Can Felons Get Their CDL?

Can felons get their CDL? The short answer is, it depends. Many felons can get their CDL, but there are some stipulations. In general, the CDL qualifications are straightforward, but the type of felony is important when applying for your CDL. Additionally, many felons can get their CDL, but some employers do not hire felons. That is why we have broken down all the steps you need to consider if you are a felon seeking a fast career change.

Basic CDL Qualifications

The five general CDL qualifications are broad, and many people meet multiple criteria just by being an adult driver in the United States.

First and foremost, you need to be 21 or older to apply for your CDL Class A license. Your Class A will allow you to drive a truck that tows a trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds. If you are not 21 or older, don’t give up yet; you can still apply for your CDL Class B license as long as you are 18 or older, but this license is limited to trailers with a GVWR under 10,000 pounds.

Second, every CDL applicant must have a valid US driver’s license. This ensures you have been trained in the general rules of the road and have experience operating a vehicle.

Third, you must not have had a DUI in the last five years if you hope to obtain your CDL. Not all felonies disqualify you but being convicted of a DUI in the last five years will.

Fourth, you must pass the Department of Transportation (DOT) Drug Screen and DOT Physical. Truck Drivers have to be in reasonably good health. You need good vision, blood pressure, color distinction, and hearing among other health qualifications. CDL candidates should know that a natural difficulty with one or more qualifications in the health tests does not necessarily disqualify them. Corrective lenses or hearing aids can help people still pass the health screening.

Fifth, you must be a proven citizen or lawful permanent resident and pass a background check. The specific requirements vary by state along with which documents are accepted for proof, but attending a driving school in your state will ensure you meet the requirements for your test.

Can Felons Get Their CDL?

Assuming they meet all of the requirements above, can felons get their CDL license? Not all felonies disqualify you from obtaining a CDL, but certain companies might not hire you for certain felonies. Still, some people pursue trucking school from the mindset of wanting a fresh start. Many applicants are trying to support their families and making a real effort to get into an industry of steady work and good pay.

Because of this, many trucking companies are more understanding about past history, especially if there has been a lot of time since your felony. An industry best practice is to obtain a background check and review your record. By doing so, you can clear up as much as possible and anticipate reasons why companies may not hire you. If you have a felony and other minor infractions, you may have a more difficult time getting hired than if you just had a single felony.

There are also some felonies that will prohibit you from holding or even training for your CDL. Any felony that results in your license being revoked will also prohibit you from training for your CDL. If you are in this scenario, you would want to take the steps needed to reinstate your license before you can begin training for your CDL. Other felonies that usually prohibit you from earning your CDL are arson, manslaughter with a motor vehicle, or smuggling among others.

Ultimately, truck driving companies need to be confident that their drivers are going to be responsible people behind the wheel. That means felonies related to driving are going to be particularly concerning for companies, especially if they were recent.

These are not the only cases in which you might have difficulty obtaining your CDL. You may want to check in with a truck driving school near you to speak with someone about your background. If you choose a school in your state, they will know your state’s restrictions for obtaining your CDL.

Once you have your CDL, there are also some things you can do to increase your chances of getting hired despite your felony.

Applying for Trucking Jobs with a Felony

Trucking companies do background checks, but your felony does not disqualify you completely in many cases. Many truckers do not have perfect backgrounds, but many companies just need some honest assurance to hire a candidate with a felony. Being honest about your background is the best approach when looking for truck driving jobs, and many companies will still hire felons if they can professionally discuss their background in a positive way.

If you are interviewing and you know your felony will come up later, it is also a good idea to bring it up with the employer first. As a question, you can ask if they hire truckers with felonies. If you do this, be prepared to describe the situation candidly. This will be a good enough sign for many employers that you own up to your past and are looking to make a change.

Luckily, many aspiring truck drivers with felonies have the support of a hungry industry. There is plenty of work to do because of the truck driver shortage. If your felony does not legally disqualify you from driving, many employers will still hire an honest and open driver. Though some companies may deny your application due to your felony, it is likely that you will be able to find work with a different company.

Start Training for Your CDL With the Truck Driver Institute

A felony does not necessarily keep you from obtaining a CDL and beginning the career of your dreams. Many companies will not immediately turn you away just because you have a felony on your record. With the Truck Driver Insitute, you can begin a new career in less than a month. 

Contact the Truck Driver Institute to learn more about how you can start your new career today.

Get Started

Get your Class A CDL in our friendly, supportive CDL training program. TRAIN with experienced instructors – multiple good-paying, secure job choices with benefits available for eligible graduates. EARN $700 – $1000+ / week to start as a truck driver. Get started today by filling out the form below. We look forward to hearing from you!