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Which Definition Of “Commercial Motor Vehicle” Applies In My Case?


If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), and you are intending to file suit against the driver (or their employer), it can feel very overwhelming, not least of all because there are many different definitions of what exactly constitutes a commercial motor vehicle, in both Florida law and U.S. federal law. Depending where you are intending to file suit, a different definition may apply, and it is important to have the right one to ensure that your suit can go forward.

Federal Definitions

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines a CMV as any “self-propelled or towed vehicle” that is used on a highway, in interstate commerce, to transport cargo or passengers if certain criteria are met. Namely, if a vehicle (1) weighs 10,001 pounds or more, (2) is used to transport at least 8 passengers for compensation (or 15 for free), and/or (3) is used to transport hazardous materials that require a placard on the vehicle.

The other federal definitions of ‘commercial motor vehicle’ have to do with establishing which vehicles require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive. However, it is crucial to understand that not every CMV requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate – one group of vehicles is larger than the other, meaning that one definition of ‘CMV’ is narrower than the other. The broader definition, as clarified above, is the one most frequently used in accident cases where federal law controls.

State Definitions

Florida’s definitions of ‘commercial motor vehicle’ differ slightly but significantly from the federal interpretations. The most commonly used definition is any vehicle not owned by a governmental entity that uses motor fuel or ‘special fuel’ on public highways, that either (1) weighs 26,001 pounds or more, or (2) has at least 3 axles. This encompasses a wide variety of vehicles, and state law will apply in accidents that occur in the course of intrastate commerce (within Florida only).

Florida also differentiates between CMVs and vehicles which require a CDL to drive. That said, the stakes if one is found to be driving a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL (if one is required) are very high, with the possibility of fines or loss of one’s license being very real. It can, in some cases, also open a driver or trucking company up to the possibility of liability, given that failure to ensure possession of a CDL may in some cases be negligent.

Contact A Florida CMV Accident Attorney

A commercial motor vehicle accident can lead to serious injuries or even fatalities, and it is important to act fast in seeking damages. However, it is crucial to understand which laws apply to your situation. A Tampa CMV accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help determine the best way to move forward with your situation. We are ready to try and assist you – call our office today for a free consultation.



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