Can you drive a forklift without a valid car driver's license on public roads? This is the very first question that comes out in your mind if you hear about operating forklift on public away from the confine of company premise.

The driver has to be competent operating the forklift and vehicle has be road worthy.

Forklift Operators Must Be Trained First

Do Operators Need Car Licence to Drive Forklifts on Public RoadsThis is due to the reason that forklifts being large and heavy can be turn into a deadly machine if not operated safety and correctly.

A written authority, in the form of a certificate, from present employer or training provider will be necessary before operator can drive one. This certificate may synonymously called license. Whatever you called it, this document should indicate details of the holder and type truck he’s capable operating and in some instances the restriction or limitation should be clearly specified. This certificate is non-transferable.

The forklift training will assess skills and competence of the operators to determine if trainees are fit to drive. Aside from behind-the-wheel operating, the trainees will be endowed with knowledge on the safety aspects of driving in actual working environment. The vital role of the employer is monitoring and assessment to safeguard safety of the workers and productivity of their businesses.

Do You Need Car Driving License to Operate Forklifts

There may be different requirements in various countries, states and territories.

In the US

OSHA, in its latest regulation, 29 CFR 1910.178, does not specify any requirement regarding the need of having car driver’s license before someone can operate a forklift.

However, a forklift, being slow moving vehicle, can pose serious danger to motorists, with that being true fact, it must be assisted by at least one flagman, as a good safety practice, to maintain road safety and orderliness and to manage traffic while forklift is being driven on public highway or busy street.

In New York state, a certain law may be applicable about slow moving vehicle in which the forklift can classified of. The New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law had been altered to cater provisions for slow moving vehicle on the road. For more information about this law, click here

In the City of Miami in Florida, the Code of Ordinance for motor vehicle and traffic, Article XIII, Section 35-374 to 377, states the establishing and authorizing of Forklift Zone in the city. For more information about the Forklift Zone ordinance, click here.

Generally, in every state, installation of “slow moving vehicle” sign/emblem will be required for such vehicle to be driven in highways. In some state like Virginia, CDL license will be required as well to drive slow moving vehicle on public road.

For more information about operation of forklift on public road, you can check your state’s transportation department or DMV, if there are such regulations prohibiting or permitting forklifts.


There is no such legal requirement for forklift operator to be in possession of a car driver’s licence in UK before he can operate forklift. Though, operator must be trained and certified driving the truck. Driving forklift is very different from driving car or truck, therefore, car licence is not needed if fork truck is operated inside the factory or warehouse.

However, if forklift is to be driven on public road, then operator and employer must comply with Construction and Use Regulations and relevant road traffic regulations.

  • If forklift is to be traveled more than 1,000 yards from origin to destination, then it must fulfill the requirements of Construction and Use Regulations. The regulation may require various modifications on the truck so that it could be fit to be driven on public highway. On the other hand, if it is to driven less than 1,000 yards, the truck may need modest modification and the equipment should be registered and insured. The forklift operator must have a valid driver’s licence as well.
  • The forklift must be registered with Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency. A V5 papers will be issued to person/company who is the present custodian of the truck. The custodian doesn’t have to be the lawful owner of the truck. If the fork truck’s ownership is to be transferred to another person or company, the current custodian should give notice to DVLA about it.
  • The forklift should be taxed if to be operated on public roads. Exemptions can be applied if is traveling distance will not exceed 1 mile per week and its intended use is for agriculture, forestry and horticulture.
  • As requirements for road traffic regulations, the truck’s number plate must clearly be seen. The forklift must be fitted with necessary lighting (turning lights, tail and headlights) for better visibility especially at night.
  • The truck should be installed with a set belt to protect operators during tipping over. In December 2002, HSE orders that some types of fork trucks must be equipped with safety belts. For more information about seat belt requirements on forklifts, check this out.
  • Amber beacons should be installed on forklifts with more than four wheels when traveling under 25 miles per hour.
  • Record keeping of maintenance record to make sure that forklift is worthy to be traveled on the public road.

In Canada

In British Columbia, an operator doesn’t have to obtain operation permit for the vehicle if forklift if this is to be operated on public highways.

In Alberta, if forklift is driven on a public street, the truck and driver should comply the requirements of Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act. For more details about this, you can visit the website at this web address or you can make enquiry through the phone, their contact number is 780–427–2731 (310–0000 toll free)

In Quebec, the C-24.2 - Highway Safety Code, under the provision number 474, may be applicable to such operation of forklift trucks in highways. This code sets up the rules regarding highway safety. For more information about it, click here.

For other provinces, not mentioned above, you can make an enquiry to local transport or traffic department is there’s related rule or regulation in existence pertaining to the use of forklift on the public roads.

In Australia

In Victoria, if the forklift will be operated on public road, the equipment should be registered and have identifying number plate. The operator should be trained and must be in possession of a valid car driver’s licence issued by the local territory government.

In Northern Territory, if an operator will operate the truck on public highway, the operator need to have a Class C car license. Class C license enables driver to drive vehicle with gross vehicle weight up to 4,500 kgs. Usually these types of vehicles are sedan cars, utility vans, light weight trucks, tractors, and other vehicles that can accommodate up to 12 passengers including the driver.

For other territories not listed above, you may enquire with local traffic or transportation department regarding related regulations to verify if forklifts can be operated on the road even operator doesn’t have a car license.

In Tasmania, if you are going operate a fork truck on any area open to the public (street roads, carparks, then you must have a valid car driver’s licence before commencing operation.

A Car License is Your Proof of Driving Privilege

A car license is an official document permitting a person to drive a sedan car. Having this in your wallet mean you have the privilege of driving the vehicle on public highways. You can lose this privilege if such grave violation has been committed by the owner. Break the traffic and you may lose your license, it could be revoked, suspended and cancelled.

It is a good idea to have a valid car license with you while at work because you may never know where you will operate forklifts as your job demands it. You will not need it if you are working in the company or warehouse premise, on the other hand, if you will transport on public highways, you may be required to have it with you as the law may not allow you to drive forklifts in public thoroughfares.

What Can Be Considered as Public Road

In layman’s term, a public road is any road, highway, thoroughfare, boulevard or street maintained by a public authority, it could be by a local or national government. This type of road is open for public use.

A public road is an area or location for vehicles to pass through without hindrance or fee to pay. It is a highway that the public has equal and absolute right to use.

Some Precautions You Can Take If Forklifts is to be Operated on public

  • Supervisor should oversee the tasks to be done on public road. He must evaluate the risk and hazard.
  • Formulate a risk analysis to determine the hazards that may be lurking and you may not know.
  • Safety toolbox talk need to be conducted prior to such work. The meeting need to be perform frequently to discuss vital points in the prevention of accident.
  • As mentioned above, a signal man or standby man should be assigned to assist the forklift operator and manage traffic in safe direction.
  • The risks are so high when forklifts are operated on public road. In as much as possible, the work to be done need to be scheduled during hours when the road is not busy or blocked from oncoming traffic. Forklift can also be operated during the period when there are few vehicles around in the area as precautionary measure to avoid accident.


Before someone can operate the truck on public highways, requirements for the vehicle and driver need to be accomplished first. In some countries, state or territories, operators do need to have car license to drive forklifts on public roads aside from the safety modification and alteration that need to be installed in the vehicle.

Don’t let lessons come too late, comply with the law to avoid accident and be safe at all times!


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