You’ve heard the term ‘commercial vehicle’ a thousand times before – but do you really know what it means? What makes a commercial vehicle different from a personal use vehicle? Is there any real difference at all? Maybe until now, you’ve always thought of commercial vehicles as those big tractor-trailers on the road that always seem to take up most of the highway.
Those big eighteen-wheelers definitely are commercial vehicles, because ther function is to conduct business, and it’s pretty obvious what their role is in that business – transporting goods. However, these are not the only kinds of commercial vehicles on the road. In this article, we’ll discuss some other types of vehicles that should be part of the category of commercial vehicles, and why they qualify.
Definition of a Commercial Vehicle
According to the Federal Motor Carrier regulations, a commercial vehicle is a self-powered motor vehicle used in interstate commerce for the transport of passengers or goods. There are some further stipulations to this definition and those are as follows:
- the vehicle is designed for use as transportation by 8 or more passengers, including the driver.
- the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight of 4,536 kg (2,000 lbs.) and more.
- vehicles that transport material considered hazardous, or require placarding.
- the vehicle can transport more than 15 passengers, but it’s not used to transport them on a paying basis.
Is It Necessary to Have a Commercial Driver’s License?
While it’s not always necessary to have a commercial driver’s license if you are operating a commercial vehicle, it is necessary for the most part. It’s especially true under the following circumstances:
- any vehicle which transports hazardous materials
- vehicles designed to transport at least 16 persons
- vehicles with a gross weight of 26,000 pounds or more
- a combination of vehicles with a total weight rating of 26,000, if any towed vehicle weighs at least 10,000 lbs.
Types of Commercial Vehicles
Here are some of the most popular types of commercial vehicles on the road today:
- Pickup trucks – ordinarily, pickup trucks aren’t usually considered commercial vehicles. If you use them for commercial purposes in some businesses, the commercial denomination applies. Some pickup trucks are powerful enough to transport goods with a trailer, and some can move equipment and tools for a business.
- Box trucks – these vehicles look like semi-trucks, but the tractor attached to the trailer doesn’t use a fifth wheel connector. As opposed to vans, box trucks will generally have their cargo area situated distinctly from the cab. Many businesses use box trucks for local deliveries, hauling furniture or appliances, and moving bulky goods.
- Semi-trucks – these are a combination of a tractor attached to a trailer by way of a fifth-wheel connection. They are often tractor-trailers, big rigs, or 18-wheelers. Semi-trucks may have double or triple trailers, flatbeds, reefers, or dry vans, and they generally haul cargo and goods between two hubs of a supply chain.
- Passenger vans – these are commercial vans capable of seating between 9 and 15 passengers. They often transport groups as part of a service, e.g. hotel shuttles, or as part of service itself, e.g. touring an attraction.
- Cargo vans – these are one-piece vehicles that have their cargo area directly attached to the driver’s cab. Some of the bigger cargo vans have rollup doors in the same way that box trucks do. Cargo vans are generally for those who are in the business of cable repair services, electrical, plumbing, or other contracting services.
- Step Vans – sometimes also known as delivery vans and you can also recognize them as bread trucks or bakery trucks. They are taller than regular full-size vans. That makes it easier to store goods inside them and access them later. Parcel companies often use such delivery trucks, as do fire departments and police departments.
- Mini-buses – sometimes known as shuttle buses, these vehicles typically can’t carry as many passengers as regular buses, but they can carry more than passenger vans. Since they are small and flexible, mini-buses are popular for on-demand transport as well as fixed-route transportation.
- Motor coaches – this is a more luxurious type of vehicle, which covers long distances while transporting passengers. Many motor coaches have high floors with a luggage area below the passenger compartment. These types of vehicles aim for passenger comfort, and they’ll have many more amenities than regular buses, including restrooms, air conditioning, and seats that recline.
- Transit buses – these transport a great many paying customers at the same time. They’re usually part of the transportation network of a major city, since they transfer school children from home to classroom. These are generally commercial vehicles, and as such, they require special licensing by drivers.
- Commercial cars – delivery vehicles, taxis, and rental cars are all considered commercial vehicles, even though they look like ordinary sedans. At present, some of the ride-service vehicles such as Uber and Lyft are personal use vehicles, but it’s entirely possible to reclassify them as commercial vehicles at some point in the future.
- Specialty Vehicles – as their name suggests, vehicles like these will have specific designs or functions built right into them. Sometimes, government agencies or communities make use of vehicles like this for sweeping streets, collecting refuse, as fire trucks, or as septic trucks. Tow trucks, RV vehicles, and passenger trolleys are also all in the category of commercial vehicles.
- Heavy equipment – there are a number of industries that require super heavy equipment in order to carry out normal operations. Some of these are farming, mining, and construction businesses, all of which employ some very large and heavy equipment to accomplish unusual tasks requiring large machinery.