Can a Felon Get a CDL?

You need a CDL to drive a heavy vehicle. These vehicles are school buses, semi-trucks, garbage trucks, or any other heavy vehicle that carries things or people. There are three different types of CDL’s, Class A, B and C. You will need one of the three CDL’s for different heavy vehicles.

The average annual salary for all people use who a CDL at work is $58,000. If you are specifically interested in being a truck driver, the average trucker salary is $64,730 a year. Trucking companies have a reputation as being felon-friendly. People often think of trucking jobs when they decide to get a CDL. However, there are other CDL careers as well: courier, bus driver, or delivery driver.

You may be a good fit for this job if you enjoy driving and are comfortable with driving large and heavy vehicles. Backing up a semi-truck is not like backing up a car! Depending on the job, you need to be comfortable being alone for long stretches. You may go for extended times without seeing your family and friends. You need to be physically fit. You will have to sit for long time periods. You may also have to load and unload whatever you are delivering. You can’t have any health conditions that affect your driving. To be a truck driver, you will need a Medical Examiner’s Certificate.

There may be some expenses: you will have to pay to apply for a CDL, pay for a CDL, and maybe pay for school. For example, trucking school costs between $3000-$7000. Don’t let the amount of money keep you from pursuing a job with a CDL. There are a lot of job shortages now in the CDL field. For example, trucking companies are desperate for drivers. They may help with the tuition. If your job doesn’t pay for school, there are some re-entry programs in the U.S. that may be able to help with a grant or a loan that can be used for education. Check your state. Also, the United States government offers grants.

Can a person with a felony conviction on their record get a CDL?

Yes, if your felony did not involve a vehicle. If your felony involved a vehicle, maybe.  The following crimes will disqualify you from a federal CDL license: bribery, arson, treason, smuggling, kidnapping, extortion, and manslaughter with intent to murder. Otherwise, you have an excellent chance of being able to get a CDL.  Of course, getting your CDL isn’t enough. You need to find an employer willing to hire you.

Before you go any further, check out your state. The information you are specifically looking for may not be listed. There is contact information if you have questions. There are no federal laws regarding who can get a CDL license- except for the felonies listed above. Even with those felonies, though, check out the information in your state. There may be exceptions.

What is the process to get a CDL?

There are two ways to go about it. You can get a CDL license first. You go to your local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and follow the process. You will fill out an application, pass a written exam, and pass a driving test using a large vehicle. The DMV will run a background check.

The other option is to try to find an employer before getting a CDL. They will have their own process. They may want you to go to school first and then get a CDL. Some employers run background checks and some don’t.

Information about background checks:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( EEOC) requires employers and licensors to get your permission before running a background check.

Oftentimes you are expected to pay for your background check.

If you want a head’s up as to what your background check will look like, you can run your own background check.

Legally, you can be discriminated against because of your felony conviction. It is not legal to discriminate because of gender, race, age ( over 40), disability, gender identity, sexual identity, pregnancy, color, religion or genetic information.

Some states have a seven-year limit on background checks. Check the laws in your state. The states that have a seven-year limit are California, Colorado, New York, Kansas, Montana, Maryland,  Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Texas,  and Washington.

If you do not live in one of these states, your felony conviction will be on a background check.  However, the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) decides how many years back to check. One strategy you might avail is to find out ahead of time how far back the DMV checks. If your felony was years ago, and the DMV application doesn’t require you to reveal the felony, you may decide not to mention it.

You should be completely honest when filling out the CDL application. You can be denied a CDL license if you falsify information on the application.

Requirements to get a CDL

You need a valid driver’s license – a regular driver’s license, not a CDL. You need to be 18 years old. If a job requires driving into other states, you need to be 21. You do not need a high school diploma to get a CDL. However, specific employers or schools may require a high school diploma or a GED. You need to be 21 if your vehicle will carry any hazardous materials. Some companies will require you to be 23, for insurance reasons. You need to pass a medical exam.

First, get a medical exam from the Department of Transportation (DOT) before going any further.  Conditions such as diabetes, color blindness, sleep apnea, heart issues, certain disabilities, high blood pressure, and poor vision can prevent you from passing the medical exam. No one will hire you and you can’t get a CDL without this DOT medical exam.

If you live in a state with background check limits and  know that you will be able to conceal your felony honestly on an application, then you can decide which order is best. However, if you feel that the employer will find out about the felony conviction through a background check or the application process, then you may decide to be upfront about your felony conviction.

Even if you are not concerned about your felony record, there may be practical reasons to try to find an employer first. A CDL alone doesn’t get you a job. An employer can sponsor you. You will receive help and support to get a CDL. For example, most of the trucking companies websites say they will hire you first. After you are hired you will go through the CDL and schooling process. Also, you need to do the CDL test using a large vehicle. You might not own a garbage truck. If you are being sponsored by an employer, you will be able to use one of their vehicles.

It can be helpful to have employer support if you have a felony on your record. The state laws can be difficult to figure out, especially if your felony record involves a vehicle. An employer will be very familiar with the laws in your specific state.

Keeping your felony a secret can backfire. For example, if you are a trucker and a specific job would require you to drive into Canada, you will not be able to do that easily. It’s possible to enter Canada, but it will take some extra steps. If you can be honest with your employer, you might get assistance with some of the details.  When employers knows about your felony conviction and want to hire you, they will be on your side.  Employers can help you navigate the difficulties.


In summary:

Getting a CDL license can lead to a well-paying job. There are many CDL jobs available. Many jobs that require a CDL license are felon-friendly. You might be able to get a job first, then get help with the education and licensing requirements.


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