It is notoriously difficult for convicted felons to find gainful employment after release.
It may feel like only a few career paths are available for a person with an imperfect past.
Companies may not hire felons or only allow them certain jobs.
However, is it possible for a felon to get a commercial driver’s license and drive a truck for a living?
- Can Felons Get a CDL License?
- Instances in Which You Will Still Be Able to Get Your CDL
- Instances in Which You Will Not Be Able to Get Your CDL
- Under the Influence of Alcohol
- Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance
- Refusal to Take an Alcohol Test
- Driving a CMV When Not Allowed by Law
- Negligent Driving of a CMV Resulting in a Fatality
- Excessive Speeding
- Reckless Driving
- Improper or Erratic Traffic Lane Changes
- Too Close to Another Vehicle
- Texting And Use of Electronic Devices While Driving
- Other Things To Understand
- Tips for Success: Be Honest in Your Applications
- Final Thoughts
Can Felons Get a CDL License?
Felons can get a CDL license and use it to make a living.
They will go through the same system that a non-felon would – truck driving school for the license, and job applications for carrier companies.
However, those with criminal records might have to jump through a few more hoops than regular applicants.
Some felony convictions preclude eligibility for truck driving school and a commercial driver’s license.
However, you might be surprised at the lenience that many companies give to employees with a past.
It might be a long road, but you can get a CDL despite your record.
Instances in Which You Will Still Be Able to Get Your CDL
While any felony puts a mark on your record, some felonies don’t matter as much to trucking companies.
They will also consider how many felonies you have, what kind of felonies they are, and how long ago the incidents happened.
These factors will affect how willing a truck driving school is to accept you.
Nonviolent felonies that aren’t vehicle or driving-related won’t affect your chances too much.
You’ll need to explain what happened and how you’ve changed since the conviction, but a CDL company is more likely to hire you.
Instances in Which You Will Not Be Able to Get Your CDL
But some felonies and misdemeanors make it very difficult to get a CDL and drive a truck.
Any violent or driving-related felony is much more likely to get you disqualified from a truck driver’s school, depending on how long ago they were and how many you have.
Here are some instances that will affect your chances negatively.
Under the Influence of Alcohol
If you have a history of driving under the influence of alcohol, you are much less likely to be admitted to CDL training school.
Any felony committed under the influence of alcohol is also likely to disqualify you.
Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance
Of course, any controlled substance other than alcohol will have the same results.
If your felony involves a controlled substance, whether it’s distributing, selling, or taking the substance, you won’t be able to get a CDL unless it’s been years and the company is exceptionally understanding.
Refusal to Take an Alcohol Test
If there is a refusal to take an alcohol test anywhere on your record, it will affect your ability to train for a commercial driver’s license.
Traffic infractions, DUIs, and other car-related incidents in your past will come under close examination by the school and any potential employees.
Driving a CMV When Not Allowed by Law
If you have a felony or misdemeanor conviction for driving a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driving license, they will not accept you into driver’s training.
This kind of felony is an automatic fail for most truck schools.
Negligent Driving of a CMV Resulting in a Fatality
Even if you already have a CDL and are experienced in the field, you won’t get hired if you have accidental manslaughter on your record, especially if it’s vehicle-related.
If you’ve accidentally killed someone with your vehicle, you won’t be able to get a CDL or get hired by a truck driving company.
Any felony or ticket in your past that relates to excessive speeding will lower your chances of being accepted to a CDL driving school.
While many schools take your criminal and driving history into account, they will also look at your driving habits.
Of course, any kind of reckless driving will result in a bad driving record.
While you don’t need a perfect record to get a CDL and drive trucks, the better your record is, the greater than chances to be hired.
This is especially true if you have a felony conviction and are already at a hiring disadvantage.
Improper or Erratic Traffic Lane Changes
Besides felony and traffic violation records, the instructors at a charter driving school will look at your driving habits.
If you change lanes too quickly, it could disqualify you from a truck driving school.
Drive safely to get a truck driving job.
Too Close to Another Vehicle
While driving too close to another vehicle isn’t something that will end up on your record, it is something that your driving instructor will notice.
In a semi-truck, driving too close to the person in front of you could kill them if you had to brake suddenly.
Texting And Use of Electronic Devices While Driving
One of the most ubiquitous driving infractions, texting & driving, is a common mistake.
However, with a large carrier vehicle, any such infraction could result in a catastrophe.
Your record must be clear of distracted driving incidents.
Other Things To Understand
Of course, the types of felonies you have aren’t the only thing that matters when it comes to applying for a CDL.
You need to take into account how many felonies you have when they occurred, and what you’ve done since.
You should also look into which companies will hire CDL drivers with felony convictions.
The Number of Felonies You Have Matters
It’s not just about which felonies you have–the number of felonies and how long it’s been is also important to your truck driving hopes.
If you have multiple violations within the last few years, you are much less likely to get hired than with one felony fifteen years ago.
Consider the number and type of felony convictions before you apply for truck driving school–it could make a difference in whether you are eligible for a CDL.
Of course, always check your state and local legislation and keep within your parole requirements.
Many Large Carriers Do Hire Convicted Felons
Even if you graduate trucking school and get a CDL, are you likely to be hired as a truck driver with a felony conviction?
Many carriers hire convicted felons to drive their trucks.
It’s a low-contact, high supervision job and you can earn a company’s trust over time.
Trucking Companies That Hire Felons
Before you submit your application and resume to a trucking company, make sure you know their policy on hiring felons.
Some companies hire felons but only after a certain time and some have rather strict policies.
Here are some of the trucking companies that hire felons:
- Britton Transport
- Carolina Cargo
- J.B. Hunt
- Magnum Limited
- CR England
- Paschall Truck Lines
- Swift Transportation
Of course, there are more than this, and this list could change.
Companies change their policies and are becoming more lenient towards people with imperfect pasts.
Check a company’s website and history before applying.
Truck Driving Schools That Accept Felons
Before you get hired, of course, you have to go to truck driving school.
Here is a list of truck driving schools that accept felons.
Some of these only accept applicants with felonies older than a few years, and others are more accepting.
Check for one in your state:
- Swift Driving Academy
- Celadon Driving Academy
- A. Duie Pyle Truck Driving Academy
- Roadmaster Driving School
- Continental Truck Driver Training
- New England Tractor Trailer Training School (NETTS)
If you don’t see a truck driving school that is close to you on this list, don’t worry.
There are plenty of options that didn’t make the list–these are only the top few in each geographic area.
Do some independent research and decide what works best for you–most schools have a guidance counselor who can tell you whether you’re eligible or not.
Tips for Success: Be Honest in Your Applications
The most important thing you can do when applying for CDL training is, to be honest in all of your applications.
Every trucking school and trucking company performs background checks as part of their standard hiring process, and it will be worse for you if they found out that you were hiding a felony or key part of your history.
Honesty is always the best policy, and it’s especially true when applying for jobs post-jail.
Make sure that you give the full story during an interview–it’s always better for a company to hear your side of the story before reading it on paper.
You’re not the first person with a felony, and many companies understand this.
If you’re applying for a trucking school, do your research.
Ensure that the company has a history of hiring felons, and be as qualified as you need to be.
With enough qualifications, hard work, and, most importantly, honesty, you’ll be able to get the job you need.
You can get a CDL with a felony record and get a job as a trucker.
It might take jumping through some hoops and a lot of explaining your past, but unless you have certain violent or vehicle-related violations in your past, you are likely to be able to get a job driving a truck.