CDL Hazmat Endorsement Overview – Easy Guide (2021)

| Last Updated: November 8, 2021

Are you a commercial truck driver eager to make more money? More money comes when you land better-paying jobs, which are possible with a CDL HazMat Endorsement.

The HazMat endorsement allows you to safely and legally haul hazardous materials, which generally pay more. Even better, the endorsement makes your job application more appealing to employers.

This guide will help you understand what a CDL HazMat Endorsement is, requirements for obtaining it, types, benefits, among other basics.  

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What is a Hazmat Endorsement?

A HazMat Endorsement is an additional endorsement on your commercial driving license (CDL) that allows you to legally and safely haul hazardous materials.

To get this endorsement, you need to apply for it and sit for a written test at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You'll also need to pass a DOT medical exam and a fingerprint background check.

Hazmat Endorsement Requirements

Here are the general requirements for obtaining a CDL HazMat Endorsement:

  • Be a US citizen or have legal permanent resident status

  • Be at least 21 years

  • Have a valid medical certificate or a medical examiner card

  • Have a valid commercial driving license that applies to your state

  • Pass the TSA (Transport Security Administration) background check - (Also known as the Federal Security Threat Assessment). You may have to physically visit a TSA center in your state to have a background check.

  • Pass the HazMat Endorsement written test on safe hauling of hazardous materials. The questions also focus on emergencies, driving regulations, and HazMat drivers' responsibility.  

Types of Hazmat Endorsements

Essentially, there are three types of HazMat Endorsements:

  • H Endorsement – This endorsement is necessary for transporting any hazardous material. An H Endorsement, what most people know as the HazMat Endorsement, requires you to pass a written HazMat test and a TSA fingerprint background check.

  • X Endorsement – This endorsement is necessary for hauling 119 gallons or more of hazard materials in a tanker.

  • N Endorsement – This endorsement is generally necessary for operating a tanker (tanked vehicle). 

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 A tanker typically transports hazardous liquids or liquefied gases.

When is a Hazmat Endorsement Required?

A HazMat Endorsement is necessary in the following cases:

  1. When the vehicle transports hazardous materials that require you to display a placard

In this case, any material under section code 49 U.S.C 5103 is classified as hazardous and thus needs to be placarded. That includes explosives, flammables, liquefied gases, toxic chemicals, infectious substances, radioactive materials, compressed gas, and corrosive substances.

  1. When you want to transport 119 gallons or more of hazardous materials in a tanker

The endorsement gives you the legal authority and proves you can safely transport hazardous materials in bulk.

  1. When your job involves handling hazardous materials in bulk

A HazMat Endorsement doesn't just apply to drivers, but anyone who loads receives, and packs hazardous materials in bulk.

So, generally, anyone who handles hazardous materials needs a HazMat Certificate, but you specifically need the endorsement on your driving license if you are a commercial truck driver.

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How to Get a Hazmat Endorsement

The process of getting a HazMat Endorsement is not complicated if you have the necessary documents and meet all application requirements.

Here are the general steps of obtaining a HazMat Endorsement:

1. Apply for the Endorsement

You can choose to schedule your application appointment or present yourself at the TSA office to tender your application. You need to bring your CDL or passport and birth certificate, necessary for the background check.

2. Pay the Application Fees

A HazMat Endorsement application is not free. You have to pay $86.50 for the background check and about $15-$20 for the HazMat tests.

3. Pass a DOT Physical Test

An approved medical examiner does this test, and it tests your physical ability to drive and handle hazardous materials. It includes a vision test, among other physical examinations that the DOT deems necessary.

4. Sit for the HazMat Written Test

You need to sit for the HazMat test at the DMV in your state. The test is a set of 30-50 questions that focus on safe loading and unloading, handling, and safe transportation of hazardous materials.

You can prepare for this test by carefully studying your state's basic HazMat guidelines.

5. Obtain TSA Background Check Clearance

After sitting for the HazMat written test, the next thing is to provide your fingerprint details at the TSA center to allow them to run a background check. This process usually takes 30-45 days.

6. Wait for the Results

You have to wait for 30-45 days to receive your background check results in your mail, and you need a score of at least 80% to pass the HazMat test.

Is a HazMat Endorsement Hard to Obtain and Maintain?

A HazMat Endorsement is harder than other endorsements to obtain but easy to maintain if you meet all the requirements and renew it on time. Unless you commit a felony, you won't have a problem applying for the endorsement if you meet the DMV's and TSA's basic requirements.

Perhaps the only challenge is that the TSA background check may take more than a month, which can be frustrating.

The other thing is that if you learn to renew the endorsement when you renew your driver's license or after every five years, you won't have a problem with the law.

What Can Disqualify You From Getting a Hazmat Endorsement?

You automatically get disqualified from getting a HazMat Endorsement if you were convicted of a felony (serious crime). That includes the following:

  • Drug dealing

  • Murder

  • Treason

  • Handling of explosives

  • Weapons violation

  • Assort

  • Robbery

  • Kidnapping

  • Bribery

  • Rape

  • Extortion

  • Smuggling

You can visit your state's TSA office to check the complete list of the crimes that disqualify you from a HazMat Endorsement.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Hazmat Endorsement?

A HazMat Endorsement takes time. It's not as quick as other endorsement processes.

For one, the TSA background check takes a minimum of 30 days. It could be more, depending on how the TSA officers work.

You may also need two weeks more to prepare and sit for the DMV and DOT physical tests. While the DOT physical test usually doesn't take long, sometimes you may wait in line to see a DOT-certified medical examiner.

So, generally, you could be looking at about 45-60 days, depending on how fast things turn up.

Benefits of Having a HazMat Endorsement

Here are the primary benefits of having HazMat Endorsement:

1. Increased Wages

Drivers with a Hazmat Endorsement make more money than those without it. That's because the endorsement allows you to haul hazardous materials, which pay better.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers who deal with hazardous materials make an average of $45,500 annually. It, however, could be more depending on the trucking company and the number of trips you take.

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2. Hireability

It's ordinarily easier to get a transportation job involving hazardous materials when you have HazMat Endorsement. Even when you apply for a job with other drivers, having a HazMat Endorsement makes your CV more appealing to the employer. Thus, your chances of getting hired are more.

3. Combining with Tanker Endorsement

In some states, you need a combined HazMat Endorsement and Tanker Endorsement to haul bulk liquids and gases.

4. Job Security

A HazMat Endorsement doesn't just improve your hireability and the likelihood to earn more, but it also improves your job security. It's not easy to lose your job as a truck driver when you have a HazMat Endorsement unless you commit a grave offense.

How Does a Hazmat Endorsement Differ From a Hazmat Certificate?

By law, the authorization to carry hazardous materials is known as Hazmat Endorsement. An endorsement is usually a unique mark attached to your commercial driving license.

But when you secure a separate document for hauling hazardous materials, we use the term HazMat License or HazMat Certificate.

So, these two terms mean that you have the TSA authority to transport hazardous materials. The only difference is that you have a separate document in the case of a certificate instead of just a mark on your CDL as it's the case of the endorsement.

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Can You Haul Hazardous Materials Without An Endorsement?

Yes, you can haul hazardous materials without an endorsement if it applies to any of these groups:

  • Class 9 materials (which include materials like asbestos, acetaldehyde ammonia, solid dry ice, and chainsaws.)

  • Hazardous materials that are less than 1,001 pounds (454 kg)

You should note that it's a felony to haul other classes of hazardous materials in bulk. It's one of the reasons you could get disqualified from getting a HazMat Endorsement in the future.

It's advisable to apply for the endorsement before hauling the hazardous materials to be safe.

Besides, losing the right to get the endorsement in the future is not the only risk. The fact that you don't have the endorsement means you are likely not aware of the safety protocols of handling hazardous materials, which means you are a safety risk.

You could also face criminal charges. In that case, you could lose your commercial driving license and pay up to $75,000 in fines.

How Much Hazardous Material Can I Haul Without a Hazmat Endorsement?

The Department of Transportation has specific criteria for defining hazardous materials. Just because a material is hazardous doesn't mean it only qualifies to be hauled by an endorsement driver.

It's a matter of quantity here. The higher the quantity, the more hazardous it is to the environment and people, and that's when you need a HazMat Endorsement.

In particular, you don't need the endorsement when hauling hazardous materials that are less than 1,001 pounds (454 kg). 

You also don't need the endorsement when operating a vehicle with class 9 hazardous materials like asbestos, acetaldehyde ammonia, solid dry ice, and chainsaws.

Conclusion

From the above guide, you now know what a HazMat Endorsement is, why and when you need it, and the requirements for its application. 

You can go ahead and obtain this vital endorsement, which is good for your career as a commercial truck driver. It makes you stand out, and that makes it worth your time and effort.

People Also Ask

While we've covered the basics of HazMat Endorsement, there is still so much to learn as the topic is broad and often confusing. Here are some additional questions people ask about the HazMat Endorsement:

How Do I Know When My Hazmat Endorsement Expires?

HazMat Endorsement licenses are valid for five years. After five years, you need to reapply for the endorsement, which means redoing the process. You'll have to go again through the TSA background check and retake the DMV HazMat written test.

Is The Hazmat Endorsement Worth Having?

A HazMat Endorsement is worth having. For one, it improves your hireability. With it, you stand out above other commercial truck drivers when applying for a job involving the transportation of hazardous materials.

A HazMat Endorsement also gives you more leverage with your employer when asking for a salary raise. Additionally, it improves your job security as not every truck driver has it.

How Much Does It Cost To Get a Hazmat Endorsement?

You’ll need to first pay $86.50 for the background check, payable at the TSA office. Besides the background check fee, you’ll pay $15-$20 for the HazMat Endorsement written test, which is payable at the DMV office.

Is Class 9 Considered Hazmat?

Yes, Class 9 materials are hazardous. However, a HazMat Endorsement is not necessary when handling class 9 materials. That includes asbestos, solid dry ice, chain saws, ammonium nitrate, and acetaldehyde ammonium.

Can a Felon Get a Hazmat Endorsement?

A felon cannot get a HazMat Endorsement if they were convicted of any of these crimes:

  • Murder
  • Treason
  • Drug dealings
  • Weapons violations
  • Dealing with explosions
  • Espionage
  • Assault
  • Unsafe transportation of hazardous materials

Moreover, you cannot obtain a HazMat Endorsement if you have been indicted for robbery or any immigration violation.



After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.