Q. I am self-employed and use a cargo van for my business. The van is painted all white and used only by me. Would my van be considered a "commercial vehicle" and am I allowed to legally park in Sacramento County on the street of my house (residential parking)? Thanks for your time!


A. Since this is a two-part question, let’s start with the first order of business: determining if your van is considered a commercial vehicle. First, check your vehicle’s registration to see whether it’s registered as ‘automobile’ or ‘commercial.’ Depending on the make, model, and features of your van, the DMV may consider it ‘commercial’ regardless of whether you’re using it as a passenger car or a business car. If it’s registered as ‘automobile’ then it’s your choice whether to register it as a ‘commercial’ (a designation that comes with special plates, additional fees, and additional parking options). Because this is a law librarian column and not that of someone authorized to interpret the law, I’ll provide you with California’s definitions of a commercial vehicle and let you decide if your cargo van falls into this category.

According to Section 260(a) of the California Vehicle Code, “a ‘commercial vehicle’ is a motor vehicle of a type required to be registered under this code used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.”

Section 260 of the Vehicle Code also includes a few other subsections that further refine the definition: "(b) Passenger vehicles and house cars that are not used for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit are not commercial vehicles. This subdivision shall not apply to Chapter 4(commencing with Section 6700) of Division 3; (c) Any vanpool vehicle is not a commercial vehicle; (d) The definition of a commercial vehicle in this section does not apply to Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 15200) of Division 6." You can read the code online at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html

Consulting another source, the California Commercial Drivers’ Handbook, we find that a commercial motor vehicle is “a motor vehicle or combination of vehicles designed or used for either the transportation of persons for compensation or property and:

•Has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
•Tows any vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more.
•Tows more than one vehicle or a trailer bus.
•Has three or more axles (excludes three axle vehicles weighing 6,000 pounds or less gross).
•Is any vehicle (bus, farm labor vehicle, general public paratransit vehicle, etc.) designed, used, or maintained to carry more than 10 passengers including the driver, for hire or profit, or is used by any nonprofit organization or group.
•Transports hazardous materials requiring placarding.*
•Transports hazardous wastes (Health and Safety Code §§25115 and 25117).*

Once you decide which category- automobile or commercial- best describes your cargo van, we can then look at Sacramento’s County and City Codes to determine whether residential parking is legal for you, based on your van’s official designation, size, and weight. The Sacramento County Code’s Title 10 governs Vehicles and Traffic, so it seems like the best place to start our research. Narrowing it down even further, to Chapter 10.24 Parking Regulations, and Chapter 10.30: Preferential Residential Permit Parking Program, you can find all the ordinances regulating parking in the county. You’ll want to read these chapters carefully to determine what’s OK for your situation.

Depending on where you live within Sacramento County, you may need to also consult the City Code, particularly Chapter 10.24: Size, Weight, and Load Restrictions; Chapter 10.36: Stopping, Standing, and Parking; and Chapter 10.48: Residential Permit Parking Program. You will especially want to study Section 10.36.120: Parking Commercial Vehicles in Residential District, which prohibits the parking of commercial vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds (manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight) in certain residential areas.
If you’re still in doubt, we’d recommend contacting the DMV for automobile/commercial questions and Sacramento County Code Enforcement for local parking regulation inquiries.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian