Every day as we commute to work, school or the park, we share the road with a wide variety of vehicles, from personal cars and motorcycles to delivery trucks and school buses. In California, vehicles are classified as personal or commercial, depending on their primary use.
A vehicle is given commercial status when its primary purpose is the transportation of property or persons for hire. When you’re involved in an accident, the vehicle’s primary use is of paramount concern: Insurance coverage requirements differ widely between commercial and personal vehicles, and if a negligent driver was on duty when a collision occurred, the company might be considered at-fault as well as the driver.
Commercial drivers typically use their vehicles more often, and for longer stretches of time, than those driving personal vehicles. Therefore, the risk of an accident is considered to be greater.
California drivers should always be aware of the types of vehicles that may potentially share their road space. Commercial vehicles you may see on the road include the following:
Known by a variety of names, including semi-truck, 18-wheeler, and tractor-trailer; large trucks are a common sight on freeways across the U.S. Primarily used to transport goods to retail facilities, when these large vehicles are involved in an accident, the resulting damage can be substantial.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration strictly regulates trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, especially regarding safety regulation compliance by trucking companies.
From food to clothes, electronics and everything in between, countless deliveries are made every day. Delivery vehicles typically hold commercial insurance policies, but delivery drivers who use their car rather than a company vehicle may not be required to carry commercial insurance.
For-hire passenger vehicles
In major metropolitan areas like L.A. and San Diego, limousines and taxi cabs are common sights on the road. Legally, they are classified as for-hire passenger vehicles and carry commercial vehicle status.
Due to both their size and intended use, most buses are considered commercial vehicles. When buses are involved in a collision, accident victims may be able to seek compensation from the company as well as the at-fault driver.
The growth of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft since 2012 means that there are more vehicles on the road at any given time than ever before. Those who drive for these companies are considered independent contractors rather than employees, leading to questions regarding the classification of vehicles used for ride-hailing.
Some believe that ride-hailing vehicles should be classified as commercial vehicles and drivers required to purchase commercial license plates as well as insurance. As most ride-hailing drivers also utilize their vehicle for personal reasons, opponents of the proposal believe that commercial classification of these vehicles is problematic.
In California, ride-hailing vehicles are still classified as personal vehicles, however, and the driver could be found liable in the event of an accident.
Injured in a commercial vehicle collision?