Paul has been in the trucking industry for twelve years. He worked as an over-the-road driver, a local driver and acted as a CDL instructor. He started at ATS as a flatbed specialized driver before moving into a driver consultant role.
Are you looking to diversify yourself as a truck driver? Instead of hauling general freight, do you want to haul hazardous materials? Do you want to move multi-axle trailers down the road?
If you’re nodding your head right now, this article is for you.
There are four endorsements you can get to add to your Class A CDL: the HazMat endorsement (H), doubles and triples endorsement (T), tanker endorsement (N) and tanker/HazMat endorsement (X). Depending on which endorsement(s) you get, you’ll be able to drive combination vehicles or tankers and you’ll be able to haul hazardous material.
Endorsements are not only a great way to improve your skills and open up new career paths, but they also help you stand out to trucking companies.
I spent 10 years in the trucking industry as a CDL trainer, an over-the-road truck driver and a local truck driver before I became a driver consultant for Anderson Trucking Service (ATS). Not only have I earned a few of these endorsements myself, but I’ve also worked with drivers who’ve tested for these endorsements.
In this blog, you’ll learn about the H, T, N and X endorsements, including what you need to do to get them and how they can boost your career.
What is the HazMat Endorsement?
The HazMat endorsement (H endorsement) allows you to haul hazardous materials that are placarded. This includes materials that are flammable and combustible or may otherwise be classified as an explosive. The knowledge test consists of 30 questions and you need to answer 24 correctly to pass.
Hauling hazardous materials poses health and safety risks not just to you but to the motoring public. Because of this, you have to undergo hazmat training and testing every three years. Your endorsement needs to be renewed every five years and you’ll have to take a recertification test.
This assessment looks at your criminal history as well as immigration records to identify drivers who may present a security threat and who shouldn’t be transporting hazardous materials. You’ll also need to be fingerprinted at a TSA-authorized location. The assessment and fingerprinting require an additional fee on top of the testing fee.
What is the Doubles and Triples Endorsement?
A T endorsement allows you to tow double or triple trailers. A standard Class A CDL only permits drivers to haul a single-trailer vehicle. If you want to haul more than one trailer or multi-axle trailers, you’ll need a T endorsement.
Some drivers get a doubles and triples endorsement so they can work for a courier service and haul three trailers among three cities. Each trailer has mail from one city and the driver cycles among the three cities — easily depositing mail one trailer at a time rather than needing to sort mail in each city or make multiple trips.
Some drivers also plan to get into the specialized or heavy haul trucking divisions, which require multi-axle trailers. Drivers can’t haul multi-axle trailers without a T endorsement.
If you have no intention of ever driving these types of trailers, you don’t need a doubles and triples endorsement.
To get your T endorsement, you’ll need to answer at least 16 of 20 questions correctly on a written knowledge test.
What is the Tanker Endorsement?
The N endorsement, or tanker endorsement, allows you to haul bulk liquids or gasses in a tanker truck. A tanker truck is designed to haul liquids or gasses in sums of 118 gallons or higher (e.g. water and milk). Hauling liquids or gasses in a tanker can be a dangerous task, which is why the extra endorsement on your license is required.
Imagine driving down the road with thousands of pounds of liquid sloshing around in your tanker. This has a significant impact on the momentum of your truck. An untrained driver may not be able to properly maneuver the truck and its liquid goods effectively, which can result in dangerous accidents — such as sliding through intersections or into other vehicles.
Drivers hoping to earn their tanker endorsement will need to pass a test to ensure they can properly transport liquid commodities in a tanker. There are usually 20 questions on the test and you need to answer at least 16 correctly. Drivers will also need to be able to drive a tanker.
Drivers that are transporting intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) of liquid in their dry van trailers are also required to have a tanker endorsement.
What is the Tanker/HazMat Endorsement?
When you earn your tanker/HazMat combo endorsement (X endorsement), you can haul hazardous materials in a tanker. To add this endorsement to your Class A CDL, you’ll need to pass both knowledge tests for the H and N endorsement.
That means you’ll be taking a 30-question test about hazardous materials and a 20-question test about tankers. You will need to get 80 percent of the questions correct on each test in order to pass.
How Much Do Endorsements Cost?
Each endorsement varies by state, so there will be a different fee associated with taking the test depending upon which state you’re in. The endorsements usually range from $20 to $50. The HazMat endorsement will cost more because you’ll need to have fingerprints taken and the background check done.
There may be an additional fee associated with reprinting your license as well.
How Do I Pass the Endorsement Tests?
You can call your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to schedule a test to earn CDL endorsements.
Because you’re spending your hard-earned money on these tests, you want to pass the first time. Test questions are based on the information included in the latest edition of the CDL Handbook. For each endorsement, you’ll need to know its laws and best practices and how to load, unload and operate the equipment.
If you’ve been in trucking school recently, the information should be very familiar to you. If it’s been a while, you may want to freshen up on your knowledge. There are tons of free practice tests designed to help you pass the first time so you don’t have to repeatedly pay for the tests.
Think of endorsements as additional permission to drive a certain vehicle or haul certain materials. They’ll give you the chance to haul additional equipment and push your career further.
Endorsements are also a great way to help you stand out to trucking companies. While many trucking companies don’t require you to have endorsements, some will. Or, recruiters may look more favorably on drivers that have endorsements versus drivers that don’t. Endorsements make you a better candidate and give you more advantages.