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Hazmat Endorsements: Everything You Need to Know
13 mins read

Now that the temperatures are dropping in most regions of the US, more CDL drivers are hauling flammable liquids, explosives, and gases on our roadways.

Hauling these hazardous materials, also known as hazmat, can be dangerous. These materials can cause damage and often pose a health risk to people, animals, and the environment, so it’s no surprise that the government requires drivers transporting these materials to have additional qualifications.

These qualifications are known as hazmat endorsements.

What is Hazmat Endorsement?

Hazmat endorsement is a certification a driver can get to allow them to legally transport hazardous materials in the United States. To get a hazmat endorsement you need to pass a written exam and background screening (known as the Hazmat Endorsement Threat Assessment Program), and then you’ll be given your hazmat endorsement which is signified on your license with a capital “H.”

Is Tanker Endorsement the Same as Hazmat?

No, while they both involve transporting hazardous materials, drivers need additional knowledge to drive tankers. You can, however, obtain both a hazmat endorsement and a tanker endorsement. If you do both, you’ll have an “X” on your license instead of an “H.”

When is Hazmat Endorsement Required?

A hazmat endorsement is required whenever transporting hazmat that requires the display of placards (i.e., any hazmat in classes 1-8).

What are the Requirements?

The general requirements are:

  • Be 21 or older
  • Hold a valid CDL (commercial driver’s license) or CDL permit in the state you’re applying
  • Do not have any disqualifying criminal offenses (we’ll cover this in another section shortly)
  • Complete the TSA Threat Assessment in either of the following ways:
    • You can complete an online application
    • Complete the entire process at an application center OR at your local DMV if you are in FL, MD, MS, NY, PA, TX, VA, or WI
  • Go to the DMV and present:
    • Proof of identity and birth date with your US passport, birth certificate, certificate of naturalization, or certificate of US citizenship OR
    • Proof that you are a lawful permanent resident with your permanent resident card, alien registration receipt card, temporary I-551 stamp in your foreign passport or on form I-94 with arrival/departure record and a photograph, OR
    • Reentry permit (form I-327)
    • Valid DOT card (and medical waiver if applicable)
  • You’ll also need to:
    • Pass a vision test
    • Willingly give your fingerprints
    • Pass the Hazmat CDL written exam at an application center
    • Pay test and endorsement fees

Note that some differences may exist depending on what state you’re applying in, so make sure you check if there is any additional information or differences for your state.

How to Get Hazmat Endorsement

Getting hazmat endorsement isn’t a complicated process, you simply need to:

  1. Apply and pay for your hazmat endorsement and have a background check (this can be done online, at an application center, or at your DMV depending on your state requirements)
  2. Take a vision test
  3. Take the written test

How Long Does it Take?

The first step, which is applying and having a background check completed, shouldn’t take any longer than 60 days. You can check the status of your application here.

How Do You Apply?

You can apply online, at your local application center, or your local DMV, depending on the requirements of the state you’re in. To start your application, click here.

How Much Does the Hazmat Endorsement Cost?

The fee for getting a hazmat endorsement is usually around $90.

About the Hazmat Endorsement Test

How many questions are on the test?

The hazmat endorsement test is made up of 30 questions, though this can differ from state to state.

How much does the test cost?

The cost of the test itself depends on your state, but they’re generally minimal, at about $15-$20. You may choose to purchase study materials to help you pass, and this rarely exceeds $20.

What do you need to pass the test?

You’ll need a score of 80% to pass, so around 24 answers right out of 30.

How hard is the test?

If you spend some time studying, you won’t find it difficult. The test covers topics like:

  • Why the regulations are in place
  • Bulk tank marking, unloading, and loading
  • Your responsibilities as a hazmat driver
  • Parking and driving regulations
  • Communication rules
  • What to do in emergencies
  • Safety procedures when loading and unloading

You can find plenty of study materials online, so take advantage of those to prepare. If you’ve been encouraged to take the test by your employer, ask if they have any recommended materials you can use.

What’s Involved With the Hazmat Endorsement Background Check?

The requirement for a hazmat endorsement background check was introduced after the events of September 11, 2001, so the main thing they’re looking for is any previous criminal history that may indicate that you pose a risk to public safety. It involves:

  • Fingerprint FBI criminal history record check
  • Intelligence-related history check
  • Immigration status verification

Where Do I Go to Get Fingerprinted?

This varies somewhat depending on what state you’re in, so check what your state requires. That said, most states will either allow you to have your fingerprints taken at an application center or at your local DMV.

What Can Disqualify You From Getting a Hazmat Endorsement?

Since the background check is to ensure you won’t pose a serious threat to personal safety and national security, the crimes that will disqualify you are serious in nature. They are:

  • Espionage
  • Illegal handling, purchase, use, dealing, or possession of explosives
  • Improper transportation of hazardous material
  • Murder
  • Sedition
  • Transportation security incident
  • Terrorism
  • Treason

Conspiracy or an attempt to commit any of the above crimes will also disqualify you. There are some other crimes that, if convicted within the past 5 years, will disqualify you temporarily. They are:

  • Aggravated sexual abuse
  • Arson
  • Assault with intent to kill
  • Bribery
  • Drug dealing
  • Extortion
  • Fraud
  • Immigration violations
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Smuggling
  • Weapons violation (such as unlawful possession, use, sale, or dealing of a firearm)

Your state may differ slightly, so check their requirements if you’re not sure.

What Happens if You Fail the Background Check?

If you believe you have failed in error, you can appeal the decision. Otherwise, there are no consequences of failing the background check and you will be able to continue your job as normal.

What’s the Penalty for Hauling Hazmat Without Endorsement?

If you knowingly haul hazmat without an endorsement, the penalties can be serious. You can face a $55,000 – $75,000 fine, and if serious harm is caused to a person or property, this increases to $110,000 to $175,000 – though it is worth noting that these fines are for the business. Penalties for a driver may be different but are likely to be just as serious (such as job loss).

How Long is a Hazmat Endorsement Good for?

A hazmat endorsement is good for 5 years, though this can vary from state to state. You will need to submit new fingerprints at each renewal and you may need to complete another test if it has changed since you last completed it.

Does a Hazmat Endorsement Enable You to Get Paid More?

Yes, a hazmat endorsement will enable you to get higher-paying jobs. A general breakdown of salary is:

  • Class A CDL salary: $53,948
  • With hazmat (“H”): $62,471
  • With hazmat and tanker (“X”): $71,461

Does Hazmat Endorsement Transfer From State to State?

You only need the hazmat endorsement to be issued in your home state but if you move to a new state, you’ll need to transfer your hazmat endorsement.

Check with the requirements of the state you’re moving to, but in most cases, you’ll need to resubmit to a background and fingerprint check to transfer your hazmat endorsement.

Hazmat Endorsement FAQs

Is hazmat endorsement worth it?

If your goal is to make the most money from your job—as it is for most of us—a hazmat endorsement is worth it. With this additional endorsement you can demand more money for your skills and the additional risk involved in transporting hazmat also increases the amount you’re paid.

You will also be able to be pickier about the jobs you take and don’t because you’re more in demand.

Can you get a hazmat endorsement without a CDL?

No, you need to hold a valid CDL to get a hazmat endorsement.

Are there hazmat and tanker endorsement classes?

You can find online learning resources to help you pass your hazmat and tanker endorsement tests.

Can you get a hazmat endorsement with a felony?

Yes, though it does depend on the felony. The Disqualifications section above lists out the specific crimes that will disqualify you from a hazmat endorsement permanently or temporarily.

Can you get a hazmat endorsement with a misdemeanor?

Yes – or at least, it’s highly unlikely a misdemeanor will get you disqualified. The crimes that disqualify you from getting a hazmat endorsement are generally felonies. Check with the requirements of your state if you aren’t sure.

Can you get a hazmat endorsement with a DUI?

If your CDL is currently valid, then you shouldn’t have any problems getting a hazmat endorsement. That said, DUIs are taken seriously for commercial drivers and you will lose your CDL permanently if you are convicted of two DUIs.

How do I know when my hazmat endorsement expires?

It will expire 5 years after you get it, or sooner if that’s what your state requires.

Do I need a hazmat endorsement to haul class 9 hazmat?

No, you don’t need an endorsement for class 9 hazmat. You do for classes 1-8, however.

Do I need a hazmat to haul batteries?

No, in almost all cases batteries are class 9, and so while they need to be labeled appropriately, they do not need to be transported by a driver with a hazmat endorsement. That said, it’s good to have some additional knowledge of transporting hazmat if you are transporting class 9 hazmat regularly.

How much hazmat can I carry without placards?

You can only carry class 9 hazmat without placards, but you need to ensure you’re labeling as needed.

Start Hauling Hazardous Materials with Your Hazmat Endorsement

Getting a hazmat endorsement can open a lot of new doors for you as a driver and the process is straightforward and affordable. If you’re thinking about going through the process, it will be well worth it. 

Have additional questions about hazmat endorsements or other DOT compliance matters? Talk to a Foley compliance expert today. We're here to help!
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