What Is a Commercial Vehicle?

Camino Financial10 Jan 2024
What Is a Commercial Vehicle?
This article explores the essential aspects of commercial vehicles, detailing their defining characteristics, uses, and regulations. Commercial vehicles play an essential role in the economy, transporting goods and people across the country and around the world. They are also a major employment source, providing millions of people with jobs. We are here to delve deep into this topic to help you better understand it. In this article, we have outlined various types and how to register one to use them in your small business.
Table of Contents
1. Commercial vehicle definition
2. Types of commercial vehicles
3. How to register a commercial vehicle
4. Non-commercial vs. Commercial vehicles
5. FAQs

Commercial Vehicle Definition

A commercial vehicle transports goods and passengers for business purposes. It might get employees to their workplace, for example. When the vehicle is transporting goods, it moves them from one business location to another. It can also move goods directly to the customers. Some of these vehicles can even carry heavy cargo. Driving these types of vehicles requires excellent awareness and impeccable skills. You may also need safety and operating training. The United States Department of Transportation requires individuals that want to operate commercial vehicles to obtain a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

Examples Of Commercial Vehicles


Buses transport large numbers of passengers and serve various purposes, such as public transportation, school transportation, and charter services.


Trucks transport goods and materials. There are many types of trucks, including pickup, box, semi-trailer, and tanker trucks.


Vans are versatile vehicles you can use for various purposes, including transporting passengers and equipment.


TYpu tow trailers behind other vehicles and you can use them to carry cargo that would be too large or heavy to fit in a regular vehicle.

Construction Vehicles

Construction companies use construction vehicles to build and maintain infrastructure, employing various types such as excavators, bulldozers, and cranes.

Farming Vehicles

Farmers utilize farming vehicles to plant, harvest, and process crops, relying on common types like tractors, combines, and harvesters.

Hazardous Materials Vehicles

Transporting dangerous materials like gasoline, explosives, and chemicals is the purpose of hazardous materials vehicles, which adhere to stringent safety regulations.

What Is A Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)?

A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is a self-propelled or towed vehicle used on a public highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more;
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
  • The Secretary of Transportation uses it to transport material deemed hazardous.
A commercial motor vehicle is not defined by its weight but by its GVWR. The GVWR is the maximum weight of the vehicle and its load, including passengers and cargo. According to FMCSA, a commercial motor vehicle has a "gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more." However, it's important to know that a commercial vehicle is not defined by the actual weight rather than the weight rating.

What can be classified as a commercial vehicle?

Here are three ways in which the FMCSA can consider an ordinary vehicle as a commercial vehicle:
  • Transporting passengers. If a vehicle can accommodate more than 16 people, including the driver, it qualifies as a CMV for transporting passengers. This category encompasses buses, vans, and even certain SUVs.
  • Gross combination weight rating. We consider a vehicle a CMV if it has a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, regardless of its passenger capacity. This includes large trucks, trailers, and construction vehicles.
  • Transport hazardous materials. Any vehicle that transports hazardous materials triggers the applicable CMV rule. This includes everything from gasoline to explosives.
If you're uncertain whether your vehicle qualifies as a CMV, consult the vehicle's registration or title. These documents will provide the vehicle's GVWR and any other relevant information that could identify it as a CMV. Federal regulations, including those that govern driver qualifications, vehicle maintenance, and service hours, apply to CMVs. These regulations aim to guarantee the safety of CMVs on the road.
#CaminoTip If a towed motor vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more, it qualifies as a commercial vehicle.

Commercial Vehicle Types

Different businesses have different requirements concerning materials and equipment. If you want goods to reach your customers fast and conveniently, the right vehicle will make the difference.  For example, you will find that most people use vans when a job requires more than a regular car. But workers in the construction industry need large vehicles with ample cargo space for their many materials and tools. Check the types of commercial vehicles below to help you make the right decision:

Commercial Car

A car is the best choice if you're a small businessperson with fewer materials, tools, or supplies. A car is about getting people to their final destination or delivering a small cargo to the customer. The best thing about a small vehicle is more maneuverability and non-complicated driving training. Small cars are more affordable, and you will spend less on repairs and gas. Furthermore, commercial cars come in various styles. A station wagon or a hatchback is the perfect option if you need more cargo space. Combined with folding seats and towing capacity, these two vehicles offer large cargo space and enhanced fuel efficiency.

Commercial SUVs

Professionals have taken a considerable turn using SUVs as an alternative to commercial trucks. Although most of them don't have a high towing capacity, like heavy-duty trucks, many are capable of decent towing capacity. If you want to transport passengers to a work site, a cost-effective, efficient, and economical option would be a full-size SUV with a seating capacity of about 8 or 9 people. Most SUVs have rear folding seats, allowing you to configure the interior to accommodate all your passengers. Mid-size SUVs make great commercial vehicles for smaller jobs. Only get a mid-size SUV if you have few people or tools.

Commercial Trucks And Vans

The most common type of commercial vehicle is a truck or a van. Manufacturers design both of these vehicles with spacious cargo areas. Both of these types of vehicles have powerful engine options. For instance, many industries utilize heavy-duty trucks for trailering and hauling purposes. A large truck with a V-8 engine can tow loads that a regular vehicle cannot handle. And although vans have less towing capacity, they are the best for hauling cargo.

How To Register A Commercial Vehicle

Now that you understand a commercial vehicle and its various types, we'll help you understand the registration process. When registering a commercial vehicle, you need to know the laws and requirements of your city or state.

Registering The Vehicle Locally

You will discover that every state assigns a different meaning to a commercial vehicle. Therefore, consult your transit authority or local DMV to determine if your car qualifies as a commercial vehicle.
For example, if you inquire about the definition of a commercial vehicle in Alaska, they will inform you that it includes any vehicle registered under a company's name.
The jurisdiction, state, or city may impose various registration requirements depending on the nature of your vehicle. Your car must have a DOT number in the US before registering it, as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The next step is to complete the registration form online or directly at your local DMV office. You'll have to provide information like:
  • DOT number
  • tax ID
  • type and size of the vehicle you're registering
There can be some extra information you'll need to complete the registration. It could be your vehicle's weight, location, insurance information, title, and proof of identification.

Obtain Unified Carrier Registration

The Unified Carrier Registration is a state-mandated program in the United States. You will require a UCR if you operate one or more buses and trucks interstate or internationally. To register for a UCR, you need to provide:
  • DOT number
  • your business information
  • number and types of vehicles you will operate
You'll also have to pay the UCR fee based on the number of vehicles you will operate. Furthermore, the cost varies from vehicle to vehicle and your fleet's size.

International Registration Plan

The IRP is an international agreement between the District of Columbia, the United States, and Canada. You need an IRP to operate a commercial vehicle interstate or between the US and Canada. When filing an IRP application form, the authorities may require you to provide various documents. These documents may include:
  • relevant tax forms
  • proofs of residency
  • DOT number
  • local business license
  • insurance information.
The IRP registration fee varies on various factors, such as your vehicle's age and size, operation distance, and your base jurisdiction.

IFTA Registration

International Fuel Tax Agreement, or IFTA, operates in all USA states except Alaska, Hawaii, and the Canadian Provinces. You require an IFTA if your commercial vehicle operates between two or more jurisdictions. To register for an IFTA, you need an IRP (that's why you must first register for IRP). Alternatively, you can submit both applications concurrently. For IFTA registration, you need to provide information such as the following:
  • DOT number
  • previous history of IRP and IFTA registration
  • the vehicle registration number
  • the nature of your vehicle ownership: corporate, general partnership, individual
Upon accepting your IFTA, you will get decals to affix on any registered vehicles. You will receive two decals per vehicle and a license. You must display decals correctly and replace them annually as you renew the license. The registration process above will help you avoid getting in trouble with authorities. At this juncture, we hope you now have a clear idea about what is a commercial vehicle and how to go about its registration.

Non-Commercial vs. Commercial Vehicles

Non-Commercial Vehicles

Non-commercial or personal, or private vehicles are primarily used for personal transportation. These vehicles are not intended for commercial use, such as carrying goods or passengers for hire. Some common examples of non-commercial vehicles include private cars, motorcycles, SUVs, vans, and recreational vehicles (RVs). Non-commercial vehicles are usually owned by individuals or families and used for personal commuting, recreational activities, and general transportation.

Commercial Vehicles

Commercial vehicles are specifically designed and utilized for commercial or business purposes. These vehicles actively participate in revenue-generating activities by transporting goods or passengers. Commercial vehicles are subject to specific regulations, licensing, and insurance requirements due to their intended use for commercial operations. They often have distinct features such as larger cargo capacities, specific signage or markings, and specialized equipment. Commercial vehicles include:
  • trucks
  • buses
  • taxis
  • delivery vans
  • trailers
  • any other vehicle used for transportation in commerce

Finance Your Business Vehicles

As you have read, commercial vehicles are available in various types and sizes. Ensure you choose what is right for your business. If you still haven't been able to buy your commercial vehicle, don't worry. At Camino Financial, we understand that businesses require immediate, direct financing for equipment financing, which includes vehicles. Therefore, we provide loans that you can use to buy a commercial vehicle for your small business.
Our terms are favorable, with flexible payment schedules.
We take pride in the following:
  • A business loan that ranges from $10,000 to $50,000
  • Extended payment period: 24 months
  • No prepayment penalties
  • Streamlined and fast paperless process
These are the features that make Camino Financial your best choice. Apply for a business loan today


What is the definition of "commercial vehicle"?

A commercial vehicle serves as a motor vehicle for business purposes. This category includes vehicles transporting goods, people, or equipment commercially. Businesses, individuals, or government agencies can own these commercial vehicles. They serve a variety of functions like making deliveries, aiding in construction, or transporting passengers.

What is an example of a commercial vehicle?

Some examples of commercial vehicles include:
  • Trucks
  • Vans
  • Buses
  • Semi-trailers
  • Tractor-trailers
  • Dump trucks
  • Tow trucks
  • Emergency vehicles
  • Delivery vehicles
  • Construction vehicles

What is the difference between commercial and non-commercial cars?

The main distinction between commercial and non-commercial cars lies in their usage. Businesses use commercial cars, whereas individuals use non-commercial cars for personal purposes. Typically, commercial cars are larger, offering more cargo space than non-commercial ones. They may also include unique features not present in non-commercial cars, such as a liftgate or a snowplow.

What is a non-commercial vehicle?

A non-commercial vehicle is a vehicle that is not used for business purposes. This includes cars, motorcycles, and light trucks. Non-commercial vehicles are subject to different regulations than commercial vehicles, such as not requiring a CDL to operate them.

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