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Do Food Truck Owners Need a CDL?

legionfoodtrucks - January 25, 2024 - 0 comments

To have a successful food truck business, it’s essential to comply with all regulatory laws regarding food safety. Your truck itself also needs to have the proper permits, as well as someone who can safely drive the vehicle. Since it’s being used to operate a commercial business, does that mean food truck owners need a CDL?

What is a CDL?

Drivers who intend on operating any truck with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of over 26,000 pounds must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The GVW is different than a truck’s curb weight, which refers to its mass with no cargo or passengers onboard. The GVW includes those things as well as any trailers that you’ll need to tow each day.

Do You Need a CDL to Drive a Food Truck?

Even with a lot of kitchen equipment onboard, many food trucks typically max out at 16,000 pounds. You can drive these food trucks with a standard noncommercial driver’s license. Keep in mind that food trucks with larger kitchens that offer a wider range of meal options can weigh between 20,000 and 30,000 pounds. 

Additionally, if you’re towing a trailer in addition to driving a food truck, this can increase your truck’s GVW by upwards of 10,000 pounds or more. If your food truck’s trailer weighs over 10,000 pounds, your driver should hold a Class A license. You’ll need to apply for a Class B license if the trailer is under 10,000 pounds. 

How to Secure a CDL

Requirements for obtaining a CDL will differ depending on your state, but you’ll always need to obtain a CLP (Commercial Learner’s Permit) first. After filling out an application online, you’ll often go to the DMV and provide:

  • A medical examination report with a matching certificate to prove its authenticity
  • A 10-year history record check
  • Proof of residency documents
  • Proof of SSN documents
  • Payment for a non-refundable application fee

During your visit, your photo and fingerprints will be taken. If you pass the knowledge test afterward, you’ll receive your CLP. After waiting at least two weeks, you can take the CDL test. Just like a regular driver’s test, your vehicle will be inspected before you’re quizzed on basic controls. With those two examinations passed, all you have to do is complete a road test to get your license.

How Long Does it Take to Receive a CDL?

After completing the CDL test, you’ll either get your license on the same day or have it sent to you via mail (usually within 15 days). Verify that all of your personal identifiers (age, weight, address, etc.) are accurate on the license upon receipt. Most CDLs need to be renewed every 4-5 years. 

While most food truck drivers won’t need a CDL, it’s important to follow the proper protocols when necessary. At Legion Food Trucks, it’s our passion to help your business become the best it can be. We can help you with all the steps that go into designing your food truck, building it, and filing the paperwork for all the appropriate permits or licenses. Download our free startup guide or send us a message online now.  


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