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What exactly is a "commercial" truck?

Truck accident attorney says some Michigan business owners don’t know that their fleet vehicles fall under the new cell phone ban for commercial trucks

A few months back, I was interviewed in the Grand Rapids Press as a truck accident attorney source to explain the new cell phone ban for truckers. Another source in the story was the president of a plumbing company who claimed she just learned that police can now ticket drivers of semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles for using a hand-held cell phone while on the road.

This small business executive was surprised to learn that about eight trucks in her fleet are subject to the new rules. Some of this woman’s surprise could have come from the fact that many people do know what a commercial truck actually is, although I think it is more likely because she has a lousy safety director, who should have made her and her truckers all well-aware of this new but well-publicized safety regulation. The important thing to emphasize here is that this ban applies to all commercial trucks, not just the large tractor-trailers we see on our roads.

That’s why I’m writing today about all of the types of commercial trucks and motor vehicles that fall under the trucker cell phone ban.

A typical, fully-loaded commercial truck can weigh in excess of 80,000 pounds. But most vehicles that are classified as commercial trucks are smaller, such as delivery trucks, large vans and buses. Anything that weighs more than 10,000 pounds counts as a commercial vehicle.

Examples of commercial trucks are semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, big-rigs, delivery vehicles, freight trucks, dump trucks, Mack trucks and bucket trucks.

Buses also fall under the definition of a commercial vehicle, so companies must also take bus drivers into account with the trucking cell phone ban.

If we want to get technical, we can go by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration definition of a commercial motor vehicle:

“Commercial motor vehicle means any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:

  1. Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight of 10,001 pounds or more.
  2. Or Is designed or used to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
  3. Or is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation.
  4. Or is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous (under 49 U.S.C. 5103) and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under regulations (prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C).”

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ban, commercial truck drivers are not allowed to use cell phones while driving. This means no texting, no talking on speaker, no surfing the Internet and no talking on the phone, period.

There are Federal civil penalties up to $2,750 for each offense and commercial truck and bus companies will face a maximum penalty of $11,000. States will also suspend a truck driver’s CDL after two or more serious traffic violations and disqualify a trucker for multiple offenses.

Given the penalties and the dire consequences of truck accidents caused by cell phone use, it would be wise for businesses across Michigan to figure out whether their vehicles are classified as commercial trucks.

Steven Gursten is head of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck accident attorneys in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for a truck accident case, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.

Related information to protect yourself:

Do Michigan truck drivers know about the new cell phone ban?

Support for injured truck drivers

Find a Michigan truck accident attorney

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 or to speak with one of our Michigan truck accident lawyers today.

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