Second Chance Opportunities Expand Across the Transport Industry

In many sectors of the economy, job opportunities for those with criminal convictions in their past are not as plentiful as they are for others. Over time, this has led to the worsening of numerous social problems and blunted the impact of personal efforts at rehabilitation—when employers might quietly overlook anyone with a record, the likelihood of successfully reintegrating into society declines. These barriers can persist for years or even decades after someone exits prison.

In many states and locales across the United States, there are now specific rules meant to offer those with convictions a "fair chance." From "ban the box" laws that delay when an employer sees background information to strict guidelines for how and when a conviction can be a basis for denial, these rules in all their forms, seek to expand opportunities. However, not every state has such rules. In some industries, however, employers have begun to take a proactive approach toward recruiting and hiring individuals who have criminal records. This trend is particularly evident in the world of transportation and especially in trucking.

At a time when truck driver recruitment is more difficult than ever, keeping enough drivers on the road to maintain the supply chain is proving a serious challenge for carriers. Could loosening some of the requirements around background checks for transportation companies contribute to relieving some of the labor pressures facing the industry today? 

It's possible—and even some of the biggest trucking carriers in the US have begun to experiment with such a change, including Swift, the largest carrier in the nation. Their background checks remain DOT-compliant, but employers have begun to consider more factors than simply the appearance of a criminal record. Some set requirements—such as mandating that criminal records be older than ten years—while others will consider more recent charges on a case-by-case basis.

The result is a window that continues to open wider for the formerly incarcerated. As second/fair chance laws continue to evolve and take hold, exploring new industries for fresh career opportunities could be a viable path back to normalcy for many upon completing their sentences. If less-than-spotless background checks for truck drivers no longer seem like an automatic disqualification, the pool of applicants will expand—which may bring some relief to carriers strapped for qualified drivers. 

Even in industries that support transportation, workers with criminal backgrounds have begun to find many new job openings. For example, a supplier of critical aerospace parts and components to major builders such as Boeing has successfully expanded the number of individuals they considered for hiring. In fact, one manager speaking to the Seattle Times said such workers often exhibited a stronger drive to work hard and be reliable.

Even as social attitudes around criminal records change, many employers have been reluctant to embrace such change enough to pursue hiring those with records deliberately. However, if the trucking industry has any lessons to teach us, one is clear: finding success with expanded hiring criteria is not only possible, but also already in practice.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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