How To Become a Hazmat Hauler

Want to get the hazardous-materials endorsement on a CDL? First you must make the grade, starting with a test and a background check.
How To Become a Hazmat Hauler
To study for the hazmat-endorsement knowledge test, each state’s driver-licensing agency provides a CDL driver’s manual. Classroom and online instruction aids also are available.

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As the oil and gas fracking boom continues, business opportunities exist for truckers and pumpers located near those areas who are interested in hauling hazardous materials, which are generally defined as any substance or material that could adversely affect the safety of the public, handlers or carriers during transportation. But they can’t do it without first obtaining a hazardous-materials endorsement on their commercial driver’s license, which involves passing a written test and a federal background check — a process that can take several months. 

First, a little background: Hazardous materials include explosives, various types of gas, solids, flammable and combustible liquids and other materials. Non-compliance with hazmat-hauling regulations carries serious consequences. Hauling companies must be registered with state and federal officials to transport hazardous materials. 

Noncompliance can be expensive; civil penalties max out at $55,000 and criminal fines range from $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations. 

While the federal government sets the regulations for hazmat hauling, the state where a driver is domiciled issues the actual CDL endorsements. As such, each state’s driver-licensing agency is the “one-stop shop” for information about the process, says Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.      

Here are the steps you must take to obtain a hazmat endorsement on your CDL, as outlined by DeBruyne: 

Start with a visit to your state driver-licensing agency and fill out an application. You must provide proof of citizenship or lawful permanent residency. 

To verify citizenship, a United States citizen can present either a valid, unexpired U.S. passport; a certified copy of a birth certificate, filed with a state Office of Vital Statistics or an equivalent agency in the state where you were born; a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, issued by the U.S. Department of State; a certificate of naturalization, issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; or a certificate of citizenship, issued by the DHS. If you’re a lawful permanent resident, you can submit a valid, unexpired permanent resident card, issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. 

Next, take and pass the hazmat-endorsement knowledge test, which must be taken at a state driver-licensing agency. The test poses 30 questions and applicants must get at least 80 percent — or 24 — answers correct to pass. All states use the same pool of questions and criteria to generate different versions of the test. 

To study for the test, each state’s driver-licensing agency provides a CDL driver’s manual. Classroom and online instruction aids are also available. 

After that, you must pass a U.S. Transportation Security Administration background check, which involves getting fingerprinted. Some states do the fingerprinting in-house; others hire independent contractors to do the job, DeBruyne explains. 

The fingerprints are sent to the TSA, which forwards them to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for a criminal background check. Simultaneously, the TSA also checks the fingerprints against several other national and international databases. 

Then, based on criteria set by the TSA, the agency analyzes the results from the various databases. After it makes a decision, the TSA sends notification to the state driver-licensing agency. If you pass the background check, the state driver-licensing agency then issues the hazmat endorsement. 

The cost of an application varies from state to state. The fingerprinting and background check generally costs between $90 and $110, but the state driver-licensing agency may add various licensing and processing fees.

The amount of time the entire process takes also varies from state to state. It doesn’t happen quickly, so it’s best to plan accordingly; depending on the number of background checks being performed, the TSA can take between 30 and 90 days to make a determination. 

Keep in mind that you must undergo a background check at least every five years in order to maintain the hazmat endorsement. The renewal process is the same as the initial process. 

For more detailed information, DeBruyne suggests consulting someone at a state driver-licensing agency or its website. 

In addition, hauling hazardous materials involves many other regulations that focus on employee training, placarding, packaging and shipping. For an overview, visit


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