Can You Go To Truck Driving School With A Felony? Let’s find out!
With a felony on your record, you’ve probably experienced some frustrations when it comes to your employment options. There’s some good news though because the trucking industry is known for its willingness to hire people with felony convictions. And trucking is a job that pays a living wage.
But before you can drive a truck, you’ll need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and some training. And that means attending a truck driving school. This brings up the question, can you go to truck driving school with a felony?
That’s the first question that we’ll answer in this article. We’ll also tell you what you need to know about actually getting hired by a trucking company once you have your CDL.
Can You Go To Truck Driving School With A Felony?
Yes, you can! But before you start looking for a truck driving school, you’ll need to make sure that you’re eligible for a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
A CDL is a legal requirement for anyone driving commercial motor vehicles over a certain weight, and that includes most large trucks.
CDL is issued at the state level just like regular driver’s licenses, and each state has a list of requirements that govern license eligibility.
You’ll find the eligibility requirements for your particular state by obtaining a copy of your state’s CDL manual. You can get a copy at your local DMV office, or you can visit your state’s website and navigate to the section for the DMV.
But in general, most states will all have the following requirements.
- You’ll need to be at least 18 years old for intrastate commercial driving. Intrastate means you can drive within the state that issued your license.
- You should be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States with proof of residence in the state where you make your CDL application.
- You’ll need to be at least 21 years old for interstate commercial driving and transportation of hazardous materials. Interstate means you can drive between states. Hazardous materials include flammable liquids and solids, explosives, radioactive materials, gasses, toxic materials, and corrosives.
- You’ll need a regular driver’s license and 1 or 2 years of driving experience depending on your state. If your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked, you won’t be able to apply for your CDL until your license is reinstated.
- Check to make sure that you don’t have any DUI convictions within the last 12 months. If you do, you’ll need to wait until 1 year has passed since your DUI conviction.
- You should be able to read and speak English.
- You’ll need your social security number and an acceptable identity document.
- You must meet the health and medical standards.
One thing you should be aware of if you have a DUI on your driving record is that even though you only need to wait 1 year to apply for a CDL, trucking companies probably won’t hire you until 5 years have passed since your DUI conviction.
They need to make sure that you won’t be a safety risk, and their insurance carriers either won’t cover recent DUI or they’ll make the insurance premiums astronomically high.
Now we’ve looked at the general requirements that will apply everywhere, let’s take a look at the felonies that will be a problem for your CDL. These will differ from state to state and some felonies will result in a permanent disqualification, while others will result in a temporary ban on obtaining a CDL.
- Assault with intent to murder
- Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol of 0.08% or higher (DUI)
- Reckless driving that results in death
- Serious traffic offenses involving misconduct with a motor vehicle
- Trafficking in controlled substances or weapons
- A felony using a commercial vehicle
- Vehicular manslaughter
If you can meet the requirements for a CDL in your state, then you should start getting in touch with truck driving schools.
Finding A Truck Driving School
The best way to find a truck driving school that will accept you into their program is to call trucking schools and ask about their entry requirements and training fees.
Just as each trucking company has its own hiring requirements regarding felonies, truck driving schools will say yes or no depending on your criminal history and driving record.
Some trucking companies run their own truck driving schools, and other companies will reimburse your training costs over a period of time.
Plus some CDL schools are affiliated with certain trucking companies and can help you to find a job once you qualify.
Company-Owned Truck Driving Schools
These companies will pay for your CDL training at their school, and once you’ve qualified, they’ll hire you into their training program as a new driver. As a trainee driver, you’re paired with an experienced driver until you’ve got enough hours behind the wheel to drive solo. Once you can go solo, you’ll earn a better rate per mile.
You have to agree to work for the company for a minimum period to work off your training costs, though. If you leave before you’ve completed the minimum period, you’ll have to repay part of your training costs.
You’ll also need to pay your costs if you fail the CDL program and therefore can’t be hired as a truck driver.
A trucking company won’t take you to their school if you don’t meet their hiring requirements, and you’ll have to pass a background check and a motor vehicle report check (MVR).
These schools can be hard to get into with a felony, but it’s always worth applying because this is a very straightforward way to begin a truck driving career.
Some trucking companies offer CDL tuition reimbursement as a hiring incentive.
You’ll need to pay the truck driving school for your tuition, then once you pass and begin working for a trucking company, they will pay you a certain amount each month until all of your training costs have been paid back to you.
If you’re hoping to go this route, you should talk with recruiters at several trucking companies that offer tuition reimbursement to make sure that you would be eligible for hire once you’re qualified.
If a company is prepared to hire you after running your background report and MVR, they’ll give you a pre-hire letter. A pre-hire letter confirms that you meet their hiring requirements, and is an invitation to attend their new driver orientation once you have your CDL.
A pre-hire letter isn’t a formal job offer and you’ll still need to pass the rest of the checks they carry out at orientation. But with some pre-hire letters in your hand, you’ll know that employers are out there that will hire you with your particular criminal record.
If you can’t obtain pre-hire letters, it’s best to wait for some more time to pass and then try again, because it’s pointless paying for truck driving school if you won’t be able to get a job afterward.
Some CDL schools won’t accept you on to their program unless you have a pre-hire letter.
Here’s a list of trucking companies that are open to hiring felons that you can approach to find out about their CDL school or tuition reimbursement offers:
- Carter Express
- C R England
- Jim Palmer Trucking
- Knight Transportation
- Maverick Transportation
- Pam Transport
- Roehl Transport
- USA Truck
- Wil Trans
In addition to contacting these companies, you should contact as many recruiters as you can to find out about your employment eligibility.
How Felons Can Attend Truck Driving School For Free
Another option worth investigating is your state’s WIOA program. WIOA stands for Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act. This is a federal program that provides funds your state can use for adult education and training.
CDL training courses are eligible for WIOA grants and if you qualify, you’ll be able to get some or all of your trucking school tuition paid for.
This way you don’t need to find several thousand dollars for your tuition fees, and you won’t be tied to any company while you work off their investment in you.
WIOA grants are only available to unemployed individuals, and you’ll have to provide evidence that you’ve been searching for jobs.
With a WIOA grant, you won’t have free choice over the trucking school you attend because the grants are tied to truck driving schools approved by the WIOA program.
How Easy Is It To Get A Trucking Job With A Felony On Your Record?
While trucking companies are willing to hire felons, they’re all going to base their hiring decisions on the type of felony you have on your record, how long it’s been since the felony took place, and your conduct since that time.
Trucking companies carry out background checks during the hiring process, and as you know, a background check will reveal your criminal history.
Having a felony on your record isn’t an automatic disqualification, but some companies won’t consider your application unless a certain period of time has passed since your conviction.
For some trucking companies that period is 5 years, with others it’s 7 years or 10 years.
That said, there are trucking companies that don’t specify a minimum period and instead make their hiring decisions on a case-by-case basis after your interview and a review of all relevant information.
Felonies that will limit your employment options with trucking companies are ones involving theft, violence, driving offenses, and drugs.
If the bigger trucking companies say that your felony is too recent for them, or if it’s a felony that they won’t consider, you can also look at driving for agricultural transportation outfits, small local companies, construction companies, and oil drilling companies.
Some trucking schools also offer heavy equipment training and certification which would allow you to operate a wide range of construction equipment like bulldozers, excavators, and front loaders.
Obtaining your CDL at a truck driving school is an essential step you’ll need to complete if you want to drive a truck for a living. Having a felony on your record makes getting a truck driving job more difficult, but it’s not impossible.
Before you invest any time or money in a truck driving school, make sure that a trucking company will hire you once you have your CDL. Speak to trucking company recruiters and go through the application process to obtain pre-hire letters.
Robert Eric (a lover of Cats and Dogs) is the co-founder of HireFelonsJobs. In our search for a better life, after… A platform was created for the purpose of easing the search for ex-convicts.