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  Transportation Accidents - Burnes Libman  


Commercial Motor Vehicles Under Federal Law

When we think of the term “commercial vehicle”, 18 wheeler or semi-truck comes to mind. We often overlook that the number of large trucks and buses in fatal crashes has increased by 48 percent from 2009 to 2018 and is continuing to grow every year due to increased trade and shipping demands. The common question now becomes “how do you define a commercial vehicle”?


What is Considered a Commercial Vehicle

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations define a “commercial motor vehicle” as any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:


  1. The vehicle must be in interstate commerce


The Regulations define “interstate commerce” as involving 3 situations: 


  • When the vehicle is driving between a place in a state and a place outside the state; for example, a bus from Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV.

  • Between two places within a state through another state: for example, the vehicle is driving from Galesburg, IL to Galena, IL but on the way, you pass through Iowa.

  • Between two places in a state as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating outside the State or the United States: a truck drives a load from New York, NY to Ithaca, NY that is after delivery in Ithaca will be taken to Vermont, NH. 

Essentially, for the Federal Regulations to apply the vehicles must be involved in the business of multiple states. 

   2. To transport Passengers or property


The commercial motor vehicle can either be involved in transferring persons or property. Some examples to consider include:

  • A commercial bus carrying more than 8 people. 

  • A 14 passenger van 

  • An eighteen-wheeler

  • A tractor-trailer

If the vehicle is in interstate commerce and is transporting either passengers or property, it may be a commercial vehicle. However, the FMCSRs require that:

  • has a gross vehicle weight of 10,001

  • is designed to or used to transport more than 8 passengers including the driver for compensation

  • is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers including the driver and is not used to transport passengers for compensation OR

  • is used in transporting certain hazardous materials 


This means that a consumer pick-up truck carrying a bed full of plywood that weighs 9,000 pounds will not qualify even if it drives from California to Louisiana. Alternatively, a pickup truck could qualify if it is carrying certain hazardous materials. An Uber carrying a 10 player soccer team from Tuscaloosa, AL to Columbus, MI may also qualify. A wide variety of vehicles can be considered commercial motor vehicles under the regulations. 

Potential Commercial Vehicle Exclusions

Additionally, the FMCSR sometimes excludes certain vehicles from the regulations. For example, Section 390.3 excludes school buses, transportation performed by the government, personal transportation not for profit, corpses, fire and emergency rescue vehicles, and emergency-related operations. 


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has determined that certain off-road motorized vehicles do not count as “motor vehicles” or “commercial motor vehicles” under the regulations. An off-road motorized vehicle is by design and function not intended for transportation purposes. Examples include vehicles like backhoes, graders, and bulldozers. These vehicles are not “commercial motor vehicles” for the regulations when operated at construction sites or on a public road not in the furtherance of a transportation purpose.

Examples of Burnes Libman Accident Settlements

Have you been involved in a truck accident in the Midwest or United States? Let us represent you and together, we’ll get you the compensation you deserve. We treat every case with the expectation of going to trial.


Below you will find some of our biggest 18 wheeler settlements:

$15,600,000 - Trucking Accident Wrongful Death
Wrongful death of a 6-year-old child and traumatic amputation of the lower leg of father due to tractor-trailer due to unsafe trailer selection, loading configuration, and driver speed causing highway rollover crash. Lawsuit filed in Northwest Indiana. Read the full story here.

$12,890,000 - Trucking Accident Wrongful Death
 Wrongful death of a 50-year-old woman killed by a truck driver operating a tractor-trailer after hours. Lawsuit filed in Elkhart County, Indiana. Read the full story here.

$3,500,000 - Trucking Accident Wrongful Death
Traumatic brain injury to 20-year-old motorcyclist resulting from truck driver making u-turn midblock. 

$2,000,000 - Trucking Accident Wrongful Death
Wrongful Death of 52-year-old woman due to truck driver disobeying stop sign.

$1,800,000 - Trucking Accident Wrongful Death
A 64-year-old female pedestrian struck by a medical van making a right turn on red causing traumatic brain injury requiring craniotomy.

$1,800,000 - Vehicle Personal Injury
A 64-year-old female pedestrian struck by a medical van making a right turn on red causing traumatic brain injury requiring craniotomy.

Commercial Vehicle Accident Settlement & When to Pursue Litigation

Being in an accident with a truck can be terrifying. If you have been involved in an incident with a semi-truck, you need to find a lawyer as soon as possible. Trucking companies do not have your best interests in mind, which is why it’s so important to start the claims process as quickly and early as possible. It is difficult to determine liability at the beginning stages, and Burnes Libman is there to help you determine if litigation is a possibility with our free consultation. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in a trucking accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings or wages, pain, and suffering, disability, or disfigurement. As each case is different and subject to a specific time limit (or statute of limitations), it is important to consult with a reputable and experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

To contact Burnes Libman for your free case evaluation, call (312) 726-6500 or fill out our Get In Touch form below.

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