First, I would like to thank and commend you on such an excellent resource as this web site. I have been searching everywhere for some “straightforward” advice on becoming a trucker.
I will be 31 in a few months and I have a felony charge that will be 10 years old in December this year. I have already enrolled in Truck Driver Training and will finish on April 26. I guess my question is this: What advice to you have about companies willing to hire “New” drivers with a criminal record? Especially between the 7-10 year mark.
Response from Vicki:
Thank you for your compliment on our website and for honoring us by considering us as able to provide you with straightforward advice about becoming a truck driver. Everything we do is designed to help professional truck drivers save money.
You are to be commended for wanting to obtain employment by which to support yourself (and any family members you may have).
We advise truck driving school graduates to talk about their expectations regarding the education they should receive during their training periods with their driver trainers. Then after they are gainfully employed, they need to pay off their federal student loans or other loans and debt so as to become debt-free as soon as possible.
Future truck drivers should really begin with this goal in mind: getting hired by and doing their best work for a trucking company. Some drivers go on to own and operate their own rigs; they are called owner-operators.
Before a person can drive a commercial motor vehicle (in the USA), he or she must be qualified. That qualification consists of more than just getting a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
* The qualifications of drivers: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/eta/part391.htm. You may wish to view the section entitled “Revocation, suspension, or withdrawal of an operator’s license.”
* There is a Driver Qualification File Checklist: https://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/safetyplanner/documents/Forms/Driver%20Qualification%20Checklist_508.pdf.
* There are general requirements for driver qualification files: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrruletext.aspx?reg=391.51.
* A person must be physically qualified to drive: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrruletext.aspx?reg=391.41.
Hopefully, before you started truck driver training school, you fully disclosed your background to folks at the school. You may have had to provide to your school a copy of your MVR (motor vehicle record). If it’s clean, that’s a plus.
Find out if your truck driver training school ran a background check on you. If so, find out what is says and see if you can get a copy.
Hopefully, the folks at your school would have told you in advance if the kind of felony you committed will prevent you from getting a job as a professional truck driver. (Of course, we wouldn’t put it past unscrupulous trucking schools to admit and train students who have no hope of ever becoming truck drivers.)
I’m going to say this as delicately as possible: you need to be aware of the negative attitude that some in the trucking industry will have of you because of your record.
Perhaps you are aware that professional truck drivers are entrusted with the operation of a commercial motor vehicle worth tens of thousands of dollars and freight that could be worth substantially more. It may be difficult to break into the trucking industry with any kind of felony on your record.
Here are some other resources that may help you:
* The U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now has a “Pre-Employment Screening Program.”
* This thread about a CDL/DOT background check has information from some drivers who have had or know of people who have had felonies and what happened when they wanted to become truck drivers.
* HireRight provides a DAC Employment History File — which “is the only employment history database of its kind in the transportation industry” — for each driver. You would be well advised to get a copy of your DAC Report. Please note that DAC Reports are not foolproof and may contain false information, as this article describes.
OK, you asked, “What advice to you have about companies willing to hire ‘New’ drivers with a criminal record?”
Every person has at some time in his or her life behaved in a way they’re not proud of. Some folks cross the line by committing actions that are illegal. Of those, some are held responsible for those actions. The legal system sets the penalty for those actions. If folks who committed illegal actions have paid the penalty and shown evidence of never repeating them, we think that — on a case-by-case basis — they should be considered for a second chance.
The person who has been given a second chance needs to be very careful not to ruin it. Metaphorically speaking, a person or business has only two cheeks; if the right one gets slapped and the left one is turned, make sure you don’t slap the left one, too.
Understand from trucking companies’ perspectives that they are becoming more and more liable for the drivers they hire. Their insurance or hiring guidelines may prevent them from hiring anyone with a criminal record no matter how well he/she has turned his/her life around.
If your truck driving school has someone in charge of job placement, he or she will hopefully be able to assist you with finding a trucking company that will hire you.
If you do an online search for the phrase “trucking companies that hire felons” you may find what you’re looking for. Make sure that you fully disclose your background on your applications.
Even after getting hired by a trucking company, there may still be restrictions regarding your travel. Mike says that if you are a U.S. citizen, you cannot go into Canada with a felony on your record. There can be serious ramifications if you do.
I trust that this has been helpful to you.
If you succeed in becoming a professional truck driver, we wish you safe travels and lots of money saving opportunities on the road. We would also appreciate knowing how things turn out for you.