Fleet Management

What is a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV?)

Understanding the definition of a commercial motor vehicle is important for knowing which rules apply and when. This post explains what a commercial motor vehicle is and why knowing the definition is important.

What is a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)?

49 CFR 390.5 defines a commercial motor vehicle or CMV as:

Commercial motor vehicle means any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle —

  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
  • Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under regulations prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C.

A driver or motor carrier may have to follow Hours of Service rules if they drive a commercial motor vehicle.

Do all commercial motor vehicles require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate?

No, a CDL is not required to operate a CMV that has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 lbs.

Why is it important to know the definition of a commercial motor vehicle?

Knowing whether a vehicle qualifies as a CMV, and whether a CMV requires a CDL tells the driver what rules are applicable to him/her.

Most of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations apply to all operators of CMVs. This includes the Hours of Service rules and medical qualification rules, among others. Importantly, there are two rule sets that don’t apply to drivers operating CMVs between 10,001 and 26,000 lbs.: the CDL rules and the drug and alcohol testing rules.