Starting a Non-CDL Box Truck Business Checklist for 2023

Thang Truong
Thang Truong
Updated on:

In the fast-paced world of transportation and logistics, starting a non-CDL box truck business can be a lucrative and rewarding venture. Box trucks are versatile vehicles that are perfectly suited to local deliveries, small moves, and more. Unlike other trucking businesses, running a box truck operation does not require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which opens up the field to many potential business owners. Whether you’re a first-time entrepreneur or an experienced businessperson seeking a new venture, this comprehensive checklist will guide you through the steps necessary to launch a successful non-CDL box truck business.

Step 1: Establishing your business legally

The first step in your box truck business venture is to establish your business legally. This process involves multiple steps:

  • Registering your business with your state. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a tool that can help you find your state’s registration office.
  • Applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which serves as your federal tax ID. Although you could operate as a sole proprietorship, consider registering as an LLC or corporation for added benefits.
  • Obtaining credentials from the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCA). Despite not requiring a CDL, box truck operators must still register with the FMCA. If you’ll be crossing state lines, a USDOT number might be necessary. FMCA’s “MC number,” or authority to operate designation, is another requirement that comes with a $300 fee.
  • Setting up a driver qualification file as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This applies even if you’re an owner-operator without a CDL.

Step 2: Managing your business finances

Managing your business finances effectively is crucial for your box truck business’s success. One key aspect of this is setting up a business checking account and potentially a business credit card.

Opening a business checking account

A business checking account helps separate your personal and business finances, making tax time less complicated and improving your professional image with customers. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a business checking account:

  • Fees: Look out for monthly maintenance fees, transaction fees, and cash deposit fees. Some banks waive the monthly fee if you maintain a minimum balance.
  • Transaction Limits: Some accounts have a limit on the number of free transactions per month.
  • Online and Mobile Banking: A good online banking system can make business banking much easier, especially if you’re often on the road.
  • Customer Service: Excellent customer service can be invaluable, especially if you run into any issues or have questions about your account.

Securing a business credit card

A business credit card can also be a valuable tool, especially in managing cash flow. They are especially useful for making necessary purchases or expenses before clients’ payments clear. When choosing a business credit card, here are a few considerations:

  • Interest Rates: If you anticipate carrying a balance from month to month, you’ll want to pay close attention to the card’s APR.
  • Rewards Programs: Many cards offer rewards programs that can earn you cash back, travel rewards, or points for business purchases.
  • Annual Fees: While many business credit cards have annual fees, the benefits they offer can often offset this cost.
  • Additional Perks: Other benefits, like free employee cards or travel insurance, can make certain credit cards more appealing for your business.

Remember, business checking accounts and credit cards are vital tools for managing and tracking your business finances. Making an informed decision when choosing these will set a strong financial foundation for your non-CDL box truck business.

Step 3: Securing your box truck and equipment

The next step is to secure your box truck and any necessary equipment. You have three options here: renting, leasing, or buying a box truck.

  • Renting a box truck is the least capital-intensive option and ideal for occasional jobs.
  • Leasing is a more cost-effective solution in the long run but requires a larger upfront investment.
  • Buying a truck is the most expensive option, often requiring financing. However, it can be the best option once your business is established and earning enough to afford it.

Additionally, you’ll need to secure insurance for your commercial box truck. Consider also investing in equipment like a pallet jack and straps for securing loads.

Step 4: Obtaining sufficient box truck insurance coverage

After securing your box truck and necessary equipment, the next crucial step is to ensure that you have sufficient insurance coverage for your business. Insurance is a critical part of any business strategy, and in the trucking industry, it’s not only essential for protection but often a requirement for working with certain brokers or shippers.

Types of box truck insurance coverage

Several types of insurance coverages are beneficial, and often required, for a box truck business. These include:

  • Trucking primary liability insurance: This type of insurance is mandatory for all commercial trucks on the road. It covers the costs associated with injuries or damages to other parties in an accident where you are at fault.
  • Trucking physical damage insurance: This coverage pays for repair or replacement of your truck and equipment due to incidents like collision, fire, theft, or vandalism.
  • Motor truck cargo insurance: This coverage protects you if the cargo you’re transporting is lost or damaged due to causes like collision, fire, or reefer breakdown.
  • Non-Trucking Liability Insurance: This insurance covers your truck when you’re not under dispatch or using your truck for personal use.
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance: If you have employees, this coverage helps cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages if an employee gets injured or becomes ill due to a work-related cause.

What shippers and brokers may require

Shippers and brokers often have specific insurance requirements for carriers. These requirements usually include a minimum coverage amount for primary liability insurance and often require cargo insurance. Always check with any shippers or brokers you plan to work with to understand their specific insurance requirements.

Things to pay attention to when choosing coverage

When selecting your insurance coverage, it’s important to understand what each policy covers and doesn’t cover. Look at the policy limits and deductibles, and consider whether the coverage amounts are sufficient for your specific business needs. Also, pay attention to the insurance provider’s reputation, customer service, and claim handling process. Make sure you’re comfortable with these aspects before choosing a provider. Learn more at the best box truck insurance companies

Obtaining the right insurance coverage is an investment in your business. It can provide peace of mind, protect your investment, and help ensure your business’s longevity. Always consult with a knowledgeable insurance agent who can guide you through the process and ensure you get the right coverage for your box truck business.

Step 5: Finding work for your box truck business

With your business set up and your truck secured, it’s time to find work. Online load boards such as Landstar and DAT provide an easy way to connect with shippers and brokers. For work specifically with Amazon logistics, Amazon Relay can be an excellent resource.

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) can also offer freight-spotting services, which can find work based on your truck’s location, much like rideshare apps.

Long-term contracts are another option to consider. You can establish these through load boards, contacting freight brokers directly, signing up with Amazon Relay, using local matching sites like GoShare and Dolly, or securing government contracts.

Step 6: Ensuring steady cash flow

Ensuring steady cash flow is critical to maintain and grow your box truck business. Shippers and brokers often operate on net-30 or net-60 terms, meaning they may take up to 30 or 60 days to pay your invoice. A financial tool called factoring can help alleviate cash flow issues. Factoring companies like Bobtail pay your invoices immediately, allowing you to maintain steady cash flow while waiting for customer payments.

This five-step checklist can guide you through the process of starting your non-CDL box truck business. With careful planning and execution, you can set up a successful and profitable venture.

Starting your Non-CDL Box Truck Business with Amazon Relay

Amazon Relay is an excellent opportunity for box truck owners looking for consistent loads and competitive pay. It’s a program where independent contractors like yourself can pick up and deliver packages using Amazon’s sophisticated logistics network.

Here are some key points to understand and requirements to join Amazon Relay with your box truck:

  • Requirements: To sign up with Amazon, you’ll need DOT and MC numbers, be authorized for hire, and have a good safety rating. You should also have all the necessary insurance coverage as required by Amazon, which typically includes Commercial Auto Liability, General Liability, and Cargo Coverage.
  • Technology: Amazon relies heavily on technology for its operations. You’ll be using the Amazon Relay app for tasks such as scanning barcodes, getting route information, and providing updates on your progress. This means having a reliable smartphone and being comfortable using these technologies is a must.
  • Reliability: Amazon’s operations are based on precision and timing. Consistently meeting delivery deadlines and maintaining a high level of service will be crucial for your success in this program.
  • Vehicle Requirements: Amazon has specific vehicle requirements for participating in their Relay program. For a box truck, it needs to be in good working condition, meet all applicable federal and state regulations, and pass Amazon’s vehicle safety check.
  • Getting Approved: Once you’ve submitted your application, Amazon will review it, and the approval process can take a few weeks. Once approved, you can start picking up loads almost immediately.

Being part of Amazon Relay can provide a consistent flow of work, but keep in mind it requires a strong commitment to quality and timely service. As with any business decision, consider the requirements, benefits, and drawbacks carefully before joining.

Final thoughts

Embarking on a new business venture like starting a non-CDL box truck business can seem daunting, but with the right preparation and resources, it is an achievable goal. Following this comprehensive checklist will help ensure that you’ve covered all the necessary steps to get your business up and running. Remember, every successful business starts with a vision and a solid plan. By staying organized, maintaining focus, and staying flexible to adjust your strategies as you learn and grow, you’ll be on the road to a profitable box truck business. There’s no time like the present to seize the opportunity and start your journey in the dynamic world of box truck transportation.

Thang Truong

Thang Truong covers small business insurance and small business success at BravoPolicy. He is a licensed P&C insurance agent. Previously, he held product leadership positions at, Capital One, NerdWallet, and Mulberry Technology. He holds a MBA degree from UC Berkeley - Haas School of Business.

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