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Looking Both Ways

Commercial Motor Vehicle Defined

By John Mueller, CDS
Posted Apr 2nd 2013 8:13AM


This first blog will address a primary definition used within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  

I will avoid citing 49 CFR and using technical terminology at all costs in my blogs.    It is really more important to understand the regulations than it is to be able to recite them.    Getting a handle on these terms will help you better understand all the technicalities.

Know that the regulations stipulate “Every driver and employee shall be instructed regarding, and shall comply with, all applicable regulations contained in this subchapter”.    That means it is part of your job to know, understand and abide by the rules.   Ignorance is NOT an excuse.   Knowing the regulations will also assist you in defending yourself within the legal system – whether during a roadside inspection or after an accident.

Trying to make sense of all the regulations is tough when multiple definitions exist for the same word(s).   An example follows on the term “Commercial Motor Vehicle” or CMV:

In Part 390 (the General Regulations) the following definition applies:

Commercial Motor Vehicle: any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce when the vehicle –

i)                     Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more (whichever is greater); or

ii)                   Is designed to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation;

iii)                 Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver), and is not used to transport passengers for compensation (like a school bus); or

iv)                 Is used in transporting Hazardous Materials in a quantity that requires placarding.

In Part 382 (the Controlled Substance and Alcohol Regulations) the following definition applies:  

Commercial Motor Vehicle: means a motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the vehicle –

i)                     Has a gross combination weight rating 0f 26,001 pounds or more inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of of more than 10,000 pounds; or

ii)                   Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more; or

iii)                 Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or

iv)                 Is of any size and is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act which require the motor vehicle to be placarded.

In Part 395 the following applies because it refers back to Part 390 for the definitions:

Drivers subject to the HOS include any driver of a vehicle which has a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds (4,536 kg) or more, or which is used to transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring the vehicle to be marked or placarded under the hazardous materials regulations.  

What does this mean to you – the driver?   WOW – a whole lot of confusing stuff!   It means you should read and study just a little.   I’ll help as much as I can.   Portions of it mean that:

·          If you operate a vehicle that has a Gross Vehicle Weight - GVW between 10,001 and 26,000 lbs. sometimes you operate a CMV, and sometimes you don’t!

·          You must log if the weight of your vehicle exceeds 10,001 pounds (The combined weight of the vehicle with you, fuel, your belongings and the cargo inside of it).   Please keep a logbook to protect yourself and the company you are leased to if you exceed that 10,000 lb. threshold.

·          If you haul placarded quantities of hazmat, you must log, in addition to having a hazmat endorsement (and other requirements).   This means you could operate a vehicle under 10,000lbs GVW and still be operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle.

Disclaimer:   This blog is NOT intended to give legal advice, nor be a substitute for any training required by the Regulations.   

 Click here to read more of my blogs!

Till the next blog, thank you drivers for all you do.   Please be safe!

John Mueller, CDS


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