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CMV, CDL, GVWR, GCVWR. What do these requirements mean for your drivers and vehicles?

By Steve Campbell

June 14, 2023

Truck driverSummer in the equipment and event rental industry is here. This brings busy days, long hours and plenty of deliveries for rental companies. Whether these deliveries are setting up for weddings and corporate events, or hauling lifts and excavators to construction sites, vehicles are on the road. 

If you think driving a vehicle for a rental company is straightforward, think again. Depending on the weight of the vehicle, if a trailer is involved, what it is carrying, where it is going and much more, a traffic stop could turn into quite the learning experience. Each kind of vehicle has a specific Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), towing capacity, payload capacity, driver’s license requirement and more. There are many considerations needed within the industry to avoid fines and ensure you’re driving safely. 

To stay in compliance, Kevin Gern, American Rental Association (ARA) vice president of education and risk management, breaks it down into three questions: 

  1. Am I in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)? 
  2. What class or kind of driver’s license is needed? 
  3. What is the registered weight of the vehicle or what is the vehicle registered for? 
Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV) 

An initial question when driving a vehicle surrounds a CMV. The federal requirement for a CMV as it pertains to the equipment and event rental industry is being with a business and driving a vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more. This pertains to a single vehicle as well as if a trailer is included. This information should be found on a sticker on each vehicle. 

When driving between states, this federal requirement of 10,001 lbs. or more is in place. If staying within a single state, that state’s requirements lead the way. It’s important to know at what GVWR does your state consider you to be a CMV for intrastate commerce. 

If the vehicle meets the qualifications of a CMV, requirements include: 

  • A medical card for the vehicle operator. 
  • A DOT number posted on each side of the power unit, which is visible from 50 ft. and in contrasting colors of the vehicle. 
  • Company name on each side of the power unit. 
  • Three roadside triangles. 
  • An instruction sheet for accessing and operating an electronic log if it is used in the truck as well as a spare paper log as a backup. 
  • Spare bulbs and fuses. 
  • A fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 10BC, properly and securely mounted, easily accessible, in good condition and charged with the gauge in the green.   
  • A daily inspection of the vehicle. 
  • Hands-free use of a phone, wearing a seatbelt at all times and more for the driver. 

“It is important for you to know and understand the criteria around CMVs so you know if you are considered to be CMV from a state or federal level,” Gern says. “Keep in mind that there are a few factors that can decide this and sometimes your classification of CMV or non-CMV could change back and forth throughout the day depending on if you are traveling across state lines, towing a trailer vs. not towing, etc.” 

To learn more about if you’re driving a commercial motor vehicle and CDL requirements, check out the webinar “Do You Drive a Commercial Motor Vehicle? Are You Sure?” on RentalU, ARA’s education and training site. 

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) 

Another major point for the industry is whether drivers need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). A helpful CDL flowchart was created by ARA to assist with this common question. Click here to access this flowchart. 

There are three different types of CDLs: Class A, Class B and Class C.  

  • Class A covers vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more and towing a trailer with a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more. This typically applies to large tractor-trailers or semitrucks, large truck and trailer combinations, large flatbeds and more. 
  • Class B covers a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more with or without a trailer with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less. In the rental industry, this applies to box trucks and straight trucks. 
  • Class C typically won’t apply to the rental industry as it covers passenger vehicles carrying 16 or more passengers as well as hauling hazardous materials. 

A common misconception is when a CDL is needed, Gern says. 

“Believe it or not, if you have the right truck and trailer, you could legally drive down the road in a truck and trailer combination consisting of a Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR) of 36,000 lbs. and not even need a CDL,” he says. 

Gern’s advice to rental companies is to buy the vehicles you need and know what you’re hauling. If you don’t need to drive vehicles and trailers with high GVWR, it can save the troubles of finding drivers with a CDL. 

“It is always good to do your homework. Take a look at your rental equipment and then decide what size trucks and trailers you really need that will give you the most return on investment,” he says. 

Towing capacity vs. payload capacity 

A key aspect of safe driving is making sure the vehicle is loaded with the correct amount of weight. Adding too much weight to a vehicle or trailer can place extra pressure on axles, tires, springs and other parts. Knowing the GVWR is key, but so is the difference between your towing capacity and payload capacity. 

The payload capacity is the amount of weight you can add to the cargo area. This is listed in the owner’s manual and typically on a sticker inside the driver-side doorjamb. Not only does that cover the cargo in the vehicle, it also includes all passengers. 

Towing capacity is determined by the manufacturer to tell you how much weight the vehicle can tow based on engine, torque, transmission/gear ratios and more. 

“Always make sure that you have properly loaded your trailers with a positive amount of tongue weight on the vehicle’s hitch,” Gern says. “We have seen many vehicle accidents occur from an improperly loaded trailer that doesn’t take into account the 60/40 rule to properly load a trailer.” 

ARA Resources 

In addition to the webinars and CDL flowchart previously listed, ARA has a host of additional resources to guide safe driving and hauling. 

There are two core training programs for drivers specific to rental segments: the Professional Driver Education Program (PDEP) for equipment rental and Box Truck Training for event rental. 

PDEP is an ARA-member-only program that effectively covers all areas of a driver’s daily responsibilities in the equipment rental industry. Topics covered within the three rental specific courses include proper loading, unloading, and load securement; customer service and safety; vehicle safety and defensive driving; classes of vehicles, licenses, and regulations for commercial drivers; and pick ups and end of day routines.  

Box Truck Training also is only for ARA members and covers all areas of a driver’s daily responsibilities in the event rental industry. Topics covered include licensing and regulations; vehicle safety and defensive driving; delivery process including site evaluations, loading, unloading and customer communication; and pickup and return processes. 

Both programs are $99 per participant. They include industry best practices and interactive instruction in various safety and customer service aspects of their job. Participants receive a certificate of completion following each program. 

RentalU also includes courses to assist safe driving such as: 

  • Defensive Driving and Safety – Equipment Segment 
  • Defensive Driving and Safety – Event Segment 
  • Load Securement, Safety and Driving 
  • Hazardous Driving Conditions 
  • Defensive Driving – Prioritize Safety Series 

Keep safe driving top of mind this summer by knowing key weights of your vehicles and understanding license requirements.