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Do I Need a CDL to Drive a Box Truck?

White semi-truck drives through the city on a sunny day

Is a commercial driver’s license (CDL) required to drive a box truck? Most likely not, but it depends on the weight of the truck and trailer, what you are hauling, and other variables.

Box trucks are a common sight on the roads. Companies may favor box trucks (also commonly referred to as “straight trucks” or “cube trucks”) for transporting freight because, under most circumstances, they do not require a commercial driver’s license (or CDL) to operate. While a box truck may be an economical solution to transport cargo, it is important to remember that these vehicles must be operated safely to avoid accidents and other dangerous situations.

According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), over 500,000 large trucks and buses were involved in crashes in 2019. Of those, just over 4,000 accidents involved box trucks.

While box truck accidents account for less than 1% of all truck crashes each year, when they do happen, they can cause significant personal injuries or even death. That is why it is vitally important for drivers to understand the specific laws and regulations that apply to operating box trucks, as well as the best practices for doing so safely.

What is a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)?

Driving a commercial truck requires skill, training, and aptitude. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires commercial truck drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to ensure that truckers meet certain safety standards. According to federal standards, states may issue CDLs to drivers according to these license classifications:

  • Class A: “Any combination of vehicles which has a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more) whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) whichever is greater.”
  • Class B: “Any single vehicle which has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 11,794 or more kilograms (26,001 pounds or more), or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight that does not exceed 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds).”
  • Class C: “Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is transporting material that has been designated as hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and is required to be placarded under subpart F of 49 CFR Part 172 or is transporting any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR Part 73.”

What is a Box Truck?

A box truck is a commercial vehicle in which each axle is connected by just one frame. These types of trucks are made in various lengths and are unique in that they have a separate, box-like vessel into which cargo is transported. Box trucks are typically either 22, 24, or 26 feet long and generally haul a maximum of 8,000 lbs.

What is the Largest Truck You Can Drive Without a CDL?

The largest truck you can operate without a CDL must weigh less than 26,000 lbs., which is the maximum weight allowable for non-CDL truck drivers. Additionally, a truck driver without a CDL may also tow a single-axle trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of up to 10,000 lbs. You can read more about FMCSA rules and exemptions regarding CDL’s here.

When Do You Need a CDL to Drive a Truck?

If you are going to operate any of the following vehicles, you must first obtain a CDL:

  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR less than 26,000 lbs. that is used to transport more than 10 people (including the driver).
  • A combination vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more lbs., provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is greater than 10,000 lbs.
  • Any vehicle that tows any vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more.
  • Any vehicle that tows more than 1 vehicle or a trailer bus.
  • Any size vehicle which requires hazardous material placards or carries material listed as a select agent or toxin in Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 42, Part 73.

Do You Need a CDL to Drive a U-Haul?

No, you are not required to have a CDL to operate a U-Haul. This is because U-Haul trucks are not considered commercial vehicles. However, a government-issued driver’s license is still required to rent a truck or trailer from the company. Please keep in mind that digital licenses are not accepted.

Who is Liable in a Box Truck Accident?

Several parties may be held liable for a box truck accident, including any one or more of the following:

  • Truck Driver
    • The driver of the truck may be held liable for damages if they break the law or are negligent.
    • Consuming drugs or alcohol, violating hours-of-service regulations, driving while fatigued, speeding, and other factors can lead to an accident in which the truck driver may be held responsible.
  • Trucking Company
    • The trucking company may be responsible for damages incurred if an inspection is incomplete, the company cut corners around safety, if they set unrealistic goals for drivers that push them further than they reasonably should, or fail to adequately train their drivers.
  • Owner of the Truck
    • The owner of the truck is often responsible for making sure that the machine is adequately inspected, the engine is checked, the tires are well kept, and the truck’s internal workings are in proper order.
    • The truck owner must also maintain the necessary parts of the truck, including brakes, vehicular fluids, tires, and electronic system.
  • Cargo Loaders
    • If a cargo loader did not completely inspect the vehicle and ensure all cargo was loaded and properly secured, they may be liable if cargo falls of the truck and causes damages to others.
  • Parts Manufacturer(s)
    • The manufacturer(s) of certain parts of the truck may be held accountable for damages if there is a defect that causes an accident. For instance, if brake failure caused or contributed to an accident, the parts manufacturer(s) may be liable for damages.

A Box Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help

Wisner Baum has a proven track record of success in truck accident cases nationwide. Our truck accident lawyer team has earned the following results (among many others):

  • $20 million wrongful death verdict in a truck accident lawsuit
  • $15 million recovered for a pedestrian injured in a semi-truck accident
  • $8.5 million wrongful death verdict in truck accident lawsuit

Our success is not measured by results in the courtroom alone. Our accident attorneys are dedicated truck safety advocates committed to reducing the number of preventable commercial vehicle crashes every year.

Through litigation and advocacy, our firm goes the extra mile to highlight negligence and wrongdoing in the trucking industry. It is our hope that these efforts raise awareness and influence public policy to make the roads safer for everyone.

Contact our office by calling (855) 948-5098 or submitting an online contact form today to schedule your free consultation with one of our skilled truck accident attorneys.



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