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A Chester County, Pa., man driving a pickup truck with an attached horse trailer was illegally operating a commercial motor vehicle under state law, Pennsylvania’s Superior Court has ruled. Last March, the Court of Common Pleas found Vincent J. Dugan guilty of driving a commercial motor vehicle without a valid commercial driver’s license for operating his 11,200-pound truck with an attached 15,000-pound trailer. Under Pennsylvania state law, a motor vehicle is defined as commercial if it weighs 26,001 or more pounds, a limit that Dugan’s truck-and-trailer combination exceeded by 200 pounds. In appealing the verdict, Dugan argued that since the trailer was not itself a self-propelled motor vehicle, its weight should not be included in the total. But the three-judge panel disagreed, noting that under state law the gross weight of a vehicle includes the “combination” of motorized and towed vehicles. “Upon review of the record, Appellant was driving a ‘commercial motor vehicle’ that was, in fact, a motor vehicle towing another vehicle,” Judge Maureen Lally-Green wrote for the court in Commonwealth v. Dugan. “A Class A license was required to drive such a vehicle. Appellant did not have a Class A license when he drove his pickup truck towing the horse trailer as he was required to … . The trial court did not err as alleged.” Lally-Green was joined in the decision by Senior Judge John B. Hester and Judge John T.J. Kelly Jr. The facts presented an apparent issue of first impression for the intermediate appellate court. The Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act of 1990 mandates that anyone wishing to operate a commercial vehicle hold a Class A commercial driver’s license, and defines a commercial vehicle as a motor vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds. Dugan argued that since his pickup truck weighed only 11,200 pounds, he was not in violation of the statute. However, the court relied on the language of Section 1504(d)(1) of the act, which says “A Class A license shall be issued to those persons 18 years of age or older who have demonstrated their qualifications to operate any combination of vehicles [court's emphasis] with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,000 pounds or more … “ Holding that a commercial vehicle could consist of a combination of vehicles, not all of which need be self-propelled, the court ruled that Dugan was driving a commercial vehicle even though his pickup truck weighed far less than 26,000 pounds. One exception to the weight limit that did not apply in this case is that a combination of vehicles can weigh more than 26,001 pounds if the attached trailer weighed less than 10,000 pounds. That way, an 18,000-pound truck pulling a 9,000-pound trailer would not be classified as a commercial vehicle even though it weighed 27,000 pounds, but a 9,000-pound truck pulling an 18,000-pound trailer would be so classified. The court accordingly upheld the trial court’s decision and a fine of $541.50 plus costs for Dugan.

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