There are eight classes of commercial motor vehicles in the United States, and they're divided into three, more general categories: light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty. Commercial motor vehicles or trucks that operate on U.S. highways can be classified based on their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
Understanding Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
The GVWR is a safety standard used to prevent the overloading of trucks. It's the maximum safe operating weight of a vehicle, and it includes the net weight of the vehicle itself, plus passengers, drivers, fuel, and cargo. The GVWR of a truck does not change after a manufacturer determines it for a vehicle.
The vehicle manufacturer determines the GVWR by considering the combined weight of the strongest weight-bearing components, such as the axles; and the weaker components, such as the body, frame, suspension, and tires. This determines the vehicle's class, which determines the regulations that it needs to follow. In some cases, drivers may need to obtain a certain type of license before driving a vehicle.
The light-duty trucks category includes commercial truck classes 1, 2, and 3.
- Class 1: This class of truck has a GVWR of 0–6,000 pounds or 0–2,722 kilograms.
- Class 2: This class of truck has a GVWR of 6,001–10,000 pounds or 2,722–4,536 kilograms.
The medium-duty trucks category includes commercial truck classes 4, 5, and 6.
- Class 3: This class of truck has a GVWR of 10,001–14,000 pounds or 4,536–6,350 kilograms.
- Class 4: This class of truck has a GVWR of 14,001–16,000 pounds or 6,351–7,257 kilograms.
- Class 5: This class of truck has a GVWR of 16,001–19,500 pounds or 7,258–8,845 kilograms.
- Class 6: This class of truck has a GVWR of 19,501–26,000 pounds or 8,846-11,793 kilograms.
The heavy-duty trucks category includes commercial truck classes 7 and 8. Drivers of vehicles in these classes are required to have a Class B commercial driving license (CDL) to operate the vehicle.
- Class 7: This class of truck has a GVWR of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds or 11,794–14,969 kilograms.
- Class 8: This class of truck has a GVWR of greater than 33,001 pounds or 14,969 kilograms and includes all tractor-trailers.
If a vehicle has a GVWR of more than 10,001 pounds and is used for a business, including nonprofits, then it is subject to federal and state safety regulations for the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles. Vehicles over this weight are required to stop at state weigh and inspection stations, and drivers must follow regulations concerning hours of service and medical examination.
A driver does not need a CDL to operate vehicles in Class 1 through Class 6, but each one with a GVWR over 10,001 pounds has to be identified with the name of the company and the USDTnumber.
It's important to remember to always check with the U.S. Department of Transportation and your state and local transportation authorities to ensure that you are in compliance with the most recent rules, regulations, and laws. If you're operating a commercial vehicle outside of the United States, then you'll need to contact the transportation authority of the county in which you plan to operate the vehicle.