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When Do I Need A Hazmat Endorsement? 11 Common Questions

Want to know more about when you need an endorsement for hazmat? You’re in the right spot. Today I take a look at when you need a hazmat endorsement on your CDL and a common exception that drives people nuts.

When do I need a hazmat endorsement?

A Hazmat endorsement is required when any material that has been designated as hazardous  requires the transport vehicle to display placards under 49 CFR 172.

When the rules require you to have a hazardous materials endorsement to haul hazmat is fairly straightforward. I say ‘fairly straightforward’ because there are scenarios that exist where a CDL driver can haul hazmat with no endorsement at all.

But we’ll talk about that later.

Whether or not you need a hazmat endorsement on your CDL to transport hazmat depends entirely on whether or not the load requires that placards be displayed.

Or, stated a different way, if you are required to placard the load you’re hauling you’re required to have a hazmat endorsement.

Having a good understanding of DOT placard rules is everything when it comes to either getting a hazmat endorsement on your CDL or accepting a load where there are hazardous materials mixed in.

But that’s the problem;

The placard rules are not as clear cut as many people think they are and there are many exceptions to the placarding rules.

Everyone understands the basics:

Table 1 – placard for any amount

Table 2 – You need a 1,001lbs before you need to put placards on

The Table 1 and 2 requirements for placards are the basic rule. If the hazmat load requires placards under the basic rule, then you will need an endorsement on your license to transport the load. Simple enough.

The devil of course, is in the details of placarding.

If you need a refresher check out our DOT placard guide here.

Why would I want to get a hazmat endorsement?

Generally speaking, drivers who take the extra step in getting their hazmat endorsement get paid more per mile than a standard CDL driver.

It also provides you with more options as far the type of loads that would be available to them, which means more opportunities to make money.

cargo tank truck

What are hazardous materials?

The definition of hazardous materials in the hazmat regulations is specific to the following areas:

  • The Secretary Of Transportation says it’s a hazardous material
  • The material is found on the hazmat table
  • Hazardous substances, also known as ‘reportable quantities’ or RQ
  • Hazardous wastes
  • Marine Pollutants
  • Elevated temperature materials
  • Any material that meets the defining criteria for hazard classes and divisions

Did you notice there is no mention of weight or amounts?

If the material falls into this definition, its considered a hazardous material no matter how much of it being hauled. People often confuse the weight amounts in placard rules with whether or not something is considered hazmat. Don’t make that mistake.

Can a driver haul hazmat without an endorsement?

Yes, you can but it’s tricky.

This is where you need to have an in-depth knowledge of how the placarding rule works and the definition of hazardous materials in the CDL regulations in 383.5, which is what I’ve given you already.

Here’s a quick example;

Drivers can haul cargo that falls under the definition of a hazardous material without an endorsement but because it’s a class 9 material, it’s perfectly fine.

Is your head spinning?

Here’s how it works for class 9 materials:

We already know in this article what the term hazardous material means. We also know that we need to have an endorsement for a placardable amount of hazardous materials. So now, we just need to look at one more rule.

If we dig deep into the placard rules we find this nugget:

[blockquote align=”none” author=”Truckers Insider”]From 172.504(f)(9) – For Class 9, a CLASS 9 placard is not required for domestic transportation, including that portion of international transportation, defined in § 171.8 of this subchapter, which occurs within the United States…  [/blockquote]

Did you catch it?

Class 9 placards are not required for domestic transportation in the United States.

No placards required for the material, no need for a hazmat endorsement for a class 9 hazardous material.

There are many other examples in the hazmat rules where placards are not required which would then not require you to have an endorsement.

Make sure you do your due diligence on all the possibilities.

Are there other types of CDL hazmat endorsements?

Here are other endorsements that many class A drivers have or hauling hazmat and other materials:

H – This is the basic hazmat endorsement

N – If you plan on hauling bulk hazmat 1,000 gallons or more you’ll need this endorsement.

X – This endorsement is a combination of both the thank endorsement and hazardous materials all rolled into one.

In my opinion, for the money and time that you spend getting an endorsement, getting the X endorsement provides you with more value. It provides more job opportunities and will pay for itself over time.

What is the hazmat threat assessment program?

If you plan on getting your endorsement to haul any hazardous material, you’re going to have to go through the hazmat threat assessment program.

The program was finalized in 2004 post 9/11 as part of the patriot act.

So, what is it?

The hazmat threat assessment program is a background check and security assessment of an individual that’s looking to get a hazmat endorsement for a state issued commercial driver’s license.

They are looking for specific crimes (felonies) an individual has committed and prevent those individuals from obtaining a hazmat endorsement.

Note that the threat assessment program is only for those applying for hazmat related CDL endorsements, and doesn’t apply to applying for a basic Commercial drivers license.

What crimes disqualify someone from getting an HM endorsement?

When most people hear that they have to have a background check, they start taking mental notes of all the mistakes they’re made in their lives.

They rake themselves over the coals about that one time at band camp when they stole a candy bar from Mr. Smith’s drug store.

That’s not who this is aimed at.

The purpose of TSA’s background check is to prevent people convicted of specific crimes (many violents) to not be in charge of dangerous chemicals that can kill people.

TSA breaks disqualifying offenses for hazmat endorsements into three basic groups – group A, B,  and C.

Part A offenses – Group A offenses are permanent disqualifying offenses. You will be denied if you’ve been convicted of the following:

  • Espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage
  • Sedition
  • Treason
  • Federal crime of terrorism as defined
  • Murder
  • A crime involving a transportation security incident

Part B offenses are interim disqualifying offenses. If you’ve been convicted, plead guilty within 7 years of the date of your Hazmat endorsement application for the following:

  • Extortion
  • Immigration violations
  • Distribution, possession with the intent to distribute or importation of a controlled substance.
  • Unlawful sale, use, manufacture, purchase, receipt, transfer etc. of firearms
  • Robbery, assault, kidnapping
  • Rape or sexual abuse

Part C of the disqualifying offenses section deals with individuals who are under a want, warrant or indictment in any military or civilian jurisdiction for any of the felonies listed in Parts A and B.

[blockquote align=”none” author=”Truckers Insider”]NOTE: This is not a complete list of hazmat endorsement disqualifying offenses. For the full list, check out TSA’s website.[/blockquote]

What are the steps to getting your hazmat endorsement?

Here is a basic rundown of what you’ll need to get done when applying for a hazmat endorsement on your CDL.

It all starts with you already possessing a valid CDL through your state. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to get done first.

Personal information:

  • Your legal name
  • Date of birth and Identity
  • U.S. Citizenship or permanent legal status
  • A valid proof of Social Security number

In most cases, you can bring a certified copy of your birth certificate and a Social Security card to cover this. If you’re a naturalized citizen, you’ll need to bring the appropriate immigration paperwork.

Professional information:

  • A valid DOT approved medical card
  • A medical waiver, if it applies
  • Pass a written hazardous materials knowledge test. Use your state’s driver’s manual.
  • Successfully pass a vision test

TSA Requirements

Start by applying online and completing the online application. However, if you live in Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin you will have to apply for your endorsement in person. Applying online is not available to you.

Next, you will need to schedule an appointment which can be done on line or calling TSA at the phone number on their website.

Gather all the required documents that TSA requires. You will need fingerprints and to get your background check done. It takes around 60 days to get your background check completed.

You can get everything you need by going to TSA’s website.

hazmat endorsement application

Click here to get more information on hazmat endorsements from the

TSA website.

How often do you renew a hazmat endorsement?

TSA requires that you renew your endorsement and a new set of fingerprints every 5 years.

But here’s the kicker;

Each state is a bit different how they administer their HM endorsement programs, so you may have to re take the test and submit fingerprints sooner than the five years.

It’s best contact your state’s DMV and go from there.

Once your all done jumping through the hoops, TSA will notify you by mail. If you’ve been denied you can appeal their decision within 60 days.

If they have denied you, it doesn’t mean you lost your CDL. You can still work and do your thing, it’s just that you can’t transport hazmat.

How much does a hazmat endorsement cost?

Plan on paying a minimum of $86.50 to TSA (at the time of this writing) to get your endorsement which is good for 5 years. Keep in mind that there may be other fees from the state on top of this amount as well as paying for a background check.

The TSA fee is the minimum a new applicant will pay with the overall cost of getting your hazmat endorsement may run as high as $110 – $120.

Is a hazmat knowledge test required?

Yes, you’ll need to study up on hazmat transportation and take a written test.

Suggested areas of study would be:

  • Shipping papers
  • Placards
  • Labels
  • Transporting, Separation

There’s potentially a lot more you can study. That being said, the best place to get started studying for your written test is to make sure you have a current copy of your state’s drivers manual.

Getting your hazmat endorsement can be a long and difficult process, so get you’re paperwork together and gather your patience.

Not because the written hazmat test is particularly difficult, but because of the government red tape you have to get through.

However, for those that jump through the hoops to get their hazmat endorsement, they find more opportunity for loads and are much more appealing to potential employers.

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