Last updated: October 3, 2022

Why is My Truck Registered as a Commercial Vehicle in California?

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Why is My Truck Registered as Commercial Vehicle in California?

We frequently encounter this question: why is my truck registered as a commercial vehicle in California? Yes, trucks belong to the commercial vehicles category in this state, and you need to have them registered properly.

This article will discuss in-depth commercial vehicles in California, why pickups are considered commercial and how to register your truck as a commercial vehicle.

What is Considered a Commercial Vehicle in California?

According to the DMV, a commercial vehicle should be registered as such if it is used or maintained as transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed and used for transportation of property

These vehicles can be categorized as passenger or commercial.

Why is My Truck Registered as Commercial Vehicle in California- DMV Logo

Here are our three ways to further describe a commercial vehicle:

  • It is used interstate or intrastate for commerce
  • Gross weight classification: The gross combination weight or weight rating or a gross weight rating of not more than 10,000 or 26,000 pounds.
  • Passenger transport: If the vehicle is designed to carry more than 16 people, including the driver. This includes small buses or vans, which carry a limited number of passengers.
  • Transport hazardous materials: Any vehicle transporting hazardous material is a commercial vehicle.

Types of Commercial Vehicles in California

After defining what a commercial vehicle is, let us look into the different types of commercial vehicles.

This is important because you need to choose the right vehicles for your business. As you may know, different types of businesses require different types of commercial vehicles.

It can take your product to your customer more conveniently and faster if you use the right vehicle.

For example, you can choose between a van or a regular car to transport your workers. But if you are a construction firm, you will need larger vehicles like trucks with plenty of space for your materials and tools.

Classification of Commercial Vehicles in California:

Commercial Cars

Regular cars are commonly used by small businesses to transport a few materials, tools, or supplies. With a commercial car, you can take people to their destinations or deliver goods to your customers. The best thing about small vehicles like cars is they are easier to maneuver and there are no special requirements for drivers.

Commercial cars can come in various styles. You can have a station wagon or a hatchback if you need more space as the seats can fold, and it has a better towing capacity. In addition, these two vehicles have large cargo space and good fuel efficiency.

Commercial SUV

Today, SUVs are often preferred by professionals over trucks. Although they don’t have a high towing capacity as heavy trucks do, they have a fairly decent capacity. They can transport people to their destination as a full-size SUV has a capacity of 8-9 people. It can also be cost-effective, efficient, and economical.

Most SUVs have folding rear seats, which are very convenient since you can configure the interior to fit the cargo and passenger. Midsize SUVs are great to accommodate less bulky jobs.

Commercial Trucks and Vans

Trucks and vans are the most common types of commercial vehicles that we are familiar with. These vehicles have a large cargo space and powerful engines.

Most heavy trucks are used in different industries for hauling and towing. Trucks have V8 engines that can tow something that a regular car cannot. Vans may have the least towing capacity, but they are great for hauling cargo.

A bus is also considered a commercial vehicle when its purpose is to transport persons for hire, compensation, or profit. It should also be registered as commercial when the bus transportation is supplied by a profit-making enterprise and the customer pays for the bus service as part of the primary service.

Inspection Requirements for Commercial Vehicles in California

Large commercial vehicles have thousands of components that work together for safety. It is a necessity to detect mechanical issues early to prevent vehicular accidents.

In California, truck drivers are required by the federal and California trucking laws to regularly inspect their vehicles for any worn or damaged parts to prevent any safety concerns.

According to the California Commercial Driver Handbook which you can down as a PDF here , truck drivers should conduct an inspection before, during, and after the trip.

Should the driver notice any problem after a trip, they need to prepare a written report and ensure that it is fixed before driving again. This report should be kept on file for 12 months.

The driver should include a report about the brakes, steering wheels, mirrors, and lights in their inspection. The cargo should also be checked and properly sealed. After the initial inspection, the driver needs to do cargo inspections every 150 miles or every three hours.

Why is My Truck Registered as Commercial Vehicle in California?

In the DMV handbook, a pickup is classified as a motor truck that has a manufacturer’s gross weight rating (GVWR) of less than 11,500 pounds, an unladen weight of fewer than 8,001 pounds, and is equipped with an open box type bed of fewer than nine feet in length.

Why is My Truck Registered as Commercial Vehicle in California- DMV Drivers Hand Book

As defined in the California Code of regulations, further defined pickup trucks as any motor vehicle, excluding motorcycles, motorized bicycles, or motorized quadricycles, that has an open box-type bed not exceeding nine feet in length is considered a pickup.

Some of the examples mentioned include Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Nissan Frontier, and other similarly designed vehicles.

Another description of trucks classified as commercial vehicles is any motor vehicle, except a motorcycle, motorized bicycle, or motorized quadricycle, that has been configured or reconfigured to add an open box-type bed not exceeding 9 feet in length.

Some common examples under this definition are the Chevrolet Avalanche and other similarly designed vehicles.

There are exclusions to this definition. The following are not considered pickups:

  • Trucks that have an open box-type bed that weigh more than 8,000 pounds unladen or exceeding the manufacturer’s GVWR of 11,500 pounds body type model (BTM) VA.
  • Trucks with a bed-mounted storage compartment unit called “utility body”.
  • Trucks with a Body Type Model (BTM) other than the open box (examples are stake, flatbed, dump, etc)

The intended use of a vehicle can impact its classification, whether commercial or not. Most pickup trucks roaming around California are not automatically considered commercial vehicles. But any vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds are automatically classified as commercial vehicles.

In other cases, it can be delegated as such when the vehicle is driven for profit, designed to carry more than 16 passengers, or used to transport hazardous materials.

For pickup trucks, it always comes down to how it is used. A small truck like Ford Ranger will be required to register as a commercial if it will be used to carry mulch for a landscaping company, despite the size.

How to Register a Commercial Vehicle in California

Why is My Truck Registered as Commercial Vehicle in California- Headquarters of the California Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento, California

After learning about the different types of commercial vehicles, it is time to register them. When registering a vehicle, you need to know the requirements and existing laws of the city or state. Make sure that the vehicle meets the qualifications.

  • If you meet the definition of a motor carrier, you need to obtain a USDOT number, if:
  • You are generating revenue through the transportation of your own property or the property of others (for hire); or
  • You perform a service that is part of your business or have a personal hobby that involves the use of a vehicle or combination of vehicles that has a gross weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,001 pounds and operate in interstate commerce. 

You can read more about the requirements in California here.

The next step is to fill out the form. You will have to provide information like the DOT number, Tax ID, and the type and size of the vehicle you are registering. There might be other information that you need to provide for the registration:

  • The weight of the vehicle
  • Your location
  • Insurance information
  • The property title
  • Official ID

If your registration is successful, you shouldn't have legal issues in the future.

Frequently Asked Question Regarding Commercial Pickups in California

How will I know that my vehicle should be registered as commercial?

Commercial vehicles are motor vehicles - including those used for towing, intended for transporting people or goods by road. Some examples include road trains, trucks, buses, and special forms of vehicles.

Is a pickup truck considered a commercial vehicle?

A pickup truck can be considered a commercial vehicle although it is not a traditional truck because of certain circumstances like if its weight, including its trailer, exceeds 10,000 or 26,000 pounds.

Why is my truck considered a commercial vehicle?

Your truck is considered a commercial vehicle if it falls under any of these conditions: (1) it is used in interstate or intrastate commerce and has a gross combination or gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 or 26,000 pounds (2) it is designed to transport more than 8 or 15 passengers, or (3) it transports hazardous waste.

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