Can You Get A CDL With A Felony?

Having a felony conviction on your record can have far-reaching consequences. One of the toughest challenges is that of finding gainful employment.

In reality, many felons can get a job. However, most are low paying and often temporary. Jobs at temp agencies and seasonal work from retailers make up the bulk.

For those that are independent-minded and willing to learn new skills, truck driver jobs are a good fit. This now calls into question: Can you get a CDL with a felony.

Can You Get A CDL With A Felony

A CDL provides a driver with advanced skills and knowledge that makes them capable of handling commercial vehicles.

Before we look at how to go about getting a CDL, let’s consider what it is.

What Is A CDL?

A CDL is a commercial driving license. It is issued by the federal government and permits a driver to operate specific classes of vehicles for commercial purposes. These include:

  • Class A CDL – This is a universal commercial driver’s license. It allows the driver to operate Class A, Class B, and Class C commercial vehicles.

These vehicles have a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more. They also have a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds or more. The types of vehicles include trucks and trailers, tractor-trailers, tankers, and flatbed vehicles.

  • Class B CDL – With this license, a driver can operate a vehicle with a gross weight rating of over 26,001 pounds. They can also tow not more than 10,000 pounds.

The types of vehicles permitted this class include box trucks, dump trucks plus trailers, large buses, and straight trucks.

  • Class C CDL – These licenses are permitted for hauling of hazardous materials or vehicles that can accommodate more than 16 passengers. Vehicles permitted include passenger vehicles, hazmat vehicles, and combination vehicles not categorized under Class A and B.

Even with minor traffic infractions on record, you can still qualify for a CDL. You do not need to have a clean driving record. But you will have clear up any outstanding issues like overdue parking tickets and temporary suspensions.

Now that we have defined what a CDL is, let’s move on to what is needed to get one.

Requirements for CDL Training

Can You Get A CDL With A Felony Training

Felons that have had their licenses held will have to wait until they are reinstated.  A valid driver’s license is required before you can begin training for a CDL.  Other requirements to qualify for a CDL include:

  • Being over 21 years of age for interstate travel
  • Have proof of state residency
  • Have an ID and social security number
  • Pass a vision test, road skills, driving, and knowledge exam
  • Qualify for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP)

It is just as important to know the dos as it is the do nots. So let’s consider what will disqualify a person from earning their CDL.

Disqualifiers For A CDL

Can You Get A CDL With A Felony Disqualifier

Just as with many other occupations, certain offenses may be in direct conflict with truck driving. These offenses can make it impossible to earn a driver’s license. These can include:

  • Use of a commercial vehicle in the commission of a felony
  • Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level exceeding 0.04
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Treason
  • Excessive speeding
  • Causing a fatality through reckless driving
  • Driving while under the influence of a controlled substance
  • Distribution of controlled substances
  • Repeat offending

Some of these offenses can delay acquiring a CDL, or result in the suspension of the license. In some states, these disqualifications can be reduced if the driver undergoes a driver rehabilitation program.

Note that an application for a CDL will go to the DMV. Here they will review the applicants driving record that should reveal any of the above offenses.

State and Federal Highway Administrations forward conviction details the commercial driver’s license program. They then share this data with state authorities. This can lead to rejection of a learner’s permit or disqualification or suspension of a CDL.

Are Background Checks Done?

The DMV does carry out background checks for CDL applicants. It is important when applying for the learner’s permit to be honest about your criminal history. Be sure to complete the application properly.

Include all relevant details including the type of offense, date of conviction, and efforts to rehabilitate. Lack of full disclosure may be considered an act of fraud.

Even trucking firms carry out background checks when hiring. Due to the standard of care involved in this business, they have to ensure they have responsible drivers. This does not mean they do not hire felons.

As said, it all depends on multiple factors including the crime committed, time since conviction, and personal character. These companies are often willing to give second chances and will judge each applicant on a case-to-case basis.

Tips For Getting Hired By Trucking Firms

Can You Get A CDL With A Felony Tip

As mentioned, honesty is the best policy. When applying for a CDL learner permit, be sure to divulge all pertinent details of your criminal past. Do the same when applying for a position at a trucking firm.

Since background checks are mandatory, they will find out anyway. And, any omission may be considered an act of fraud. It may even result in jail time.

Be sure to emphasize the ways you have tried to rehabilitate yourself. From actual rehab program completion to volunteer work, try to demonstrate the positive changes made.

Having your records expunged may also be helpful. This can allow you to answer ‘no’ concerning violations or convictions. Consult a lawyer to find out if you are eligible for this kind of relief.

The passage of time can also help to clear your driving record. So being a bit patient may be beneficial too.

Beef up your resume by taking advantage of any educational and training opportunities. Volunteer work can also help the same way and provide you with valuable references.


It may be slightly more difficult for a felon to secure a trucking job but it is not impossible. While these jobs offer great benefits, they can be very isolating and call for a high level of personal discipline.

There is also a high demand for drivers which has encouraged many trucking firms to advertise their willingness to hire felons. Not all felons may qualify. But if you have completed your sentence and have evidence of rehabilitation, chances are good.

Focus on companies known to hire felons and ensure your offenses do not conflict with the job role. Also, demonstrate a willingness to learn and enthusiasm to work. Your character and efforts to turn your life around may go a long way in persuading a potential employer.

Also, seek the support of family and friends. They may have useful contacts or act as character references for your resume.

Most importantly, do not give up. Keep trying to better your life and look for worthwhile opportunities. It may take some time but others have done it before, and so can you.

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