Roads and highways in Texas are filled with many different types of vehicles. There are cars, trucks, and motorcycles of all types and sizes.
Some are personal vehicles, and others are commercial vehicles. Personal vehicles are owned by people, like a father driving his son to school.
But what is considered a commercial vehicle in Texas? Commercial vehicles are those seen on the roadway owned and operated by businesses instead of individuals.
Drivers of these vehicles must follow specific state and federal laws. Examples are semi-trucks, garbage trucks, and buses.
If you think you have been involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, our attorneys at The Zimmerman Law Firm, P.C. can examine your case and determine the best course of action. Contact us today.
What Is the Difference Between a Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Vehicle?
The main difference between commercial and non-commercial vehicles is their purpose. A commercial vehicle’s purpose is business.
Examples of commercial vehicles include big trucks, like an 18-wheeler, and box trucks.
Certain types of smaller vehicles classified as commercial include ones used for transporting people for compensation.
Alternatively, non-commercial vehicles are ones used for personal purposes. Common examples include cars and motorcycles.
What Is the Commercial Motor Vehicle Definition in Texas?
When you think of a commercial motor vehicle, you probably think of a cement truck or a massive 18-wheeler. However, Texas law provides a broader definition, including:
- A vehicle other than a motorcycle used for the transportation of property or delivery purposes;
- A self-propelled or towed vehicle used to transport passengers or cargo on a public highway;
- A vehicle used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver; and
- A vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.
The federal government also has its definition of a commercial motor vehicle.
Under federal regulations, a commercial motor vehicle is any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway to transport property or passengers when the vehicle meets one of the following:
- A gross vehicle weight, gross combination weight rating, or the combination of both exceeding 10,000 pounds;
- Designed or operated to transport more than eight passengers, including the driver, for compensation;
- Designed or operated to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, not for compensation; or
- Used in transporting hazardous material as defined by the Secretary of Transportation.
A commercial motor vehicle has various rules and regulations to comply with.
Do Commercial Motor Vehicles Have Special Laws to Follow?
Under Texas law, drivers of commercial motor vehicles must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). To get a CDL for interstate travel, the driver must meet specific requirements, including the following:
- Be a Texas resident,
- Be 21 years old,
- Satisfy medical requirements,
- No drug addiction, and
- No alcohol addiction.
The age requirement for commercial motor vehicle drivers who travel only within Texas is 18 years old.
Drivers must also take a skills and knowledge test to obtain their CDL.
Once licensed, commercial truck drivers must follow federal regulations, such as restricting the hours a commercial motor vehicle driver works.
Consequences of a Breach of These Laws
A breach of these duties, or general traffic violations, can result in liability. Like any vehicle accident, commercial motor vehicle accidents are based on the doctrine of negligence.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle, you must provide evidence to prove the following four elements:
- Duty. A driver has a duty to drive safely and obey all laws that apply to them.
- Breach of duty. If the driver fails to drive safely or conform to the law, they breach this duty.
- Causation. To prove negligence, the breach of duty must have directly caused the damages.
- Damages. You must provide proof of your injuries and other damages.
If your negligence claim is successful, you may be able to recover compensation from the negligent party.
Who Is Liable in a Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident?
Many parties may be involved besides the commercial vehicle’s driver in an accident. A skilled attorney must explore all these avenues to determine responsibility. Liable parties may include:
- Driver. The commercial truck driver may be responsible for the accident if they ran a red light or fell asleep at the wheel. However, many of these drivers are employees of a larger company, making it more practical to initiate a lawsuit against the company.
- Company. Businesses may also be liable for negligence, such as failing to run background checks on employees or not providing proper job training.
- Maintenance and Manufacturers. Truck maintenance and manufacturing companies can be liable for failing to service or build the truck properly.
- Government. Municipalities have liability for accidents if they, for example, fail to maintain the road or fix broken street lights.
An experienced attorney can help you identify and hold the appropriate parties liable for an accident.
Do Cases Involving Commercial Motor Vehicles Need an Attorney?
Yes. While not required, having an attorney in commercial motor vehicles cases is critical. These cases are complicated.
An attorney can help you determine the facts and obtain the evidence necessary to support your claim. Additionally, attorneys have the resources to hire specialists to reconstruct the accident and identify witnesses to testify.
There are also insurance companies that will want to settle your case. Never speak with them without an attorney. Insurance companies are notorious for offering low settlements, hoping to quickly and quietly eliminate the case.
You don’t have to deal with this alone. At The Zimmerman Law Firm, our commercial truck accident attorneys have the experience and resources to handle all the complexities of these cases and get you the justice you deserve.
Contact the Zimmerman Law Firm Now for a Free Consultation
Cases involving commercial trucks can get tricky. You need a skilled law firm to handle your case. Look no further than The Zimmerman Law Firm.
Our attorneys give every client an individualized strategy for their case. You’ll always meet with an attorney, not a staff member. And you’ll have the same attorney throughout your whole case.