The chassis is what determines the size of a commercial vehicle. Operating a large vehicle comes with a lot of responsibility and a classification designating how it should be safely operated. Keep reading to learn how your vehicle is classified according to its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

Overview of Truck Chassis Classifications

The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) measures the vehicle’s curb weight combined with the weight of its cargo, fuel, passengers and any accessories. Manufacturers label vehicles based on their GVWR because of the government guidelines regulating public road safety standards. The manufacturer of your vehicle is required to clearly specify the GVWR, and this number is usually visible on the placard located in your driver-side door.

The GVWR is an important factor in roadway safety because a light-duty truck carrying two passengers drives very differently from a heavy-duty truck hauling thousands of pounds in products. This is why the maximum weight capacity of the vehicle is used instead of the weight of a vehicle without consideration for its payload capacity. The GVWR determines how much weight a vehicle in its respective class can safely transport.

Why Do Classifications Matter?

The vehicle’s GVWR can determine many factors about driving a vehicle, such as whether you will require a commercial driving license (CDL). Operating a commercial truck might also require specific permits or stops at weigh stations. It’s important to understand how the classification system works as an industry professional.

The weight classification of your vehicle will determine:

1. What Kind of License You Need

When you drive a big truck that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, you will require the appropriate license. To drive a vehicle below the commercial weight classification, you can use your regular license, but otherwise, you will have to go through the application process for a CDL. This involves completing testing and registering your license. What’s important is that some commercial drivers can work without a CDL.

2. What Class Your Vehicle Is

If you need to get a CDL, your vehicle will be registered as one of three classes:

  • Class A: Vehicles weighing more than 26,001 pounds when hauling 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B: Vehicles weighing more than 26,001 pounds when towing another vehicle or vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C: Vehicles transporting passengers, hazardous materials or other special cargo.

3. What Permits Are Required

A CDL is a first step toward complying with the government standards for operating a large commercial vehicle, but you might also have to get permits. If you’re transporting hazardous wastes or working under another special circumstance, make sure you know all the requirements for your permits.

3. What the DOT Regulations Are

Vehicles that weigh more than 10,001 pounds must be registered with the Department of Transportation (DOT) regardless of whether you need a CDL. You have to have a DOT number for your commercial truck, which should be visible on either side.

4. If Weigh Station Stops Are Required

You are required to use weight stations if your vehicle weighs more than 10,001 pounds. The majority of commercial trucks surpass this limit, so make sure you know if you have to stop.

5. Where You Should Take Your Vehicle for Service

Some auto repair shops lack the tools and equipment required for working on a higher-class vehicle. When you arrange for maintenance or other services, make sure you provide the proper class and other relevant information about your vehicle so the technician knows if they can perform the work. They might also need to make sure they have enough room for your truck.

6. If You Should Abide by Hours-of-Service Laws

If your vehicle weighs more than 10,001 pounds, you will need to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Hours of Service regulation. This law intends to prevent commercial drivers from working too many hours, which can lead to drowsiness on the road.

Classification Categories and Typical Body Applications

If you’re wondering what the three main classifications for tucks are, they fit into the following categories:

1. Light Duty

Light-duty trucks are categorized as Classes 1, 2 and 3. Class 3 vehicles are sometimes considered medium duty. Most non-commercial pickups are light duty.

  • Class 1: Vehicles with a GVWR of 6,000 pounds or less.
  • Class 2: Vehicles with a GVWR of between 6,001 and 10,000 pounds.
  • Class 3: Vehicles with a GVWR of between 10,001 and 16,000 pounds.

2. Medium Duty

Medium-duty trucks are categorized as Classes 4, 5 and 6. Many commercial vehicles are considered medium duty, but you will also find several full-sized trucks in this class that are built for non-commercial use.

  • Class 4: Vehicles with a GVWR of between 14,001 and 16,000 pounds. This class includes passenger vans, certain pickup trucks, box trucks and walk-in delivery trucks.
  • Class 5: Vehicles with a GVWR of between 16,001 and 19,500 pounds. This class includes large walk-in delivery trucks and bucket trucks.
  • Class 6: Vehicles with a GVWR of between 19,501 and 26,000 pounds. This class includes single-axle trucks, rack trucks, school buses and beverage trucks. Some vehicles in this class require a CDL depending on the weight and hauling capacity.

3. Heavy Duty

Heavy-duty trucks are categorized as Classes 7 and 8. Drivers must have a CDL to operate a vehicle from either of the heavy duty classes.

  • Class 7: Vehicles with a GVWR of between 26,001 and 33,000 pounds may have three axles or more. These vehicles are often owned by the local government and include street sweepers and garbage trucks. Small semi trucks and furniture trucks also fit into this category.
  • Class 8: The weight limit of the largest vehicles with GVWRs of greater than 33,001 pounds is determined by case. Some vehicles in this class are considered to be beyond heavy duty. The heaviest vehicles on the road are big rigs, dump trucks and cement trucks.

Find a Commercial Truck

If you’re looking for a new or pre-owned truck to use commercially, Custom Truck can help. We have several new commercial truck models available right now. We also have accessories for new trucks that you can order for your work vehicle or fleet. Contact us for more information about our products.