What Is Considered a Commercial Motor Vehicle?

Updated April 17, 2017

The most recognisable commercial motor vehicle is typically a Class 7 or 8 big rig or tractor-trailer rig, commonly known as an 18-wheeler. This is used for hauling goods either locally or across the country, and requires a commercial driver's license to operate. Commercial vehicles fall into several other categories--including intracity delivery vans, coaches, buses, limousines and taxi cabs.


Class 7 or 8 commercial vehicles can be identified by their cab-over-engine design, in which the driver sits above the front axle and engine, or the more popular conventional cab models that feature a long hood and sleeper accommodations toward the rear of the cab.

Big Rigs

Trucks are classified in categories 1 through 8, with Classes 7 and 8 identified as commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 11794kg.


Passenger buses such as Greyhound or Amtrak coaches equipped to carry a minimum of nine passengers for fares are classified as commercial vehicles.


Taxi cabs are commercial vehicles, which are licensed by local municipalities and subject to local and state safety laws.

Small Business

Plumbers' trucks, flower delivery vans, mobile auto repair trucks and similar vehicles are considered commercial vehicles but generally don't require a commercial driver's license.


Larger trailers or containers transported by big rigs fall under the commercial vehicle definition, but recreational or farm trailers do not.

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About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.