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What Are the Different Classifications of Commercial Trucks?

Published on Jun 27, 2019 at 4:30 pm in Truck Accidents.

With the number of trucks on the road carrying a variety of goods and services, it’s important to classify these trucks so people can be kept safe. The government classifies commercial trucks by weight. It’s important all laws are abided by to decrease the chances of an accident happening. When the laws are ignored, lives are put at risk.

Understanding Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

Knowing a vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is important, especially if you’re driving a larger vehicle. If a vehicle is overloaded, there are a number of problems that could occur. If, for example, the vehicle is too heavy, the brakes may not be strong enough to slow the vehicle down or stop effectively. While a truck’s gross vehicle weight (GVW) can change, the GVWR will remain constant.

The GVWR is determined by the combined weight of the strongest weight-bearing components, like the axles, and the weaker components, like the body, frame, suspension, and tires. The classification indicates the maximum truck weight plus what it’s able to carry fully loaded. Trucks are regulated like this to improve safety. When a commercial vehicle is registered, a class designation needs to be assigned to ensure the trucker and trucking company are abiding by the classification rules and weight limit laws.

In total, there are eight commercial truck classifications. Those classifications can be separated into three categories based on the duty of the truck.

Light-Duty Trucks

The majority of light-duty trucks are non-commercial vehicles, but there are commercial vehicles that are labeled under this classification. Classes one through three falls under this category. The GVWR ranges from zero to 14,000 pounds. The most common light-duty trucks include:

  • Minivans
  • Cargo Vans
  • SUVs
  • Pickup Trucks
  • Step Vans
  • Walk-Ins
  • Box Trucks
  • City Deliveries

Medium-Duty Trucks  

Medium-duty trucks involve Classes four, five, and six. While some Class four and five vehicles are full-sized trucks used for non-commercial purposes, most medium-duty trucks are used for shipping goods and services. The GVWR for Class four vehicles in 14,001 – 16,000 pounds, Class five is 16,001-19,500 pounds, and Class sixes range between 19,501 – 26,000 pounds. Typical medium-duty trucks include:

  • Box Trucks
  • Bucket Trucks
  • Large Walk-Ins
  • Beverage Trucks
  • Single-Axels
  • School Buses
  • Rack Trucks

Heavy-Duty Trucks

Heavy-duty trucks are where you’ll find the majority of big rigs and other commercial vehicles. The last of the Classes, seven and eight, are considered heavy-duty. Class seven trucks range between 26,001 – 33,000 pounds. They typically have three or more axles. Really huge trucks over 33,001 pounds are Class eight. They are typically called severe duty. Heavy-duty trucks include:

  • Refuses
  • City Transit Buses
  • Truck Tractors
  • Cement Trucks
  • Dump Trucks
  • Sleeper Cabs
  • Furniture Trucks

It’ important to note that the weight limit for Class eight trucks is not open-ended, even though it appears that way. The maximum is set on a case-by-case basis using the Federal Bridge Gross Weight Formula. This formula ensures a truck can safely drive on a bridge or interstate without putting other vehicles in danger or damaging the road. A longer 18-wheeler could weight upwards of 80,000 pounds. Trucks that fit the unique circumstances must follow state laws and obtain special permits. Some larger vehicles are only allowed to travel on designated roads.

Commercial Driver’s Licenses

It takes highly specialized knowledge to operate a commercial vehicle. In order to drive a large truck, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required. With this license, a person can operate vehicles like tractor-trailers, semis, dump trucks, or school buses.  The type of license a person needs depends on the truck’s classifications. There are three classes of CDLs, Class A, B, and C.

A Class A CDL is required to operate any combination of weight with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds. This is provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. With a Class A CDL, a person can drive vehicles like tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, flatbeds, livestock carriers, and tank vehicles.

A Class B CDL is needed to operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more. Drivers with a Class B CDL can also tow a vehicle that’s less than 10,001 pounds. Vehicles like straight trucks, large passenger buses, segmented buses, dump truck with small trailers, and some tractor-trailers.

The final CDL, Class C, is required to operate vehicles that are designed to transport 16 or more occupants, including the driver, or hazardous materials. Hazardous materials are anything classified as hazardous under federal law. With a CDL Class C, a driver can operate a small HazMat vehicle, passengers vans, or combination vehicles that aren’t covered by Class A or B.

If you’ve been in a truck accident and it’s discovered the trucker was not properly licensed or operating their vehicle in accordance with federal regulations, they can be held accountable for their negligence. To learn more about personal injury claims and tractor-trailer wrecks, contact our office today.

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