What is a CMV? Commercial Motor Vehicle Definition

In the world of fleet management, it’s important to understand the differentiators between commercial motor vehicle types, the specific rules of the road for each type (CMV vehicles vs. Non-CMV), and how fleet managers can better optimize the use of CMV property under their care.

To help commercial fleets remain compliant with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) CFR 49 390.5 and CFR 49 383.5, FMCSR has set forth concise CMV definitions around vehicle types and allowed use cases. These definitions help companies navigate uncertainty and obtain a definitive answer on “what is a CMV?”.  

FMCSR Regulations CFR 49 390.5: One Official CMV Definition

Rule/Regulation 49 CFR 390.5 from the FMCSR sets forth CMV definitions for both commercial motor vehicle types and for the drivers who are allowed to operate these vehicles. To begin with, let’s discuss what is considered a (CMV) commercial motor vehicle under FMCSR regulations.  

Definition #1: What is a CMV?

A CMV vehicle is defined as a vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combination weight rating, or gross combination weight (GCW) of 10,001 pounds or more, whichever happens to be greater. It includes vehicles that are designed to transport goods or more than eight passengers (driver included in total) for compensation. So, a bus, shuttle, box truck, semi-truck, travel trailers, taxicabs, would apply.

In addition, a CMV can be defined as a vehicle that can transport 16 or more people (driver included in total) but does NOT include compensation for said services. For example, a personal vehicle that is transporting passengers and their belongings could meet the definition.

A final CMV definition under this first definition pertains to hazardous materials. Per this regulation, if the vehicle is transporting hazardous material in certain defined quantities, it is required to have an official placard and is considered a CMV. See further HAZMAT regulations prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C

FMCSR Regulation CFR 49 383.5

Definition #2: What is a CMV?

Much like FMCSA Regulation CFR 49 390.5, Regulation CFR 49 383.5 sets forth additional CMV definitions. For this designation, gross weight is divided into three groups: Group A, Group B, and Group C. Keep in mind that a CMV in this designation is also referring to a commercial motor vehicle or combination of vehicles used in the transport of passengers or property.

Group A

Group A includes a tow vehicle and its towed units with a GVWR or gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater. In addition, towed unit(s) in Group A must have a GVWR or GVW of more than 10,000 pounds, whichever is greater.

Group B

Group B includes what is called a “Heavy Straight Vehicle” that has a GVWR or GVW or 26,001 lbs. or more, whichever is greater.

Group C

Group C includes smaller vehicles that do not meet the CMV definitions of either Group A or Group B. Vehicles in Group C are also designed to transport 16 passengers or more (driver included), or include any sized vehicle that is used in the transportation of hazardous materials as defined in Regulation 49 383.5.

Keep in mind that these regulations refer to either large vehicles or certain specialized types of vehicles and that these designations include both interstate and intrastate driving.  

What is a CMV Driver and How Do Regulations Apply?

First and foremost, all fleet drivers who carry a Class A CDL, Class B CDL, or Class C CDL license are required to comply with FMCSA driver regulations if their vehicle meets the following criteria: A vehicle with a GVWR or gross combination weight rating (whichever is greater) of 4,537 kg (10,001 lbs.) or more (GVWR, GCWR, GVW or GCW)

(NOTE: Other criteria were included and referenced further up in this article in sections that cover CFR 49 385.5 and CFR 49 390.5)

Additional Driver Rules and Regulations

In addition, the FMCSR CMV definition restricts motor vehicle drivers from having more than one CMV driver’s license. The purpose of regulation CFR 49 383.5 is to try to reduce and prevent as many truck and bus accidents, injuries, or fatalities as possible. The regulation also requires drivers to notify current employers and their home state of domicile of any convictions on their driving records.

Other aspects of regulation CFR 49 383.5 establish periods of disqualification for certain offenses or traffic violations and establish testing and licensing requirements that further define “what is a CMV driver/operator?” The rules apply to every person who operates a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate, foreign, or intrastate commerce, and to all employers of such persons in all U.S. states. You can learn more about CFR 49 383.5 and how it applies to drivers here.

What is a Non-CMV Vehicle?

A non-CMV, or noncommercial motor vehicle, is defined as any motor vehicle that is solely designed by its manufacturer to carry no more than one ton (2,000 pounds) of cargo. In addition, non-CMV property must be solely used for purposes other than engaging in any kind of business for profit. Think farm vehicles that transport hay, animals, or animal feed, or normal transport vehicles like family vans that only transport people and their belongings.

Important CMV Definitions for Consideration

Intrastate vs. Interstate Travel

Interstate travel for a CMV vehicle means that you cross state lines when doing business. Intrastate travel, on the other hand, means the vehicle does not cross U.S. state lines to do business.

Gross Vehicle Weight vs. Gross Combined Vehicle Weight

Gross vehicle weight, or GVW, refers to the total maximum operating rate of a CMV vehicle, including passengers, cargo, or any other objects in, or attached, to the vehicle. NOTE: It does not include the weight of trailers.

Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW), on the other hand, refers to the GVW plus the weight of any trailers (and anything in or attached to the trailer). Again, CMV regulations group vehicles into two classes, vehicles over 10,000 lbs. but less than 26,000 lbs., and vehicles at, or exceeding, 26,000 lbs.

Hazardous Materials

The FMCSA has strict rules and regulations regarding the transport of HAZMAT materials such as flammable liquids, solvents, and other potentially dangerous chemicals. To learn more about these important distinctions, visit this page.

Related Compliance Resources

Turn to Lytx for All Your Fleet Management Needs

In the complex world of fleet management, there are many considerations for compliance and overall fleet safety. Keeping up with rules and regulations for CMV vs. Non-CMV vehicles can be daunting without the right partner. To learn more about our fleet risk management solutions or to speak with a representative about your fleet’s specific needs, simply complete the form on this page.

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