Defining and Understanding Motor Vehicle Classification

Defining and Understanding Motor Vehicle Classification

To regular individuals, trucks are big, clunky vehicles that are on several wheels, and are used to transport goods. To the untrained eye, these carriers just come in three sizes, big, bigger and biggest. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.

In the United States, trucks are classified either by Gross Vehicle Weight Range (GVWR) and for trucks these classes are further sub categorized into three groups. The three sub categories are based on the standards set by the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administrations (FHWA) Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) and these categories are: Light Duty, Medium Duty and Heavy Duty.

But before that, what makes a vehicle a truck? What is a truck? Generally speaking, a truck is defined as a motor vehicle that is used for transporting goods. It is usually built around a strong frame called a chassis, which is not a feature common to auto mobiles.

Trucks come in different sizes but classification of trucks is based not on mass but on weight. The lightest trucks have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of between 0 – 6,000 pounds, and these (Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon) fall under Class 1.

Class 2 trucks, such as the Dodge Dakota and the Ford F-150 are heavier than those in Class 1. The GVWR of Class 2 vehicles range from 6,001 to 10,000 pounds. Motor vehicles in Class 1 and Class 2 fall under the Light Duty classification of the VIUS.

Vehicles that have a GVWR of 10,0001 to 14,000 pounds are fall under the Class 3 category. Examples of trucks that are under Class 3 include the Ford F-250 and F-350, Hummer H1 and the GMC Sierra 3500.

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The Ford F-450 and the GMC 4500 have a GVWR that falls between 14,001 to 16,000 pounds as such these trucks and others that fall within that GVWR range are classified under Class 4.

Professional truckers will need to be able to operate vehicles categorized under Class 5 and above. Those in Class 5 have GVWRs that range from 16,001 to 19,500 pounds. These trucks are larger and are not generally for personal use. Trucks that fall in the Class 5 category include the GMC 5500, Ford F550 and the International MXT.

Those in Classes 3, 4 and 5 are considered as Medium Duty by VIUS standards.

Classes 6, 7 and 8 are considered Heavy Duty trucks and in some cases, special licenses are needed to operate these in the United States.

Class 6 trucks, such as the International Durastar, Ford F-650 and the GMC Topkick C5500 all have a GVWR that falls within the 19,501 to 26,000 pound range. Class 7 trucks are heavier with a GVWR of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds. The International TranStar 8500 is a Class 7 truck. Only drivers with a Class B license are legally permitted to operate Class 7 motor vehicles.

Finally, vehicles that have a GVWR of more than 33,000 pounds are Class 8 trucks. Tractor trailers fall under this category.