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commercial motor vehicle (CMV)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is any vehicle used to transport goods or passengers for the profit of an individual or business. Examples of CMVs include pickup trucks, box trucks, semi-trucks, vans, coaches, buses, taxicabs, trailers and travel trailers. In the United States, a vehicle is labeled "commercial" if it is registered to and its title is owned by a company.

Commercial motor vehicles get passengers and goods where they need to go for any given business. The transport itself may be to get people to personal destinations or to get employees to workplaces; goods may be moved from one business location to another or direct to individual customers.

CMVs designed for heavy cargo, which may involve towed trailer units, are larger, more unwieldy and more powerful than most other vehicles on the road with complex gearing. Driving these vehicles requires great skill and awareness, plus operational and safety training for any additional equipment. Therefore, operating a commercial vehicle requires a special driver’s license and commercial markings, including a DOT number signifying oversight by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT).

Commercial motor vehicles also include exceptionally heavy vehicles and those that carry large numbers of passengers. The USDOT designates vehicles as commercial if they are: designed to carry more than 15 passengers, greater in weight than 10000 pounds with a towed unit or units’ total weight to 26,001 pounds, or weighing greater than 26,001 pounds on its own. Additionally, any vehicles that are used to transport hazardous materials are deemed a CMV.

This was last updated in March 2017

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