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Several Different Definitions For Commercial Motor Vehicles


Between U.S. federal law and the law of each individual state, what exactly constitutes a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. While this may not affect the majority of drivers, it can matter if you are ever involved in an accident with a CMV. If you have been injured in a crash with a CMV, it is important that you understand the driver’s position and the vehicle’s, in terms of ownership and liability.

Federal Law Casts A Wide Net

Federal law actually has two different definitions for the term ‘commercial motor vehicle,’ applicable under two different laws. One definition covers vehicles engaged in interstate commerce – three criteria are listed, and in order to qualify as a CMV, a vehicle must meet any one of those criteria: weight, the number of passengers transported (for free or compensation), and whether or not hazardous materials are being transported.

The other definition in federal law is for vehicles operating in both inter- and intrastate commerce. It defines a CMV as one of three types of vehicles: (1) a ‘combination’ vehicle, which is of a certain weight and/or towing capacity, as it must have a towing unit; (2) a ‘heavy straight vehicle,’ which is over a certain weight; and (3) a ‘small vehicle,’ which does not fit into either of the other categories, but either can carry at least 16 passengers or hazardous materials.

Florida’s Rules Are Different

Compared to federal law’s broad definitions, Florida defines a CMV much more narrowly. A vehicle must (1) use ‘special fuel’ or motor fuel on public highways; (2) not be owned or operated by a governmental entity; and (3) either weigh more than 26,001 pounds or have 3 or more axles. A vehicle must meet all three of these characteristics to qualify as a CMV.

One might ask why classifying the vehicle that struck you as a CMV is important. The answer, at least in Florida, is that CMV accidents are treated somewhat differently than accidents involving other large vehicles. For example, any crash involving a CMV must be reported to the police, and a crash report must be filed. This can be integral information that can be used in establishing liability.

Contact A Tampa Commercial Motor Vehicle Attorney

Being involved in an accident with a CMV means that there is a high likelihood of serious injury. If you have been injured, contacting a Tampa commercial motor vehicle attorney from the Rinaldo Law Firm can help you determine how to proceed in the legal process. Call our office today at (813) 831-9999 for a free consultation.

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