Understanding the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Requirements

Vehicles that are driven for commercial purposes are subject to different regulations than those driven for personal use. Commercial vehicles are classified based on their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which is a system designed to prevent the overloading of commercial trucks. GVWR is determined by the vehicle manufacturer, by considering the combined weight of both the strongest weight-bearing components and the weaker components and it can not be changed by adding on stronger aftermarket parts.

The GVWR is then used to determine the vehicle’s commercial class, with certain regulations applying to certain commercial classes. The eight commercial classes are outlined below:

“Light-Duty” Vehicles

  • Class 1: GVWR of 0-6,000 pounds or 0-2,722 kilograms.
  • Class 2: GVWR of 6,001-10,000 pounds or 2,722-4,536 kilograms.
  • Class 3: GVWR of 10,001-14,000 pounds or 4,536-6,350 kilograms.

“Medium-Duty” Vehicles

  • Class 4: GVWR of 14,001-16,000 pounds or 6,351-7,257 kilograms.
  • Class 5: GVWR of 16,001-19,500 pounds or 7,258-8,845 kilograms.
  • Class 6: GVWR of 19,501-26,000 pounds or 8,846-11,793 kilograms.

“Heavy-Duty” Vehicles

  • Class 7: GVWR of 26,001-33,000 pounds or 11,794-14,969 kilograms.
  • Class 8: GVWR greater than 33,001 pounds or 14,969 kilograms (includes all tractor trailers.)

Out of the eight classes of commercial motor vehicles in the United States, the six highest classes (GVWR of 10,001 and above) have the additional requirement of being identified with the name of the company and the USDOT number visible on the outside of the vehicle. Commercial vehicles in Class 3 and above are also subject to both federal and state safety regulations for the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles and must stop at any state weigh and inspection stations they come across on their route. Drivers of Class 3 and above vehicles are also required to follow all regulations concerning hours of service. Drivers of the highest two vehicle classes also have an additional requirement; they must obtain a Class B commercial driving license (CDL) to operate a Class 7 or Class 8 commercial vehicle.

It’s important for trucking companies to always stay on top of the most current rules, regulations, and laws from the U.S. Department of Transportation. A knowledgeable trucking liability insurance provider can also help trucking companies keep up with changing regulations and ensure they stay compliant while also mitigating various other trucking industry risks.


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