Newbies - Becoming A Driver


In the past several years there has been a lot of mention how desperately the trucking industry is in need of drivers. Though this is true, companies are looking for qualified drivers. Economic downturn, insurance hikes and the new security environment have caused most carriers to tighten their hiring criteria.

It is not so easy these days to find a good driving job. Companies will conduct a thorough and detailed check on an applicant's driving, criminal and employment history. Any red flag that gives reason for concern may cause that applicant to be passed over in favor of a more qualified one.

Even before attending school, evaluate your background to see if you have any red flags. If so, contact carriers to find if any would be willing to hire you (a driving school will not necessarily give you a true answer). Here are some red flags to consider:

Felonies & Misdemeanors

This is a huge issue with trucking companies. For one, a felon is not allowed into Canada without a special Minister's Permit and most companies will not spend the extra effort on obtaining one. The type of freight is also a concern. If it is valuable and easy to sell on the street, no one will want to take the chance with someone convicted of theft. A company that hauls hazardous materials will not wish to hire someone with a criminal record, especially following 9-11.

Misdemeanors are also looked at closely since felony charges are sometimes plead down to this lesser charge. If there is more than one misdemeanor on a person's record, it will show that the individual has had numerous run-ins with the law. It shows a questionable past and presents a risk that most companies are unwilling to take.

Drug/Alcohol Charges

Drug or alcohol charges within the last five years are a bad mark on the record. Being responsible for driving 80,000 pounds on crowded highways and in populated towns requires a clear-headed individual. Companies cannot take a chance on someone who has shown to be a drug and alcohol user, especially if charged more than once. If the charges are over five years old, there is a better chance for employment.

Traffic Violations

Most companies have a standard of no more than two moving violations in the last three years, and no reckless driving for at least five years. The entire driving record is looked at including personal vehicles. The type of violation is also considered, whether it is a speeding ticket or an accident that was the applicant's fault. The most concern is over violations in a commercial vehicle, but personal vehicle violations can also hinder employment.

Employment Gaps

With the nation's heightened security environment, you must account for the past ten years of employment (or whereabouts if you were in school). This includes any contact information a carrier will need to verify your employment history--and they will check it out! Any unaccounted gaps will raise the question, "What is he hiding?" There is no way around this issue. You must have your records in order and be able to prove your employment for the past 10 years.

Health Concerns

There are many health problems that will eliminate an individual's option for driving over-the-road. Some of these include vision problems, hypertension, insulin-dependent diabetes and physical handicaps. If a disease can be brought under control and managed, then the driver can usually get on the road. A person may be unaware of a health problem (like high blood pressure) until the DOT physical then find himself no longer eligible to become a driver. This should be checked into before spending the money for school.

One other note here is that narcotics, even ones prescribed by a doctor, are not permitted for use by a driver. These will show up in mandatory drug test and are considered a risk to safe driving. The DOT has a long list of prescriptions that are not allowed.