Can You Be A Truck Driver With A Felony?

Truck driving is a good paying job and truckers are in high demand, with many companies offering significant sign-on bonuses. If you’re wondering: can you be a truck driver with a felony? The answer is yes you can, however there are some felonies which will make it difficult to obtain a CDL and others which will restrict the types of trucking you can do.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about becoming a truck driver with a felony.

Can You Be A Truck Driver With A Felony in 2022?

Can You Be A Truck Driver With A Felony?

A CDL is a commercial driver’s license, and you’ll need a CDL to become a truck driver.

In most cases, having a felony won’t prevent you from obtaining a CDL, although some serious offenses will disqualify you from holding a CDL temporarily or permanently.

To obtain a CDL, you’ll need to meet the requirements listed by your state, and you’ll be able to find out what those are by checking your state DMV website.

Usually, states have the following requirements as a minimum.

You’ll need to be a resident of the state where you apply for your CDL, and you’ll need proof of your address along with a personal ID.

You must hold a current, unrestricted driver’s license for the state you’re applying in.

You must meet the minimum age requirement. This is normally 18 for driving within state, but for driving interstate you must be 21.

You’ll need a highschool diploma or GED.

You must pass all of the relevant written exams and driving skill tests (learn more about truck driving schools below).

Truck drivers also have to pass a physical before they can receive a CDL.

Once you have your CDL, you can look for work with trucking companies. Some trucking schools are owned by trucking companies and they cover your training costs as long as you agree to work for them for a minimum period of time.

Which Felonies Disqualify You From Holding A CDL?

Depending on your state’s regulations, some felonies will permanently disqualify you from holding a CDL, while others will be a temporary block. If any of the following offenses are on your record, you’ll need to check with your state to find out if you’re currently eligible to apply for a CDL.

  • Arson
  • Assault with intent to murder
  • Bribery
  • Extorsion
  • Kidnapping
  • DUI with blood alcohol of 0.08% or higher
  • Reckless driving that results in death
  • Serious traffic offenses involving misconduct with a motor vehicle
  • Smuggling
  • Trafficking in drugs or weapons
  • Treason
  • A felony using a commercial vehicle
  • Vehicular manslaughter

Is Your Driving Record Clean?

You will need a current driver’s license to apply for a CDL. If your license has been revoked or suspended, you’ll have to wait until the restrictions are lifted before you can start your trucking career.

Some driving offenses will temporarily prevent you from obtaining a CDL. Requirements vary from state to state, but you’ll need to have any traffic tickets paid, and if you’ve got more than one recent traffic violation, you may need to wait before you can apply.

Your local DMV will have all of the information about the laws in your state.

Can You Get Into Truck Driving School With A Felony?

Can You Get Into Truck Driving School With A Felony?

Each trucking school has their own eligibility requirements.

Trucking schools owned by trucking companies will only accept students that they can hire afterwards, and hiring standards vary considerably among trucking companies.

If you can get into a trucking company school which covers your tuition costs and puts you to work as soon as you receive your CDL, that’s going to make everything run more smoothly for you.

Other trucking companies offer tuition reimbursement. With these companies, you need to pay the costs associated with obtaining your CDL, and then the company will repay you a certain amount each week. Full reimbursement usually takes around 12 to 18 months.

In general, if you meet the eligibility requirements for a commercial learner’s permit in your state, you should be able to find a truck driving school willing to train you.

Trucking schools are no strangers to applicants with criminal backgrounds. You can call, or email some schools in your state and they’ll be able to tell you if you can train with them.

But before you spend any money on a CDL course, you need to make sure that a trucking company will be able to hire you.

Which Trucking Companies Will Hire Felons?

Some trucking companies hire on a case-by-case basis and don’t specify a minimum time period that needs to have passed since your felony before you can apply.

Other companies won’t take applications from individuals with felonies until 5, 7, or 10 years have passed since conviction.

In both cases, serious felonies could make you ineligible for hire, and all companies will turn you down either permanently or temporarily if you have DUIs. Usually the minimum period you’ll need to wait if you have a DUI on your record is 5 years. Some companies will also turn you down if you’ve got drug related convictions within the last 5 years.

All trucking companies carry out background checks, so you’ll need to be honest about your conviction.

These are some companies that are open to hiring felons and have programs in place to cover CDL training costs or reimburse your tuition fees:

  • Carter Express
  • Celadon
  • C R England
  • Jim Palmer Trucking
  • Knight Transportation
  • Maverick Transportation
  • Pam Transport
  • Roehl Transport
  • Swift
  • TMC
  • USA Truck
  • Wil-Trans

Are There Truck Driving Jobs Felons Can’t Do?

With a felony on your record there will be some truck driving jobs that you can’t do at all, and some that you can’t do until enough time has passed for the offenses to ‘drop off’ as far as a background check is concerned.

A Security Clearance Is Needed for Some Types Of Trucking

To transport hazardous materials, including gasoline and propane, you need a HazMat endorsement. Obtaining a HazMat endorsement is subject to passing an enhanced background check.

You can’t obtain a HazMat endorsement if you were released from prison within the last 5 years, or are currently under indictment.

The following offenses permanently disqualify you from holding a HazMat endorsement:

  • Murder
  • Terorism
  • Espionage
  • Sedition
  • Treason
  • Crimes involving explosives
  • A crime involving a transportation security incident
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material
  • Conspiracy to commit any of the above crimes

Another barrier you may face involves trucking jobs where you’ll need to enter ports, secure cargo warehouses, or other security sensitive areas.

For this type of trucking, you’ll need a Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC). This is a biometric ID issued by the TSA.

The offenses listed above in the HazMat list will permanently disqualify you from obtaining a TWIC.

Offenses which will temporarily disqualify you from obtaining a TWIC are:

  • Fraud
  • Extortion
  • Immigration offenses
  • Kidnap
  • Arson
  • Bribery
  • Smuggling
  • Distribution or possession to distribute a controlled substance
  • Manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Robbery
  • Assault with the intent to murder

You May Be Barred From Crossing Borders

A lucrative type of trucking is over the road trucking or OTR. OTR trucking involves driving long distances and staying out on the road for many weeks at a time. Depending on the trucking company you work for, some OTR routes will cross the Canadian or Mexican borders.

Unfortunately, Canada makes it tough for felons to cross the border, and Mexico has various restrictions in place as well.

It is possible to get a Temporary Resident Permit which allows you entry to Canada for 3 years, or a permanent Criminal Rehabilitation which will let you cross the border without any restriction.

Both permits take several months to obtain and require an application fee. For the best chance of success, you’ll need the help of an immigration lawyer to ensure that everything is filed correctly.

Mexico has a list of offenses which will prevent you from crossing the southern border. These are felonies of a more serious nature, so a minor felony may not be a problem, but you’ll need to check the situation for your particular offense.

Summing Up

Can you be a truck driver with a felony? In most cases, the answer is yes. Truck driving is a job that pays well, and as long as you can obtain a CDL, you should be able to find work with a trucking company.

To get started on your CDL, you’ll need to contact a truck driving school and enroll on a CDL course. Trucking schools are either owned by or have relationships with trucking companies. Check with several schools to find the best fit for your finances and your particular felony offense.

Even if your felony is too recent for a CDL or for employment, you don’t need to give up on your hopes for a trucking career. Make sure that you keep your driving record clean, resolve any drug or alcohol dependency issues you have, and use the waiting time to learn everything you can about passing the CDL exams.