March 6, 2023
Trucking Accident

The roads and highways in Alabama and nationwide are frequently used by many categories of vehicles, from motorcycles and cars to SUVs, vans, and trucks. The largest vehicles most drivers are likely to see regularly on the road belong to the category of commercial trucks.

What Are Commercial Trucks?

A commercial truck is a common name for a specific type of motor vehicle that federal law defines as a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV).

According to paragraph 390.5 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), a CMV is a motor vehicle that meets any one of the following definitions:

  1. Has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) or a combined vehicle and trailer weight of 10,001 lbs. or more.
  2. Designed to transport more than 8 people, driver included, for compensation. A typical example is a commercial bus tour vehicle.
  3. Designed to transport over 15 people, driver included, if it isn’t used to transport passengers for compensation. Some types of school buses fall into this category.
  4. Used to transport large enough quantities of hazardous materials to require hazmat placards, such as a tanker truck used to transport flammable fuels.

Types of Commercial Trucks

The commercial truck designation is broad and encompasses numerous types of vehicles. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines 8 truck classes based on their GVWR. The FHWA further groups vehicle classes into 3 general weight categories: light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty.

Light-Duty Trucks

Vehicles classified as light-duty trucks have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,000 lbs. or less. The most common types of commercial trucks in this weight class are minivans used in for-hire transportation. They include the following vehicle classes:

  • Class 1: Mini pickup trucks, full-size pickup trucks, vans, SUVs, and minivans with a GVWR of 6,000 lbs. or less.
  • Class 2: Step vans, minibuses, and vehicle types listed in Class 1 with a GVWR ranging between 6,001 and 10,000 lbs.

Medium-Duty Trucks

Vehicles in the medium-duty category have a GVWR higher than 10,000 lbs. but equal to or lower than 26,000 lbs. Most vehicles in this weight category are used for commercial purposes. It encompasses the largest number of vehicle types and classes:

  • Class 3: Vehicles with a GVWR ranging between 10,001 lbs. and 14,000 lbs., such as large minibuses, delivery (“box”) trucks, and walk-in trucks.
  • Class 4: Vehicles in this class have a GVWR of 14,001 lbs. to 16,000 lbs. and include larger box trucks, landscape utility vans, and medium-size walk-in trucks.
  • Class 5: Vehicles in this class include articulated bucket trucks and the largest models of box and walk-in trucks. Their GVWR ranges from 16,001 to 19,500 lbs.
  • Class 6: This class features vehicles with a GVWR of 19,501 to 26,000 lbs. and includes most school buses, single-axle vans, rack trucks, beverage trucks, and stake body trucks.

Heavy-Duty Trucks

Virtually every heavy-duty truck is a commercial vehicle. It includes all vehicles with a GVWR of over 26,000 lbs. in the following classes:

  • Class 7: Trucks with a GVWR between 26,001 and 33,000 lbs., such as furniture trucks, tow trucks, day-cab semi-trailers, refuse trucks, and large city buses.
  • Class 8: This class features vehicles with a GVWR of over 33,000 lbs., such as cement mixers, dump trucks, fire trucks, and the largest semi-trailer trucks.

The FMCSA requires all commercial vehicles to undergo at least one inspection per 12 months and register for a USDOT number before transporting passengers or goods.

Alabama Law on Commercial Trucking Activities

Operating a commercial truck requires a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). In Alabama, three types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses exist: Class A, Class B, and Class C. According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), the following CDL Classes are necessary to operate these types of commercial vehicles:

  • A Class A CDL allows you to drive a truck and trailer with a combined weight of 26,000 lbs. towing a trailer with a GVWR over 10,000 lbs.
  • A Class B CDL is necessary to drive a single vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 lbs., such as a heavy-duty truck.
  • A Class C CDL is necessary to drive a vehicle that can transport 16 people or more, driver included, or any vehicle that requires hazmat placards.

In addition to proper licensing, CDL holders are also subjected to higher insurance requirements than regular drivers. For instance, commercial truck drivers based in Alabama but driving across state lines must meet the FMCSA’s minimum requirements for liability insurance, which may range between $750,000 and $5,000,000, depending on the cargo transported.

The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers Stands with Truck Accident Victims

Have you or a loved one been injured in a traffic accident due to the negligent actions of a commercial truck driver in Alabama? At The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers, our team of Alabama truck accident attorneys is prepared to represent your interests in court and get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case review.

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