What Felonies Disqualify You From Getting a CDL?

Trucking is an immensely rewarding occupation filled with ample opportunities for personal enrichment and career advancement. If you’re hoping to hit the road alongside thousands of other truckers that keep our nation running, you’ll need to first obtain a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, before joining their ranks. 

If you have a criminal record, it may complicate the CDL certification process—that’s why it’s important to know off the bat that while no felonies disqualify you from getting a CDL, it can complicate things. Here are the steps you can take today to begin moving forward despite your challenging past. 

What Felonies Disqualify You From Getting a CDL

The CDL Process: How it Works

All vehicles are not created equal; even the most skilled drivers need extra training and certification in order to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). A commercial driver’s license is the industry standard license for truckers nationwide, ensuring that all professionals are sufficiently experienced, knowledgeable, and physically capable of staying safe behind the wheel of their rigs. 

CDL certifications come in three classes: A, B and C. The certification process requires drivers to pass multiple tests including two written assessments that appraise general and endorsement-specific knowledge as well as a health physical and a skills test that evaluates proficiencies on the road, including driving maneuvers and vehicle inspection procedures. 

Once a driver obtains their CDL, it is usually valid for 5-8 years before requiring some form of renewal. But before you can hit the road, you’ll need to know if you’re disqualified from getting a CDL in the first place. 

Knowing potential disqualifications for CDL training upfront can save aspiring truckers time and ensure they are fully prepared for the requirements and challenges ahead. A proactive approach is crucial in navigating the certification process successfully. Keep reading to learn more in-depth about what felonies disqualify you from getting a CDL.

So What Felonies Disqualify You From Getting a CDL? None, But Some Might Cause Obstacles 

Operators of commercial vehicles are held to an incredibly high standard due to the job’s inherent level of responsibility as well as the immense risk that improper conduct on the road can pose to other drivers. That means the requirements surrounding a CDL’s issuance must seriously account for any prior criminal activity during the certification process. 

Along with other pertinent disqualifications, having felonies on record can prove a significant obstacle for aspiring drivers. Some of these felonies include:

  • Arson
  • Treason
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault with intent to murder
  • Bribery and/or extortion
  • Motor vehicle misconduct, negligence, or reckless operation
  • Committing first or second degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle 
  • Having a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher while driving
  • Other felonies committed using a commercial motor vehicle i.e. smuggling illegal substances or human trafficking
  • An outstanding warrant out for a felony offense
  • Financial crimes such as embezzlement or fraud
  • Voluntary manslaughter 
  • Severe assault
  • Serious drug offenses that indicate trafficking or distribution
  • Crimes that indicate a risk to public safety, such as repeated DUI offenses or vehicular homicide

The best way to navigate these legal impediments is to avoid them altogether. If you’re considering pursuing a career in trucking, make sure to stay vigilant and aware of what felonies disqualify you from getting a CDL in order to spare you any serious complications down the line. 

Other CDL Considerations and Requisites for Felons

While a CDL license is an industry requirement across the board, the license is uniquely specific to the state that issued it; federal law prohibits drivers from holding a CDL in more than one state, even though the license itself allows drivers to traverse state lines. 

In short, this means that there are many state-specific rules and regulations that affect how CDL licenses are issued, as well as the circumstances that disqualify individuals from receiving them. While many states may allow convicted felons to apply for their CDL, some do not. Before beginning the process, do your research as to how your specific record pertains to in-state CDL laws. 

Another important variable involves the nature of the felony itself. Certain felonies are taken more seriously by the state—any by employers—than others. If the felony involved a commercial motor vehicle during on-duty hours, you will likely be unable to have your CDL reinstated. 

In addition to the nature of the crime, the number of felonies matters as well, as does the amount of time that has passed since they were committed. You may even be able to get a CDL while on probation as long as it does not violate the terms of your parole. 

Taking Steps Towards Employment

If you live and work in a state that allows felons to obtain their CDL and the circumstances surrounding your record prove amenable to local regulations, you’ll be able to continue the process with a few stipulations. 

For one, you’ll have to find a carrier in your state of residence that hires convicted felons. Once you do so, keep in mind that during the application process they’re legally required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to conduct lifetime background checks. 

Because of this, you should always be completely honest about your criminal record; owning up to past mistakes demonstrates to employers and trucking schools the ways in which you’ve grown beyond your missteps—and that you are willing to take your new future seriously. 

Among eligible convicted felons, employers will also be looking for a decade’s worth of consistent employment records including any prior experience as a trucker (especially if you’ve held a Class A Certification). Prior experience in a rig is always going to help you gain ground during the hiring process. You’ll want to put forward a solid driving record; recent graduates from a top-tier truck driving school, such as TDI, also have a major advantage working in their favor. 

Steps for Applying for a CDL with a Felony

Navigating the road to obtaining a CDL can be complex, especially for individuals with a felony conviction. The journey involves understanding the legal requirements, considering rehabilitation programs, and sometimes, pursuing expungement or record sealing. The following steps will guide applicants with records through the process. 

  • Assess Eligibility: Check specific state requirements regarding felony convictions and CDL eligibility to ensure you qualify before beginning the application process. If you ever have any questions about your eligibility, feel free to contact the school. 
  • Legal Consultation: Consider consulting with a legal expert who specializes in expungements or pardons to understand if you can clean or improve your record. It’s important to note that this isn’t a requirement but an option some individuals find worth pursuing. 
  • Prepare Documentation: Gather your legal documents, including your criminal record, any rehabilitation certifications, and any proof of court-mandated community service. 
  • Engage in Positive Activities: Involve yourself in volunteering, vocational training, or other positive activities that highlight to employers your commitment to personal growth and societal contribution. 
  • Apply for the CDL: Submit your application, any necessary documentation, and letters of recommendation for additional support if needed. 
  • Be Honest: Always be truthful about your criminal history when you apply. Being dishonest on the application can result in immediate disqualification from the program.
  • Seek Support: At TDI, all our graduates work with our team to find a career that best fits them upon graduation. In fact, we have an 80% job success rate! Our team will help you find the right fit with your background and help prepare you for employment. Plus, if down the line you aren’t happy with the job, you have access to our services at that point as well.

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!

How to Address Felonies in Job Applications

When applying for jobs in the trucking industry with a felony conviction, it’s crucial to thoughtfully navigate the conversation about your background. Being transparent about your past is essential, as honesty is highly valued in the industry. However, it’s equally important to focus on how you’ve grown or changed since your conviction. Highlight any rehabilitation efforts, education, or training you’ve undertaken. Moreover, explain any legal steps you’ve taken towards expungement or sealing your record, if applicable. 

Demonstrating your commitment to moving forward and contributing positively can significantly benefit potential employers. Tailoring your application to showcase your strengths, resilience, and readiness to take on the role’s responsibilities can help shift the focus from your past to your potential as a reliable employee.

Building a Brighter Future With TDI

Here at TDI, we believe in our drivers, and in the trucking industry’s capacity to shape successful futures for those seeking opportunity, job security and honest work. As the trucking industry’s demand for drivers continues to grow each year, so does your prospective potential as a driver. After learning what felonies disqualify you from getting a CDL, you’ll be better equipped to take on the certification and hiring processes.

Even if you have a felony on your record, you may still be able to receive your CDL depending on your state. Luckily, TDI has 11 locations where you can explore your options and gather the skills and confidence you need to pursue trucking as your new career path. Our supportive, knowledgeable instructors empower students to take their CDL tests in as little as three weeks. 

Contact us today to discuss any questions you may have regarding your eligibility, so that we can help get you started on the road to a better life.

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!