight for businesses. The hauled freight can be anything from products to passengers
What is considered a commercial motor vehicle?
The FMCSA gives two definitions about when a vehicle is considered a commercial motor vehicle and it has to comply with the FMCSA regulations.
1st definition - this relates to the interstate motor vehicle crossing state lines.
A CMV is a self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on highways in interstate commerce to transport property or passengers when the vehicle:
- Has a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) or GCWR (gross combination weight rating) of 10,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater.
- Transports more than 8 passengers (including driver) for compensation.
- Transports more than 15 passengers (including driver) not for compensation.
- Transports hazardous materials in placarded quantities.
That is the case when the vehicle (the unit + trailer) is crossing the state lines. In this situation, if the maximum combined weight of the vehicle exceeds 10,001 pounds while crossing the state lines then the vehicle is considered a commercial motor vehicle.
Some of the common vehicles in this class include:
- Small package delivery vehicles
- Pickup trucks with trailers attached
- Box trucks
- Straight trucks
- And more
2nd definition - pertains to a motor vehicle or a combination of motor vehicles and this is specific for CDL Licensing.
A CMV is a motor vehicle or a combination of motor vehicles if:
- A single unit has a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more.
- A unit with a GCWR (gross combination weight rating) of 26,001 pounds or more inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.
- The vehicle is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
- The vehicle is of any size and is used in the transportation of hazardous materials requiring placarding.
For CDL vehicles to be considered commercial motor vehicles, the trailer has to exceed 10,001 pounds.
A commercial driver’s license is required to operate these vehicles, and these vehicles have more strict FMCSA regulations, including inspections, repair and maintenance, driver alcohol/drug requirements, driver logs, and more.
Some of the common vehicles in this category include:
- Tractor-trailer vehicles
- Commercial passenger buses
Understanding which vehicles receive the commercial motor vehicle designation is important, as it means that the owner-operator must comply with specific laws.
Driving a vehicle that classifies as a CMV without taking the proper steps could lead to legal trouble. Even buses and vans may qualify as commercial motor vehicles, as do large trucks and some tow trucks.
Other types of CMVs include garbage trucks, delivery trucks, cement trucks, flatbed trucks, and vehicles that transport passengers.
Given this definition, it’s critically important to remember that a commercial motor (CMV) is not defined by the actual weight — it is defined based on the weight rating set by the manufacturer. Please do not fall into the trap of missing commercial motor vehicle (CMV) cases by confusing the actual weight with the gross weight rating!
FMCSA regulations for commercial driving?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a commercial motor vehicle must operate under special laws related to CMV's.
The discrepancies happen because commercial vehicles have different regulations, depending on their type.
That’s why it’s important for business owners and drivers to understand the many definitions of this term and the regulations that govern each type of commercial vehicle.
FMCSA regulations cover many of the areas of legally operating commercial vehicles, including:
- The hours of service each vehicle can have.
- Identification requirements.
- Safety equipment that certain vehicles must carry.
- Which vehicles must go to weigh stations.
- Driver health and safety.
- Insurance and registration.
Business owners who engage in interstate commerce should visit the FMCSA website to ensure their vehicles meet all federal regulations.
Common CMV Guidelines
All CMVs are required to meet specific “hours of service” regulations.
Depending on the type of vehicle, how it is used and the state in which it is used, CMVs can only be in service for a specified number of hours before they must be retired. These regulations are part of FMCSA effort to ensure safety on the roads.
Many CMV drivers are required to keep log books of their on-duty and off-duty hours. The goal of these regulations is to ensure that commercial drivers are not too tired to drive when they are on duty, which would put everyone on the road at risk.
Federal and state laws also require CMVs to carry commercial insurance when they are part of a commercial fleet. Each vehicle in the fleet should have proof of insurance at all times. Finally, CMVs must have safety equipment on board, including fire extinguishers, warning devices and spare fuses.