Not all felonies disqualify you from getting a commercial driver's license, or CDL. If you have a criminal conviction that doesn't prohibit you from holding a CDL in your state, you can get one by taking the test and paying the required fee just like anyone else. While getting any job with a felony conviction in your background isn't often easy, there are many companies that hire truck drivers with felonies due to a shortage of good drivers.
Getting a Commercial Driver's License
As with other driver's licenses, CDLs are issued by the state after you pass a test and pay the required fee. Tests are in two parts: a written test and a road test. In most cases, you first apply for a learner's permit after taking a written test. After you have practiced with an instructor and pass a medical exam, you can then take the road test to qualify for a CDL. During this process, be prepared to be fingerprinted and have the DMV check your background for criminal offenses.
Felony Restrictions to CDLs
The restrictions on holding a CDL can vary in different states and depends on the reason for your conviction. The seriousness of the offense, the number of convictions you have had, and whether the offense involved driving a motor vehicle, all determine how long you must wait before getting a CDL.
In Texas, for example, if you have ever been convicted of using a motor vehicle to commit a felony, you will be banned from holding a CDL for life. If you have been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, or leaving the scene of an accident, you will be unable to hold a CDL for at least three years for your fist offense, and will be banned for life for a second offense.
In Minnesota, you will not be able to get your CDL for at least one year if you used a commercial motor vehicle to commit a felony. If that felony involved a controlled substance, like drugs, you will be disqualified for life. If you caused a fatality through negligent or criminal operation of a commercial vehicle, you will be disqualified for one year for your first offense, while a second offense will get you banned for life.
In Michigan, if you were convicted of committing a felony involving the manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance, you will be unable to get a CDL for at least ten years.
Traffic Offense Restrictions to CDLs
Serious traffic offenses, like reckless driving and excessive speeding, can also prevent you from getting a CDL. However these are bans that usually range from 60 to 120 days, depending on the offense and the number of offenses in your background. As with felonies, some traffic offenses are more serious than others, at least in regard to a CDL. In Texas, for example, if you improperly crossed a railway while driving, you will be banned from holding a CDL for 60 days on your first offense, 120 days for a second offense and at least one year for a third offense within a three-year period.
Time restrictions for getting your CDL can also be longer if your traffic violation occurred while driving a commercial vehicle, and even longer if that commercial vehicle carried hazardous substances.
- New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: Get a CDL
- CDI101: Trucking Companies That Hire Felons
- Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services: CDL Disqualification
- Michigan: CDL Drivers - Convicted of a Serious Traffic Violation
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Commercial Driver License (CDL) Disqualifications
- If a commercial motor vehicle was used to commit a felony, you will be disqualified from obtaining a CDL.
- You may hold a valid driver's license in only one state at a time.
- A felon is prohibited from hauling hazardous materials.
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has worked as a consultant for many small businesses and non-governmental organizations, including several law firms and bar associations. David has also has written hundreds of articles on legal matters and small business trends for newspapers, magazines and online publications including About.com and American Express.