Can Felons Get a CDL?

by Fran Bernard, on Jul 18, 2022 9:58:35 PM


Yes, you can! Depending on the felony, you can get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). As long as you are not prohibited by your parole terms, and you do not have a suspended driver’s license. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates who can get a CDL. Each State also has their own governing rules on who can obtain a CDL, so be sure and check with your State. 

How do I Start?

If your desire is to be a truck driver, going to your DMV and having them check your driving history will confirm if you’re eligible for a commercial driver’s license. Individual states have specific laws pertaining to felonies and commercial driver’s licenses. There could be technicalities in the law that will allow you to obtain a CDL with a felony charge in your state.

What Felonies would prevent me from getting a CDL?

Felonies that will prevent you from getting a CDL would include:

  • Arson
  • Bribery
  • Extortion
  • Kidnapping
  • Treason
  • Assault with intent to murder
  • Using a commercial vehicle and commission of felony first or second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle
  • Causing a fatality through negligent or reckless vehicle operation
  • Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher
  • Any felony committed using a commercial vehicle

What if I Have an Outstanding Warrant?

If there is currently a warrant out for your arrest for a felony offense, you are automatically disqualified from a commercial driver’s license until the warrant is released.

If your warrant is for other traffic violations, traffic tickets, or other issues you may not be disqualified from receiving your CDL. Probation rules and laws do differ from state to state, some states will allow you to get your CDL while others may not. You should inquire with your local DMV and/or probation officer.

What Should I do when Applying to Trucking Companies as a Felon?

FMSCA has strict regulations that every trucking company must follow. They will be looking not only at your application but also at your employment history, driving record, results of your Department of Transportation (DOT) physical and drug screen.

It is extremely important to be completely honest on your application. The trucking company that you are applying for a job at will be very diligent in investigating your past. It is better to be up front with them.

A major part of the application will be based on your prior work history. Trucking companies are required to look at your past ten years of employment history. Be sure to include contact information and correct dates. If you were unemployed over thirty days, tell them, they just need to know.

Honesty is the best policy. 

What are the trucking companies looking for in a felon applicant?

Trucking companies for the most part are very willing to give felons a second chance. They will take many things into consideration when they look over your application. Since you have a felony, you need to stand out in other areas. If for example you have a good driving record, that will most definitely help as they consider you for employment.

  • Having a steady employment record with no significant gaps between periods of employment without a reasonable explanation
  • Having recently graduated from an approved truck driving school
  • Willing to be trained by the trucking company
  • Truck driving experience
  • Good driving record

Do Background Check Limits Apply to Felons Applying to be Truckers?

Background check limits do not apply to felons who are applying to trucking companies. They will always do lifetime background checks as required by the federal laws and regulations.

Will trucking companies hire felons?

Yes, trucking companies are more than willing to hire felons.  You will find that some are more willing and less strict than others. The trucking companies will look at several things to determine if they will hire you:

  • The nature of your offense
  • The number of felonies
  • How long ago they were committed
  • Your driving record
  • Your level of experience with trucks
  • Work history

Many felons are hired everyday by trucking companies. 

Do trucking companies hire felons on probation?

Yes, there are many trucking companies that hire felons on probation, but it will depend on how recent the conviction was, and what type of felony was committed, along with how many times.  

What if my felony involved a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)?

If your felony conviction was involving the use or operation of a Commercial Motor Vehicle, then you will not be able to have your CDL reinstated

There are two conditions required to be present for a felony conviction to be a disqualifying offense under section 391.15.

  1. The offense was committed during on-duty time
  2. The driver was employed by a motor carrier or was engaged in activities that were in furtherance of a commercial enterprise

Are there a list of trucking companies that will hire felons?

Yes, there are many trucking companies that will hire felons, some will with additional training from their company. Here are some links of trucking companies that will hire felons and trucking companies that hire felons with five, seven, ten or more year old convictions.

There are many sites that will direct you to trucking companies that will hire felons depending on the length of time since the conviction.

What is a TWIC card for truck drivers?

A TWIC is an acronym for Transportation Worker Identification Credential card.  The TWIC card is needed for drivers who must have access to the nation’s maritime facilities, vessels, and other secure areas. The TWIC card identifies who has authorization to access secure marine areas. Truck drivers are required to have a TWIC card when accessing secure areas. 

Can a convict get a TWIC card?

A convicted felon can be approved for a TWIC card. While someone convicted of a crime may be initially denied a TWIC card, they can appeal the decision where a case for approval can be made.

While it is not impossible to get a TWIC card after a criminal conviction, certain crimes may temporarily prevent you from getting approved during the application process.

Click here for more information on Disqualifying Offenses and Other Factors.

What felonies disqualify you from getting a TWIC card?

  • Espionage or conspiracy to commit espionage.
  • Sedition or conspiracy to commit sedition.
  • Treason or conspiracy to commit treason.
  • A federal crime of terrorism as defined in 18 U.S.C.
  • A crime involving a TSI (Transportation Security Incident).

Is truck driving a good option for felons?

Absolutely! Truck driving is a wonderful opportunity to have steady employment and make great money. Everyone deserves a second chance, and this lifestyle could be just what you want to carve out a whole new life for yourself.


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