Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu

Differences Between State & Federal Classification of Commercial Motor Vehicles


Motor vehicles of every type share the road with little difficulty, but there are many different classes of motor vehicles, with different objectives and obligations. Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are heavily regulated, both to protect their owners’ interests and those who share the road with them. However, what many do not realize is that the federal government and each state government will have differing definitions of what exactly constitutes a CMV – and until the definition is pinned down in an individual lawsuit, an injured person may not be able to recover damages for what they have experienced.

Different Requirements

The federal definition of a “commercial motor vehicle” has specific criteria that a vehicle must meet: namely, (1) a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more; (2) is designed to transport a minimum of 8 passengers for compensation, or 15 passengers for no compensation; or (3) is transporting materials that the Secretary of Transportation classifies as hazardous. This is an intentionally wide definition, particularly in terms of point 1, intended to ensure that larger vehicles are regulated so as to minimize danger to other drivers and pedestrians.

Florida’s definition of a CMV, by comparison, has a much higher weight minimum of 26,001 pounds (or is required to have at least 3 axles), as well as a requirement that the vehicle use “special fuel or motor fuel” on the public highways, and – as one might imagine – not being owned or operated by a government entity. This definition of a CMV is a bit more narrow simply because smaller vehicles, regardless of whether they carry passengers or property, would not fall under this umbrella.

Why Does It Matter?

The major reason why defining a specific vehicle as a CMV can be important after an accident is the question of insurance. Commercial vehicles will have very different insurance requirements than private vehicles, and their owners will generally have deeper pockets. In addition, cases involving CMVs are more likely to involve multiple defendants, which can be both more complex and more rewarding, depending on the specific facts of your accident. Establishing civil liability against multiple defendants requires clear evidence, and it may not always be readily available.

Accidents that involve commercial motor vehicles are often disproportionately deadly, given their large size and speed. There are many potential ways in which a CMV owner or operator may be held liable for your injuries, but establishing that the accident was the direct cause of the harm you suffered is not always easy. A knowledgeable attorney can help clarify your options so that you are aware of your chances to financially recover.

Call A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney

Being involved in an accident with a CMV increases the odds of injury and death, as opposed to accidents involving smaller vehicles. Knowing which types of vehicles fall under that umbrella can help to govern the way you go through the legal process. A Tampa CMV accident attorney can help. Call the Rinaldo Law Group today for a free consultation.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn