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Understanding CDL Endorsements


There’s no question that the demand for commercial truck drivers remains high, and if a truck driver in training is willing to go the extra steps beyond a common CDL to get additional endorsements, then they have potential to really make a fine living and be in constant demand. An endorsement is basically an addendum to a license saying that the trucker had the special training and took the tests to get certification to drive certain types of vehicles or trucks that a plain CDL does not cover.

While having endorsements isn’t necessarily required, it does open a lot of doors that otherwise would not be available. As of this writing there are 6 potential CDL endorsements that are available, and anyone wanting one of these endorsements must meet all of their state’s requirements when it comes to a normal CDL before getting any addtional endorsement.

The six endorsements available are:

  • (H) Hazardous Materials Endorsement (more commonly known as HAZMAT)
  • (N) Tank Vehicle (a.k.a. “Tanker”) Endorsement
  • (P) Passenger Transport Endorsement
  • (S) School Bus & Passenger Transport Combination Endorsement
  • (T) Double/Triples Trailer Endorsement
  • (X) The Tanker/HAZMAT Combination Endorsement

These are generally pretty self-explanatory, but each one involves additional driving training, written tests, and require the trucker to show a thorough understanding of the laws, regulations, and additional practices that need to be met in order to meet all requirements. This obviously opens up the types of vehicles and jobs that a trucker has the ability to take.

Declaring Endorsements
Ideally a trucker should declare any endorsements they intend to get when the CDL training process begins. In some cases this will be easy if a company is sponsoring the driver since in that case the company will know the job being applied for and what additional endorsements, if any, are needed. Sometimes the driver will have to make a decision.

While this is the ideal situation, a driver with a CDL always has the ability to go back to school and training to get an endorsement at a later date if they decide to expand or shift towards a different style of commercial driving.

Each CDL endorsement is going to have very different requirements based on the type of driving, safety and hazard concerns, as well as the specific state where the training is taking place. While there is a base set of requirements for any of these endorsements, just like with your conventional CDL there are many states that have additional testing or requirements and any driver will need to be sure to meet all of those standards.

Some of these endorsements may be limited or unavailable depending on if you have a Class A, Class B, or Class C CDL. Doing your homework ahead of time to see what’s available is an important part of this process. All additional endorsements will require passing a writing and driving exam, with the most additional requirements often coming with getting the (S) endorsement to drive school buses.

Depending on how long you have been a commercial driver, there are some situations where there might be an initial limit to how many endorsements you can have. There is some logic to this as you want a commercial driver to prove they can do the job before handing a broad array of endorsements over, but even brand new drivers can generally start with up to three endorsements on their CDL with more allowed over time and with a good driving record.

State by State
Each state has its own process and rules and while they are generally all similar from one to another it’s important to understand this so that you know what to expect when getting that additional endorsement.

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