What Is a Commercial Vehicle?

what is a commercial vehicle

When you’re driving a passenger vehicle, getting into an accident with another passenger vehicle can be bad enough. But commercial vehicle accidents can be even more devastating. Many drivers understand that semi-trucks are commercial vehicles, but they don’t understand what exactly a commercial vehicle is or just how many types there are. This blog thoroughly answers the question, “What is a commercial vehicle?”

The commercial vehicle accident lawyers at Lipton Law have extensive experience litigating commercial vehicle accident cases. We’ve seen these cases range widely in severity, property damage, and injuries suffered. If you are a victim of a Michigan commercial vehicle accident, the personal injury attorneys at Lipton Law are here for you. We serve as staunch advocates for our clients while also maintaining positive relationships with them. Let us help you fight for your right to full and fair compensation. To schedule your free consultation with us, please call our Michigan law office at 248-557-1688 today.

What Is Considered a Commercial Vehicle?

A commercial motor vehicle has a definition according to Federal regulations. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, commercial motor vehicles have the following characteristics:

  • “Any self-propelled or towed vehicle used on a public highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:
    • (1) has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more; (could also be gross combination weight rating)
    • (2) is designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver; or
    • (3) is used to transport hazardous materials in a quantity that requires placards under federal hazardous materials regulations”

While this is a technical definition, it doesn’t list the different types of commercial motor vehicles. Most people know that tractor-trailers are commercial vehicles, but what other types are there?

Why Is It Called a Commercial Vehicle?

As the name suggests, a commercial motor vehicle is used for a commercial purpose. In general, they transport goods or people. Additionally, many commercial vehicles are registered to a business or company, meaning they are for use by the employees of the company.

Types of Commercial Vehicles

what is a commercial vehicle

In the following sections, we describe several different types of commercial vehicles. Many people think of massive, heavy vehicles when they imagine a commercial motor vehicle. However, even pickup trucks, delivery trucks, company cars, and certain passenger vehicles can be considered a commercial vehicle.

Commercial Trucks

There are three main commercial truck types, which are the semi-truck, box truck, and pickup truck. We outline these commercial motor vehicles below.

  • Semi-trucks: They are a combination vehicle consisting of a tractor unit connected to a bed or trailer. The two parts are connected by a fifth-wheel connection.
  • Box trucks: These look similar to semi-trucks, but the tractor is directly connected to the trailer, rather than being separated by a fifth-wheel connection.
  • Pickup trucks: These are the same trucks you’re likely to see out on the roads, but they can be used for commercial purposes. Some may even require a CDL to operate.


Buses consist of minibusses, motor coaches, and transit buses. We describe each type below.

  • Minibus: A more common name for minibus is shuttle bus. These tend to carry fewer passengers than regular buses, but they also carry more than passenger vans do. Examples include college campus shuttles, rental car services, and airport shuttles.
  • Motor coaches: These buses are designed for comfortable, luxuriant travel across long distances. They tend to have a storage compartment beneath the passenger area. They may also have certain amenities such as bathrooms, reclining seats, and air conditioning.
  • Transit buses: Traditional buses are also called transit buses. They can be free or paid, but their main purpose is to transport passengers. The two most common examples are city buses and school buses.

Commercial Vans

Commercial vans consist of cargo vans, passenger vans, and step vans. We describe each type below.

  • Cargo vans: These are one-piece vehicles in which the cargo compartment is connected to the driver’s cab. Think about plumber’s vans, electrical vans, and delivery vehicles.
  • Passenger vans: These vehicles often transport passengers for touring and traveling operations, as well as to take them from one place to another. They can typically seat up to 15 people.
  • Step vans: Another term for these is “walk-in delivery” vans. They tend to be taller than the average cargo van. This allows drivers to stand up in the cargo area in order to access goods more easily. Examples include postal service vans, food trucks, and bread trucks.

Is a Truck a Commercial Vehicle?

This largely depends on the truck’s purpose. Someone’s personal vehicle isn’t considered a commercial motor vehicle just because it’s a pickup truck. However, if they use that truck for interstate or intrastate commerce, it can be considered a commercial vehicle. They may even need a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) to operate it. Even though it doesn’t meet the gross vehicle weight rating or the gross combination weight rating of a commercial vehicle, it meets another criteria of commerce.

What Is the Difference Between a Commercial Vehicle and a Regular Vehicle?

what is a commercial vehicle

Aside from size, weight, and purpose, commercial vehicles also differ from personal vehicles in how they are regulated. A commercial motor vehicle must also adhere to stricter rules of compliance and safety than a personal vehicle. For example, it must be properly maintained, inspected regularly, and always held to the highest standards of safety. Additionally, drivers must have special training and certifications to get behind the wheels of commercial vehicles.

For example, imagine that someone in a passenger vehicle is injured in an Amazon truck accident. They will likely need to work with a skilled commercial accident attorney for their case.

How Might a Commercial Vehicle Affect My Claim?

Another way a commercial motor vehicle might differ from a personal vehicle is how it affects personal injury claims. Because of their relative size and weight, they can do a lot more damage at even low speeds than smaller personal vehicles can. What might have been a mild fender bender between two passenger cars could become a serious accident if you throw a commercial vehicle into the mix. They are larger, heavier, more powerful, and take much longer to apply their brakes.

While filing a commercial vehicle accident lawsuit, you’ll likely be up against a team of lawyers, especially against large trucking companies. These cases can be extremely difficult to win without the help of a seasoned Michigan personal injury lawyer. The truck accident lawyers at Lipton Law are here to fight aggressively on your behalf for the compensation you deserve.

Contact a Michigan Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today

After a serious accident, you’re likely to have medical bills and other expenses piling up. This can put serious financial strain on a victim and their family. That’s why the injury attorneys at Lipton Law are here. We act as advocates on behalf of our Michigan clients, fighting every step of the way for their right to fair compensation. If you or someone you know has suffered injuries in a commercial vehicle accident, contact our office for a free consultation. Call today at 248-557-1688 to schedule, or fill out our online intake form.