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how to avoid being disqualified for a CDL

A CDL or commercial drivers license is ultimately the key to a successful trucking career. Just as you are not legally able to drive your own personal vehicle without a valid drivers license - something you can lose by accumulating violations and offenses, the same is true for your CDL as well. However, in this case, the conversation is more complicated due to the fact that certain things that you do in your personal life may not automatically disqualify you from getting a CDL. Let's take a look at how this works ...

Key Takeaways

  • Felony convictions for negligent homicide or involving controlled substances can disqualify individuals from obtaining a CDL.
  • Violations such as excessive speeding, reckless driving, improper traffic lane changes, following too closely, and driving under the influence can also result in disqualification.
  • Violating out-of-service orders, especially when transporting hazardous materials or operating a vehicle designed for 16 or more passengers, can have serious consequences and jeopardize CDL status.
  • Non-trucking offenses, such as DUI while driving a personal vehicle or felony charges unrelated to driving, can pose barriers to obtaining a CDL and may impact professional opportunities. These offenses however are not automatic disqualifiers to getting or maintaining your Commercial Drivers License.

What New Truckers Need To Know About the Importance Of A CDL

As a truck driver, your CDL is your passport to the industry. It's proof that you've mastered the skills needed to operate a commercial vehicle safely and efficiently. Without a CDL, your access to fruitful employment opportunities within the industry is severely limited and ultimately limited to non-driving roles. Operating a commercial motor vehicle is not a right - it is a privilege.

A Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is required to operate large, heavy, or hazardous material vehicles in the United States. The process to obtain a CDL can vary slightly between states, but generally, the following steps are involved:

  1. Determine the Type of CDL You Need: There are different classes of CDLs (Class A, B, and C) depending on the type of vehicle you plan to drive. Determine which class is appropriate for your needs.
  2. Meet the Basic Requirements: You must be at least 18 years old (21 if you plan to drive across state lines), have a valid driver's license, and meet certain medical requirements.
  3. Obtain a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP):
    • Pass a vision test.
    • Provide proof of identity, residency, and Social Security number.
    • Pass a written knowledge test covering general trucking knowledge, air brakes, and the specific type of vehicle you plan to drive.
    • Pay the required fee.
  4. Complete CDL Training: Many individuals choose to attend a CDL training school to prepare for the CDL exam. This is not always required but can be very helpful.
  5. Gain Experience with a CLP: You must hold the CLP for at least 14 days before taking the CDL skills test. During this time, you can practice driving the commercial vehicle under the supervision of a licensed CDL holder.
  6. Pass the CDL Skills Test: This test includes a pre-trip inspection, a basic vehicle control test, and an on-road driving test. You must schedule this test with an approved testing location in your state.
  7. Submit Required Documentation and Pay Fees: Once you pass the skills test, you will need to submit any additional required documentation and pay the CDL fee.
  8. Follow Any Additional State-Specific Requirements: Some states may have additional requirements or steps, so it's essential to check with your local DMV or equivalent agency.
  9. Maintain Your CDL: Once obtained, you must adhere to all federal and state regulations governing commercial driving. Regular medical examinations and following all traffic laws are essential to keeping your CDL.
  10. Consider Endorsements: Depending on the specific type of commercial driving you plan to do, you may need to obtain additional endorsements, such as for transporting hazardous materials or passengers. These typically require additional testing and fees.

Remember, the exact process and requirements may vary by state and the type of commercial driving you plan to do, so it's essential to consult with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent agency to understand the specific requirements in your area.

In short, a CDL isn't just a license. It's a badge of honor, a testament to your skill, dedication, and professionalism. Cherish it, protect it, and let it pave your way to a rewarding trucking career.

Felonies That Can Disqualify You From Getting A CDL

Certain serious crimes could prevent you from obtaining a commercial driver's license. For instance, a felony conviction might be grounds for CDL disqualification. These felonies can range from negligent homicide to the commission of a felony involving controlled substances. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, these disqualifications can last anywhere from one year to life, depending on the severity of the crime.

Now, it's important to understand that your criminal record plays a significant role in your eligibility for a CDL. If you have committed a felony, it's likely to affect your ability to drive a commercial vehicle. This is because driving such vehicles is not just a job, but a responsibility. A CDL isn't simply handed out; it's a privilege awarded to those who've proven they can safely operate large vehicles.

safe driving is essential to maintaining your commerical drivers license

Violations and Major Driving Offenses Can Cause You To Be Disqualified Too

Remember, major driving offenses can also put your commercial driving privileges in jeopardy. This is because  truck driving jobs are highly regulated and so serious traffic violations and major offenses can get you disqualified in no time. Your CDL license is not just a credential, it's a badge that shows you've shown responsibility to being a safe driver who has managed to avoid serious traffic offenses and serious violations of local law as well as generally accepted safe trucking practices.

Let's delve into how these violations can tarnish your driving record:

  • Serious traffic violations: Excessive speeding, reckless driving, making improper or erratic traffic lane changes, or following too closely can lead to disqualification.
  • Major offenses: Being under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, leaving the scene of an accident, or refusing an alcohol test can also get you disqualified.
  • Violating out-of-service orders: Transporting hazardous materials or operating a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers while under an out-of-service order can have serious consequences.

With each offense, you're not only endangering lives but also risking your belonging to the professional driver community. Remember, your actions on the road reflect on your worthiness to be a CDL holder.

Non Trucking Violations Can Prohibit You From Getting Endorsements

Even non-trucking offenses can prevent obtaining endorsements for your commercial driver's license. It's crucial to understand that driving a non-commercial vehicle doesn't shield you from scrutiny. The rules aren't limited to your professional life; they extend to your personal life too.

Past mistakes, especially those involving felony charges, can haunt your future opportunities.

Let's dive deeper. Suppose you're charged with a DUI while driving your personal vehicle. That's a non-trucking offense, right? But, it can still affect your commercial driver license status. It's a blemish on your record, a stain that can hinder your progress towards acquiring endorsements. However it may not automatically disqualify you from getting or maintaining a CDL.

Similarly, if you've been hit with felony charges, even unrelated to driving, they could pose significant barriers. Felony convictions make the authorities question your responsibility and reliability, two qualities essential for a commercial driver.

So, take care. Your actions, both in and out of your truck, have consequences. Don't let past mistakes jeopardize your dream of cruising the open roads professionally.

Temporary vs Lifetime CDL Disqualification

It's important to know the difference between temporary and lifetime disqualifications for your commercial driving license, as they can have drastically different impacts on your career. Understanding the nuances of felonies and violations can help you navigate the challenges and maintain your standing within your professional community.

Temporary disqualifications, usually resulting from less serious offenses or a first offense, limit your ability to drive commercially for a set period. However, a lifetime disqualification, often a result of repeated or extremely serious offenses, can completely halt your career.

Consider these major differences:

  • A temporary disqualification may last from a few days to several years, depending on the severity of the violation and whether it's a first or second offense.
  • Lifetime disqualifications are irreversible. Once your license is gone, it's gone for good.
  • Some serious offenses can lead to immediate lifetime disqualification, even if it's your first offense.

A Final Word On CDL Qualification And DUI Records

Navigating the process of obtaining a CDL qualification with a DUI on your record can be challenging, but don't lose hope; there are resources and options available to help you through.

A DUI conviction is not an automatic disqualification for a commercial license, although it does add a layer of complexity to the process.

States have varying guidelines on felonies and violations, so it's essential to understand your state's CDL requirements. A thorough background check will be conducted, and the timing between the DUI and your CDL application may impact your eligibility. Some states may require a waiting period after a DUI before you can apply for a CDL.

For instance, in Ohio, a CDL holder can only have a 0.04 BAC compared to the standard limit of 0.08 Blood Alcohol Concentration for normal drivers. Similar regulations apply to those cited to be under the influence of a controlled substance and most trucking companies will require regular drug tests. 

As for employment, remember, CDL drivers with a DUI might face limitations, but opportunities do exist. Companies set their own hiring policies, and some are willing to hire drivers with a DUI past a certain number of years. The key is to research and ask questions before applying.

Ultimately, your DUI doesn't define you and the trucking industry has different policies that you should research before applying for a trucking job. With perseverance, correct information, and assistance from resources like the Driver Resource Center, you can still navigate the path to a commercial driving career.


In conclusion, your CDL is essential for a successful trucking career. Whether it's felonies, major driving offenses, or non-trucking violations, all can disqualify you. As a result, it's essential to know the difference between temporary and lifetime disqualification as well as the specific rules in the state where you hold your license. 

Ultimately, it always comes down to safety and the best advice that anyone can provide you about how to avoid being disqualified from getting a CDL is to maintain a clean record that shows good judgement, skilled driving, and safe operation of your truck.

Written by:
#MenWhoBlog MemberBlogging GuruThought Leader

James' passion for exploration and sense of duty to his community extends beyond himself. This means he is dedicated to providing a positive role model for other men and especially younger guys that need support so that they can thrive and be future positive contributors to society. This includes sharing wisdom, ideas, tips, and advice on subjects that all men should be familiar with, including: family travel, men's health, relationships, DIY advice for home and yard, car care, food, drinks, and technology. Additionally, he's a travel advisor and a leading men's travel influencer who has been featured in media ranging from New York Times to the Chicago Tribune, and LA Times. He's also been cited by LA Weekly "Top Travel Bloggers To Watch 2023" and featured by Muck Rack: "Top 10 Outdoor Journalists for 2022".

He and his wife Heather live in St Joseph, Michigan - across the lake from Chicago.