Landing a job as a truck driver can be a life-changing experience; you get to make money while hauling loads across the country. But before you can start your trucking adventure, you must acquire proper certification from the authorities to make sure you are qualified for the role.
That said, obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) does not automatically grant you the authority to haul any load. If you are working for a company that transports toxic chemicals, you need to get a hazmat endorsement from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
But what is a hazmat endorsement and why is it a requirement for drivers?
If you are interested in learning how to get a hazmat endorsement, read this article to discover the processes and costs involved.
- What is a hazmat endorsement?
- Why do you need a hazmat endorsement?
- Steps to get hazmat endorsement?
- How long does it take to get a hazmat endorsement?
- How much does it cost to get a hazmat endorsement?
- How to extend a hazmat endorsement?
- How often do you have to renew your hazmat endorsement?
- How much does a hazmat truck driver make?
- Key takeaways
What is a hazmat endorsement?
Hazmat comes from the term “hazardous materials.” And as the name suggests, the hazardous material endorsement is a special classification attached to a regular CDL (A, B, or C), granting the bearer the ability to drive dangerous materials across the state or country.
The Department of Transportation defines hazardous materials as “any chemical or item that is a risk to public safety or the environment when being transported or moved in commerce.”
Here are some materials that qualify as hazardous:
- Battery-powered equipment.
- Aerosols and lighters.
- Environmentally hazardous substances.
- Flammable liquids and solids.
When you get a hazmat endorsement, you can drive trucks carrying the materials mentioned above. But it is also essential to know that your certification depends on the vehicle you’re driving and its container. Here are the various hazardous material endorsement classes:
- H-Endorsement — for operating trucks containing hazardous materials, which you can find on the hazmat table.
- N-Endorsement — for driving trucks carrying tankers.
- X-Endorsement — for operating tankers containing over 120 gallons of flammable or hazardous gas.
Why do you need a hazmat endorsement?
Operators who only want to haul dry vans and flatbeds on local, regional, and long haul routes might not need additional endorsement; for these loads, the regular CDL will suffice. But if you want to haul hazmat loads, you must get a CDL hazmat endorsement from the responsible government agencies.
Can you haul hazmat trucks without endorsement?
No, you cannot haul a hazmat truck if you don’t have an endorsement. But that doesn’t stop people from doing so; some drivers still risk carrying these loads, hoping that authorities won’t check their documents.
However, this risk is ill-advised considering the potential cost to your trucking career. For starters, federal law can fine you over $80,000 per day, as well as for every infraction. This amount is over the average annual salary for some drivers.
If the violation results in deadly harm, you will likely accrue up to $200,000 in fines or two years in jail. In addition, the governing agency will revoke your CDL license and all endorsements attached to it.
Advantages of getting your hazmat endorsement
Drivers with active CDL hazmat endorsements enjoy the following benefits:
- Better job opportunities. If you have an H endorsement, you can expand your area of expertise beyond flatbeds and dry vans.
- Higher salaries. Adding the CDL hazmat endorsement to your certification increases your value as an employee, allowing you to earn more than your unendorsed peers.
- Attractive offers. The best trucking companies always go for the best possible candidates. Even if you have years of experience as a trucker, the additional endorsement makes you more employable.
You can also get additional benefits depending on the company you work for and the routes you travel.
Steps to get hazmat endorsement
The process of obtaining a hazmat endorsement includes several assessments by government agencies to make sure that you meet the basic requirements.
Before discussing how to get a hazmat endorsement, let’s explore the documents you need for the entry criteria.
Hazmat endorsement requirements
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), every applicant for the H endorsement must be of legal age in the United States (21 years old overall; 18 years old in some states). You must also have a valid commercial or non-commercial driver’s license. In some states, you must have at least two years of driving experience to apply for a hazmat endorsement.
Only citizens or permanent residents can get an HME. You need to provide your social security number, birth certificate, green card, or any other document that proves your citizenship or residency. As a driver, you must be able to speak and read in English, which is also a requirement to pass the written assessment.
Apart from proving your identity, you still need to present a clean bill of health showing that you don’t have any ailments that can hinder your ability to perform your duties at an acceptable level. Your DOT medical card or any copy of a valid medical examiner’s certificate is enough to prove your health status.
For drivers trying to renew their licenses, you must provide the names of previous licensing states for the last ten years.
Taking the endorsement knowledge test
The overall length of the written HME exam varies by state in terms of length and scoring system.
In general, the test covers your general knowledge of state and federal hazmat regulations. You also need to learn guidelines for hauling hazardous materials, as well as how to load and unload them. Only drivers who can answer at least 24 out of 30 questions correctly will pass the exam — you’ll need to score 80% or higher on this test.
Background check TSA
Follow these steps to apply for the TSA background check and threat assessment program:
- Visit the TSA online portal.
- Click on “online application” on the main page.
- Click on the “New Enrollment” button.
- On the data page, enter your personal details.
- Click on “Next” to move forward.
- On the citizenship page, enter details regarding your residency or citizenship.
- Click on “Next” again.
- Complete the rest of the form and submit it.
Overall, the entire process will take you around 15-20 minutes to complete. You can also get additional information on this page before you start filling out the form.
Crimes that prevent getting a hazmat endorsement
Even though a felony conviction doesn’t immediately restrict you from obtaining an HME, some crimes automatically disqualify you from the endorsement procedure. Here is a comprehensive list of crimes categorized according to three levels of severity:
- PART A — permanent disqualification:
- Terrorism — deliberately conveying false information regarding the deliverance, placement, or detonation of an explosive or other lethal devices.
- A transportation security incident (TSI) resulting in a loss of life or property.
- Improper transportation of hazardous material.
- Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, manufacture, purchase, or transfer of an explosive or explosive device.
- RICO violations.
- Conspiracy or attempt to commit the crimes on this list.
- PART B — Interim disqualification:
- Unlawful possession.
- Identity fraud and money laundering.
- Immigration violations.
- Distribution, possession, or importation of a controlled substance.
- Kidnapping or hostage-taking.
- Rape or aggravated sexual abuse.
- Assault with intent to kill.
- Fraudulent entry into a seaport.
- Voluntary manslaughter.
- Conspiracy or attempt to commit crimes in this section.
- PART C — awaiting indictment
- Any person wanted or under indictment in any civilian or military jurisdiction for a felony listed under Part A or Part B.
The TSA and DMV work together to issue H endorsements to truckers. After the TSA’s threat assessment, your result will go to the DMV, where you’ll undergo additional tests before you get the certification.
Here is a list of documents you must submit to the DMV:
- Driver’s license.
- Identification documents.
- Social Security card or most recent W-2 form.
- A current medical certificate completed by a certified medical examiner.
- Printed confirmation notice of self-certification with the DMV.
The test itself contains 50 questions, of which you must answer at least 40 correctly. You can apply to take the test online on your state’s official DMV website.
Note: Drivers from Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin should visit their local DMVs for application and fingerprinting.
How long does it take to get a hazmat endorsement?
After you meet all the hazmat endorsement requirements, you still have to wait for the agencies to process your documents for the certification.
Stages duration to get a hazmat endorsement
- Application — You can apply instantly and wait for the interview date.
- TSA and DMV Assessments — You will find out the status of your application within 30-45 days of submitting the information. This process may take longer if any data is missing.
Overall, you can start the process and get the certification within 90 days. Contact your local DMV for accurate estimates.
How much does it cost to get a hazmat endorsement?
The flat hazmat endorsement cost is $86.50 per individual. Some states will charge you an additional $30 fee to include the endorsement to your license. In some cases, you will have to pay for the knowledge test, skills test, and CDL evaluation.
Overall, the hazmat endorsement cost ranges from $110 to $150 in all states.
How to extend a hazmat endorsement?
Driving with an expired license can get you fined, and that’s why the TSA will notify you 90 days in advance. To avoid this problem, you need to apply for license recertification to meet current hazmat endorsement requirements at least 30 days before it expires.
How often do you have to renew your hazmat endorsement?
Every TSA-issued hazmat endorsement stays valid for 5 years, after which you need to retake the assessment for hazmat endorsement renewal. You can also take the training every 3 years to boost your qualifications as a trucker.
If you fail the renewal assessment, you can re-apply within 60 days for a hazmat certification cost of $86.50.
How much does a hazmat truck driver make?
Determining the average hazmat truck driver salary requires factoring in variables like experience, location, route, and cents per mile (CPM).
The CPM for hazmat driving ranges from $0.60 to $0.80. As for the hazmat trucker salary per year, drivers can clear between $68,750 and $100,000 annually, depending on their weekly workload.
If you want to get hazmat driver jobs, prepare to go through a rigorous threat assessment procedure under the scrutiny of the TSA and DMV. Even if you have a felony conviction, you may still be able to get your endorsement or apply for hazmat endorsement renewal.
Once you pass this screening, you’ll get your HME classification to haul hazardous materials nationwide. Furthermore, hazmat trucking jobs allow you to earn more than your colleagues.
At HMD Trucking, solo drivers make $0.64 CPM and teams make $0.81 CPM while hauling hazmat loads.
If you are looking for hazmat driver jobs with a company that cares about the driver’s overall health and wellbeing, HMD Trucking is the place for you. Here are the benefits of working with us:
- New and well-maintained Peterbilt 579 trucks governed at 70 mph.
- Open-door policy to hire any rider, even those with pets.
- Dental, vision, and medical insurance.
- 401k and PTO plan.
- Professional fleet maintenance.
- A driver referral program.
Our personalized approach to trucking makes us the favorite destination for drivers. Apply with us now to start earning a hazmat truck driver salary.