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How to Start a Non-CDL Delivery Service

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Non-CDL Delivery Service

Fast Facts

Investment range

$4,250 - $9,600

Revenue potential

$80,000 - $470,000 p.a.

Time to build

1 – 3 months

Profit potential

$55,000 - $140,000 p.a.

Industry trend




How to Start a Non-CDL Delivery Service

Countless businesses have been struggling with pandemic shutdowns and supply chain issues. But the timely delivery of products to customers is critical to keeping these businesses alive. You can help them by launching your own trucking service. You don’t need to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and drive a big rig, but can instead start a non-CDL business and do local deliveries as well as interstate trucking. 

You’ll need more than just a clean driving record, however, to start a successful delivery service. Luckily, this step-by-step guide contains all the business insight you’ll need to put you on the road to non-CDL greatness.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

First of all, let’s clarify what being a non-CDL driver means. Driving vehicles with less than an 8,000-lb payload, such as mid-sized U-Hauls and UPS trucks, does not require a CDL. So there are a lot of possible truck sizes to choose from for your new business, including a box truck

Before you jump all the way, it’s a good idea to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of this line of work. 

Pros and cons


  • Good Money – Every load comes with a nice payday
  • Independence – Work on your own time
  • Fast to Start – No training or certification needed


  • High Startup Costs – Trucks aren’t cheap
  • Fuel Costs – With gas prices rising, profit margins are down

Non-CDL business delivery service industry trends

Industry size and growth

non-cdl delivery industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends in the non-CDL business delivery service industry include:

  • The increase in the number of deliveries has made large delivery companies like FedEx and DHL focus on partnerships with large companies rather than small local companies with local delivery needs. This is a huge opportunity for small local business delivery services to prosper.
  • Hot shot trucking, which is time-sensitive light trucking, has been thriving due to the need to speed up the supply chain.

Challenges in the non-CDL business delivery service industry include:

  • Rising fuel prices are cutting into the profit margins of delivery businesses.
  • Customer demand for tracking of packages, both business to business and business to consumer, is creating a need for business delivery services to upgrade their technology.
non-cdl delivery service Trends and Challenges

Demand hotspots

non-cdl delivery service demand hotspots

What kind of people work in Delivery?

non-cdl delivery industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a Non-CDL Business Delivery Service?

Startup costs for a non-CDL business delivery service range from $4,200 to $9,500. The largest expense is for a down payment on a van or truck. If you already have a sufficient vehicle, you can start for about $2,500. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your non-CDL business delivery service, including: 

  • Truck or van
  • Dollies and straps
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Down payment on a van or truck$2,500 - $5,000$3,750
Dollies, straps$200 - $500$350
Total$4,250 - $9,600$6,925

How much can you earn from a non-CDL business delivery service?

Your prices will vary based on the size of the load as well as the distance and could range from $100 to $200. Longer distance deliveries are usually based on mileage and can be $1.50 – $2.00 per mile. These calculations will assume an average delivery price of $150. Your profit margin should be about 70% after fuel costs.

In your first year or two, you could work from home and deliver 10 loads per week, bringing in nearly $80,000 in annual revenue. This would mean almost $55,000 in profit, assuming that 70% margin. As your business gains traction, deliveries could climb to 60 per week. At this stage, you’d hire delivery drivers, reducing your margin to around 30%. With annual revenue of nearly $470,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $140,000.

non-cdl delivery service earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a non-CDL delivery service. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Financing a van or truck
  • Finding local business partners to make deliveries for

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a non-CDL business delivery service, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research non-CDL delivery services in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a local medical supply delivery service.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as retail deliveries.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.

What? Determine your products or services

Your services will be making deliveries for businesses. You just need to determine if you want to work with all businesses or specialize in a particular type of business. You’ll also need to decide if you want to just deliver locally or do interstate loads.

Another option is to be an Amazon delivery service partner.

How much should you charge for deliveries?

Your prices will vary greatly based on the size of the load and the distance. You should estimate your time for each delivery route and charge about $40 to $45 per hour. Your main cost will be fuel, so you should aim for a profit margin of about 70%.

For long-distance loads, prices are generally based on mileage, at a rate of $1.50 to $2.00 per mile.

Note that you should use delivery route optimization, making your delivery route as efficient as possible, to maximize deliveries and minimize fuel costs.

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will depend on the type of deliveries you choose to do. In any case, it will be small business owners of some kind, who you can find on LinkedIn, Google Maps and Yelp!

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office. Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
non-cdl delivery service idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “business delivery” or “delivery service”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Express Dispatch” over “Fragile Item Transporters”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.
what to include in a business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

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Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to non-CDL business delivery services.

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your non-CDL business delivery service will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a non-CDL business delivery service.

types of business financing

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a non-CDL business delivery service requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

You’ll need a Department of Transportation number and a Motor Carrier Authority number, both of which you can get by registering with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You’ll also need to complete a unified carrier’s registration, and if you plan to drive to other states or Canada, an International Registration Plan tag and an International Fuel Tax Agreement decal.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your non-CDL business delivery service as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of 

your business.

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Work Wave, NetworkON, or GOTRACK, to manage your deliveries, routes, dispatching, and invoicing.


  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPressWix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 


Some of your business will come from the casual online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness.

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products: 

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Schedule Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers. 

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include: 

  • In-Person Sales – Offer your delivery services to local businesses.
  • Email marketing/newsletter – Send regular emails to customers and prospects. Make them personal. 
  • Start a blog – Start a blog and post regularly. Change up your content and share on multiple sites.
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Pay–per-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to perform better in searches. Research your keywords first.
  • Testimonials – Share customer testimonials about how your business delivery services helped them.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your business delivery service meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your non-CDL business delivery service could be:

  • Local hot shot trucking for your top-priority deliveries
  • Construction materials delivered on time, guaranteed
  • Interstate commerce deliveries, expedited and safe
unique selling proposition


You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a non-CDL business delivery service, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in non-CDL business delivery for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in business delivery services. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a non-CDL business delivery service include:

  • Drivers – deliver goods
  • Dispatcher – take calls, dispatch drivers
  • General Manager – staff management, scheduling, accounting
  • Marketing Lead — SEO strategies, social media 

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Running a Business

If you don’t want the hassle of going through the process to be a CDL driver, starting a non-CDL delivery service offers a world of opportunity. It takes an investment to get a vehicle, but you can get in on a $130 billion industry and make good money. You can run your business from home, and someday expand your business to have a fleet of trucks and a whole delivery network.

Now that you’ve got some business savvy, it’s time to start driving your way to entrepreneurial success!

Non-CDL Business Delivery Service Business FAQs

Can a non-CDL delivery service be profitable?

Yes, it can be very profitable. Delivery services for businesses are in high demand right now, and you can have a nice payday with each delivery you make.

How can I get clients for my non-CDL delivery service?

Your target market will be business owners, so you should try to connect with and market to them on LinkedIn. You should also call on them directly to offer your services. You can find local businesses on Google or Yelp!

How can I differentiate my non-CDL delivery service from competitors in the market?

To differentiate your non-CDL delivery service, you can focus on providing exceptional customer service, implementing efficient and transparent tracking systems, offering specialized delivery options (such as same-day or eco-friendly deliveries), or targeting specific niche markets.

Can I start non-CDL delivery service on the side?

Yes, you can start a non-CDL delivery service on the side as long as you comply with local regulations, obtain any necessary licenses or permits, and manage your time effectively to ensure both your main job and the delivery service receive adequate attention.

What types of vehicles are necessary for a non-CDL delivery service?

The types of vehicles necessary for a non-CDL delivery service can include vans, SUVs, pickup trucks, or even bicycles, depending on the scale of operations, the size and weight of the packages being delivered, and the geographical area you plan to cover.