Do You Need a Driver's License to Drive a Forklift (Answers Here)?

Do You Need a Driver's License to Drive a Forklift (Answers Here)?

Compliance | Forklift Repair | 03/15/2024
Written by Stacy Conner

“All powered industrial truck operators must be trained and certified by their organizations,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says. The question is: do you need a driver’s license to drive a forklift?

And what exactly does “trained” and “certified” mean?

You might be asking yourself questions like, “Does that mean I need a driver’s license to drive a forklift?”, “Who does the training and certification?”, or even “What happens if my fleet drivers aren’t trained and certified?”

Drivers and operators: we get it. It’s not easy to understand who’s responsible for what.

When it comes to your fleet operation, the last thing you need is a hefty fee or penalty from the Department of Transportation (DOT). Not to worry, though.

We’re here to provide the answers and keep you in compliance.

Equipment Experts here: for the last 25-plus years, we’ve been helping forklift and fleet drivers, operators, and teams create more dependable and longer-lasting fleets. Whether you need a diesel repair, preventive maintenance, or a DOT inspection, our diesel repair technicians have what it takes to get your forklift operation in tip-top shape.

If you’re wondering whether you need a driver’s license to drive a forklift, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll discuss everything you need to know (and more) about the certifications needed to drive a forklift.

Ready? Let’s go!

Certification or license: what’s needed to operate a forklift?

Forklift lifting wood with a person walking by

The truth is you don’t need a driver’s license to operate a forklift. But, you do need a valid forklift certification or forklift-specific license. Also, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t require forklift drivers to have a driver’s license.

However, having a driver’s license shows you know basic functions like braking, accelerating, and steering. Employers will likely appreciate that you know basic forklift operations.

Don’t have a forklift license? Not to worry.

There are plenty of ways to earn a forklift license. We’ll describe how in the next section.

How to earn your forklift license

Picture of a driver behind a forklift steering wheel

To earn your forklift license, you’ll need to take a forklift certification course. Many employers offer courses as part of the job onboarding process.

Forklift certification classes are offered online or in person. In general, these classes can take as little as one hour and as long as one day to complete.

While you may be tempted to take the quick course, we recommend in-person classes. Why?

Because you’ll gain hands-on experience which will prepare you for greater success with your next forklift operation. If cost is a consideration, read on. We’ll explain what to expect with the cost of forklift certification training.

The cost of getting a forklift certification

A forklift driver lifting stacks of wood pallets in a warehouse

From what we’ve seen over the last two decades in diesel truck repairs, most online forklift training courses are in the $59.95-$100 price range. With that said, in-person forklift operator training programs tend to cost more, often ranging from $150-$200.

Whichever way you go, you’ll want to make sure your OSHA-compliant forklift training course meets OSHA regulations for safe forklift operation, training, and maintenance.

Part of those requirements includes age.

The Expert’s take

Forklifts: they’re tough as nails. To keep them in shape, minimize unplanned downtime, and save money, join the Experts. We describe essential best practices to help keep your forklifts running for life’s heavy-lifting challenges.

Learn more about how to keep your forklift in tip-top shape here.

Age requirements for driving a forklift

An orange Toyota forklift parked outdoors

Forklift operators must be at least 18 years old to operate a forklift. Forklift operators must also be certified and licensed.

If you’re a minor under the age of 18, you may not operate a forklift. The age requirement was set in part to ensure the safety of all parties and to reduce forklift accidents.

Speed requirements are also another key component in the forklift training and certification process. Let’s take a look at forklift operator driving speed requirements in the next section.

Maximum and minimum operating speeds of a forklift

A forklift operator backing up an orange forklift outdoors

While warehouses don’t usually have speed limits like on a freeway, forklift operators would be smart to practice safe forklift driving. The most common forklift maximum speed is 10 miles per hour (mph).

With that said, most businesses enforce a strict 5 mph speed limit to avoid accidents. To keep everyone safe, forklift operators must also stay at least 20 feet away from bystanders, other vehicles, and any storage areas while in motion.

Expert advice and repair work for forklifts and fleet vehicles

An aerial-style photo of the Equipment Experts team and their fleet of vehicles

In a nutshell, you’ll need a forklift license to be certified to operate a forklift. To obtain certification, you’ll need to complete a forklift certification training course.

Those operating a forklift without a license are subject to hefty fines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Fortunately, it’s easy to enroll in a forklift training course. In-person and online courses cost anywhere from $60-$200.

Most courses take one hour to one full day, depending on the format and type of class. As part of the OSHA certification and course requirements, forklift operators must be at least 18 years old to operate a forklift.

Once you’re certified, you’re free to start your next great forklift job. But, just in case you need a hand with forklift repairs, we’re here for you.

Whether you need new tires or just want to know how to operate your forklift’s controls, our diesel repair shop has everything you need to keep your forklift in tip-top shape.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Forklifts and Licenses

Workers inside of a shipping yard warehouse

Do workers need licenses to drive forklifts?

Yes. We advise doing so, especially if you want to stay in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and avoid heavy fines.

Certified forklift operators must have completed an OSHA-compliant certification course before  operating a forklift. Forklift operators don’t need to have a commercial vehicle driver’s license, but they must be at least 18 years old and have also completed a forklift certification training program.

How long does it take to get a forklift license?

It depends on your employer. Usually, employers will want you to take other, job site-specific safety and equipment training after finishing your forklift course training.

Therefore, the timeline will vary depending on your employer’s site-specific safety expectations and training.

What happens if someone drives a forklift and doesn’t have a forklift license or certification?

If a driver operates a forklift without being certified, the company and/or driver could be liable. OSHA can impose penalties totaling thousands of dollars. Worst of all, if OSHA finds out a business permitted a worker to drive a forklift without a license, the company could be subject to other legal violations.

From our experiences, we recommend that all your drivers be certified prior to being hired. It will save headaches and hassle in the future. Ultimately, it pays to be safe.

 What’s the current market demand for forklift drivers?

Great news! Market analyses project the forklift industry will grow more than 5.8% over the coming years.

There’s no time like the present. Get a leg up on your forklift operation.

Whether you need repairs or advice on certification, you’re more than welcome to reach out to us at any point for all your forklift needs.

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