Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1956 No. 349 - Nov 29 1956
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Any vehicle, eligible to be operated on the public highways, whether or not it may be a motor vehicle, may be licensed, but it must meet the statutory requirements applicable to the use and operation of such vehicles while on the highways, not as a requirement for licensing but as a requirement for operation.

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                                                               November 29, 1956

Honorable Della Urquhart
Director of Licenses
General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 349

Attention:  !ttP. J. Harrington

            Administrative Assistant

Dear Mrs. Urquhart:

            You have asked our opinion on the following question:

            Is a self-propelled vehicle designed to be used as a fork lift truck for transporting commodities eligible to be licensed for operation on the public highways?

            We answer your question in the affirmative.


            Our first consideration is given to the requirement of our licensing statute (RCW 46.16.010 (1955 Supp.)) which provides, in so far as here pertinent, that:

            "It shall be unlawful for a person to operate any vehicle over and along a public highway of this state without first having obtained and having in full force and effect a current and propervehicle license . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            It is to be noted that our licensing statute applies to "vehicles," not "motor vehicle."  We believe this distinction is not only important, but determinative of your question, in view of the particular use and application of these definitions in various chapters of the motor vehicle code.

            A "vehicle" is defined (RCW 46.04.670) as "every device capable of being moved upon a public highway and in, upon, or by which any persons or property is or may be transported."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            It is obvious from the foregoing that "any vehicle" operated on the public highway may, and must, be licensed.  In other words, "vehicle" is all-inclusive, whereas "motor vehicle" is a restricted class of vehicles.  This means that "any vehicle," whether it be self-propelled or not, comes within the purview of our licensing statute, and the mere fact that it may not qualify under the definition of a motor vehicle does not absolve it from the requirement to be licensed if it operates on the highway under its own power.  Evidence of this is the fact that not only motor vehicles but such other vehicles as trailers and semitrailers must be titled (RCW 46.12.010), as well as licensed (RCW 46.16.010 (1955 Supp.)), if they operate on the public highways.  Many other provisions of the code, such as those concerned with size and weight and load (RCW chapter 46.44) and with equipment (chapter 46.37 RCW), apply to "vehicles," and not merely to "motor vehicles."

            From the foregoing, we conclude that our licensing statute (RCW 46.16.010 (1955 Supp.)) applies to any vehicle as defined by RCW 46.04.670 and is not restricted by the definition of a motor vehicle under RCW 46.04.320 (1955 Supp.).  A vehicle as so defined includes a self-propelled fork lift truck, even though there may be some question as to whether it meets the description of a motor vehicle as presently defined.  This opinion applies to eligibility for licensing of vehicles and is not meant to apply to statutory requirements of other chapters of the motor vehicle code as may be applicable to their use and operation on the highways, such as chapter 46.37 RCW pertaining to equipment, and chapter 46.44 RCW regarding the size, weight and load.

            It is to be observed throughout the code (Title 46) that the words "vehicles" and "motor vehicle" are used with the intention of applying them to those units meeting the statutory definitions.  It is clear that chapter 46.12 RCW (titling) and chapter 46.16 RCW (licensing) are applicable to vehicles, which includes a self-propelled fork lift truck, not because it may not be a motor vehicle, but because it is a vehicle.  These chapters, in a like manner, apply equally to passenger cars, trucks, trailers, semitrailers, full trailers, etc.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General