Do I need a special drivers license or certification to operate a forklift?

CDL Training or Drivers Education for Forklifts

Whether or not you need a commercial drivers license (CDL) or other kind of special drivers license or endorsement depends on your state and your company. At the very minimum, it requires being 18 years old and holding a regular driver license.

Most companies have insurance-mandated policies requiring special driver training, such as fork lift training, and/or certification. These courses are usually held in-house, in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You may even have to take a CDL test or other similar exam.

Some employers may require additional forklift certification courses following an accident or a change in forklifts and some states may base the required license on the equipment you'll operate. In Massachusetts for instance, depending on equipment, you may be required to possess a hoisting operator's license. 

Certification is usually valid for two years, and most certification courses take one or two days to complete. The courses focus on teaching:

  • OSHA forklift regulations 
  • Forklift safety
  • Proper picking, placing and moving of loads
  • Visibility restrictions
  • Capacity and stability of vehicle
  • Operation of the motor
  • Operating restrictions
  • Inspection and maintenance 

Again, check with your state.

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