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What Is Considered A Commercial Vehicle: What You Need To Know

February 17, 2022 by Steven M. Gursten

The factors that determine whether the at-fault truck that caused a serious crash may be considered a commercial vehicle include: (1) the truck’s weight or weight rating; (2) the weight or weight rating of the vehicle being towed; (3) whether it is designed to transport passengers; and (4) whether it transports hazardous materials.

For lawyers like me and my colleagues at Michigan Auto Law who specialize in handling truck accident cases for people who have been injured, it is crucial to be able to determine whether the at-fault truck that caused a crash is a commercial automobile.

If it is, then the liability insurance coverage available to pay for the pain and suffering compensation and economic damages owed to a truck crash victim will be at least $750,000 whereas the minimum liability coverage for a non-commercial automobile may be as low as $50,000.

This makes an enormous difference to victims and their families as they are trying to rebuild their lives after the tragedy of being injured in a truck crash.

A lawyer who is handling a serious injury or wrongful death case that does not determine if the at-fault truck is a commercial automobile – and erroneously the treats the truck as an ordinary motor vehicle – is making an enormous and costly mistake that can leave hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) on the settlement table.

In addition to hurting the victim and the victim’s family by depriving them of compensation and damages they were entitled to and should have been recovered, the lawyer has likely hurt him- or herself because missing the fact that an at-fault truck is considered a commercial vehicle is probably legal malpractice.

The fact that an at-fault truck was a commercial automobile also affects the safety rules that the truck driver and the motor carrier were required to follow – such as the cell phone policy for CDL drivers – which helps identify the ways in which the negligence of the driver or the carrier caused the injuries or deaths that resulted from the crash.

What is a commercial truck?

A commercial truck is a vehicle used interstate or intrastate commerce: (1) with a gross combination weight or weight rating or a gross vehicle weight or weight rating of more than 10,000 or 26,000 pounds; (2) designed to transport more than 8 passengers (for compensation) or 15 (without compensation); or (3) that transports hazardous materials.

The types of commercial trucks that most people think of include: (1) semi-trucks; (2) tractor-trailers; (3) 18-wheelers; (4) big-rigs; (5) delivery vehicles; (6) freight trucks; (7) dump trucks; and (8) Mack trucks; and (9) bucket trucks.

But commercial trucks also come in smaller sizes such as delivery trucks, large vans and buses.

Determining whether a truck is considered a commercial vehicle

To determine whether a truck is considered a commercial vehicle, a truck accident attorney must always investigate and identify the gross combination weight or weight rating and/or the gross vehicle weight or weight rating of the tractor and any trailer that is being hauled. This will let you know if you are dealing with “semi-truck” or “motorcoach.”

Gross combination weight rating is a determining factor

A “combination vehicle” that is used “in interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce” to “transport passengers or property” and has “a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of . . . 26,001 pounds or more” including “a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than . . . 10,000 pounds” is determined to be a commercial automobile. (49 CFR § 383.5, Definitions, Commercial Motor Vehicle, subsection (1); 49 CFR § 383.3, Applicability, subsection (a); MCL 257.7a(1)(c))

Also, a “self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property” and has a “gross combination weight rating” or a “gross combination weight” of “10,001 pounds . . . or more” is considered a commercial vehicle. (49 CFR § 390.5T, Definitions, Commercial Motor Vehicle, subsection (1))

Gross vehicle weight rating is a determining factor

A “heavy straight vehicle” that is used “in interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce” to “transport passengers or property” and has “a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of . . . 26,001 pounds or more” is considered a commercial vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5, Definitions, Commercial Motor Vehicle, subsection (2); 49 CFR § 383.3, Applicability, subsection (a); MCL 257.7a(1)(b))

Also, a “self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property” and has “a gross vehicle weight rating” or a “gross vehicle weight” of 10,001 pounds . . . or more” is determined to be a commercial automobile. (49 CFR § 390.5T, Definitions, Commercial Motor Vehicle, subsection (1))

Transporting passengers is a determining factor

A “motor vehicle” or a “combination of motor vehicles” that is used “in interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce” to “transport passengers” and “[i]s designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver” is considered a commercial vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5, Definitions, Commercial Motor Vehicle, subsection (3)(i); 49 CFR § 383.3, Applicability, subsection (a); MCL 257.7a(1)(a))

Also, a “self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce” that is “designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation” or that is “designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation” is determined to be a commercial automobile. (49 CFR § 390.5T, Definitions, Commercial Motor Vehicle, subsections (2) and (3))

When a truck accident attorney is evaluating whether the at-fault transportation automobile that caused a crash is considered a commercial vehicle, he or she must focus on the number of passengers (including the driver) that the automobile was designed to move and whether or not the transportation of passengers was for compensation.

This situation commonly arises in cases that involve “jitney” buses, which are typically small buses or vans that transport a limited number of passengers for a low fee. Typically, the industry practice is for jitney drivers to rent the buses or vans from a company for a day.

Transporting hazardous materials is a determining factor

A “motor vehicle” or a “combination of motor vehicles” that is used “in interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce” to “transport . . . property” and “[i]s of any size and is used in the transportation of hazardous materials” is considered a commercial vehicle. (49 CFR § 383.5, Definitions, Commercial Motor Vehicle, subsection (3)(ii); 49 CFR § 383.3, Applicability, subsection (a) MCL 257.7a(1)(d))

Also, a “self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce” that is “used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous” is considered a commercial vehicle. (49 CFR § 390.5T, Definitions, Commercial Motor Vehicle, subsection (4))

Is a pickup truck a commercial vehicle?

A pickup truck can be considered a commercial vehicle even though it is not a traditional semi-truck or big-rig truck under certain circumstances such as if its weight – including a trailer – exceeds 10,000 or 26,000 pounds.

Why is my truck considered a commercial vehicle?

Your truck may be considered a commercial vehicle if: (1) it is used interstate or intrastate commerce and has a gross combination or gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 or 26,000 pounds; (2) it was designed to transport more than 8 or 15 for passengers; or (3) it transports hazardous materials.

Have you been injured by in a crash with a commercial automobile? Call Michigan Auto Law for a free consultation

If you or a loved one was injured in a crash caused by an at-fault truck that is determined to be a commercial automobile and you have questions about your legal rights to pain and suffering compensation, economic damages and auto No-Fault insurance benefits, you can call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our experienced truck accident attorneys. You can also get help by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.

What Is Considered A Commercial Vehicle: What You Need To Know

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