Commercial motor vehicles have special regulations under both federal and state laws. In Washington, all vehicles that classify as commercial must abide by laws and regulations related to their operation and maintenance. If any of these guidelines are not followed, this can increase the risk of a commercial motor vehicle accident.
What Is a Commercial Vehicle?
The general definition of a commercial vehicle is one that is used to transport goods or passengers for a fee. According to Washington’s Commercial Driver Guide, a commercial motor vehicle is defined as:
- Any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
- A combination vehicle with a gross combination weight rating of at least 26,001 pounds if the trailer’s GVWR exceeds 10,000 pounds.
- Any vehicle designed to transport 16 or more people, including the driver.
- All school buses, regardless of size.
- Any vehicle, regardless of size, that is required to use a hazardous material placard.
Commercial motor vehicles include semi-trucks and 18-wheelers, box trucks, buses, cargo vans, passenger vans, and some pickup trucks. If a vehicle is classified as commercial under state law, it comes with specific rules and requirements.
Commercial Vehicle Operator Requirements
To operate a commercial motor vehicle in Washington, the driver must hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Revised Code of Washington 46.25, also known as the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act, states that all drivers of commercial motor vehicles must have CDLs. To obtain a CDL, a driver must be 18 years or older and have a valid Washington state driver’s license. The individual must pass a knowledge test, obtain a commercial learner’s permit, complete special training requirements and pass a skills test.
Laws pertaining to commercial drivers exist at both the state and federal level. A commercial motor vehicle driver must periodically pass drug and alcohol screenings, complete necessary training to operate specific types of commercial vehicles, and learn and obey operator-specific guidelines, such as federal hours-of-service restrictions. Commercial drivers are also responsible for inspecting their vehicles.
Speed Limits for Commercial Vehicles in Washington
Washington State has a basic highway speed limit of 60 miles per hour. Although state law enacts a maximum speed limit of 70 miles per hour, any motor vehicle that weighs over 10,000 pounds and combination vehicles (such as trucks with trailers) cannot go over 60 miles per hour. In addition, these vehicles may not be driven in the left-hand lane of a road that has three or more lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction.
Load Securement Regulations
If a commercial motor vehicle is transporting goods or cargo, the load must be properly secured according to state and federal guidelines. Washington law states that to prevent the escape of a load, the load and any required covering must be properly secured. If it is a type of load that could be blown from the vehicle while it is in motion, the load must be covered. This is in addition to federal cargo securement laws, which specify the types of tiedowns and other equipment that should be used to properly secure a load. If a truck in Washington is transporting hazardous materials, this also comes with special rules and regulations.
Commercial Vehicle Accident Reporting
If a commercial motor vehicle driver gets involved in an accident, state law requires the driver to stop immediately and remain at the scene of the accident until he or she has fulfilled certain obligations. First, the driver must render aid to anyone injured if needed or requested. Then, the driver must provide any required information to law enforcement officers who arrive at the scene. Commercial truck drivers are not required to file Civilian Collision Reports, but they can if they wish.
If you get involved in an accident with a large truck or commercial motor vehicle, contact an attorney who can help you understand your legal rights. You may be entitled to financial compensation from the commercial truck driver, trucking company, cargo company or another party. A lawyer can help you navigate all of Washington’s commercial vehicle guidelines during your injury case.