What It Takes to Be a Hazmat-Certified Driver

Every day, professional truck drivers are tasked with hauling a wide variety of goods and materials throughout the country. These goods run the gamut from raw and unfinished materials to produce, appliances, electronics, livestock, machinery, and motorized vehicles. Nearly every product used by the average public has been entrusted in the careful hands of a long-haul trucker at some point.

As a truck driver, companies and customers rely on you to safely deliver these and other goods to their proper destinations. But when it comes to transporting loads that could potentially be hazardous to others on the road, it’s up to the hazmat-certified driver to deliver those loads safely. Becoming a hazmat-certified driver can be a rewarding and challenging career move that tests your skills.

Adding hazmat certification to your list of truck driving skills and qualifications can create new opportunities that lead to better job prospects and increased income. The following talks about the various requirements and endorsements needed to become a hazmat-certified driver.


To become a hazmat-certified driver, you’ll need to add a hazmat endorsement to your commercial driver’s license. Without it, you won’t be able to haul explosives, gases, combustible liquids, and other materials deemed hazardous. Having a valid CDL along with valid proof of your legal status and residence will cover the basics for a hazmat endorsement.

You must also complete the Transportation Security Administration’s threat-assessment screening in accordance with the USA Patriot Act before continuing with your hazmat certification. This process is similar to an employer’s background check, and it can take up to 45 days to receive proof of clearance.

You’ll also need to undergo a medical examination along with an eye exam as part of your hazmat endorsement application.

Becoming a hazmat-certified driver also requires having a clean record. Having a felony conviction on your criminal record can limit some of your trucking opportunities, including the ability to receive a hazmat endorsement. If you were recently convicted of a misdemeanor offense or have had your record recently expunged, you may still qualify for a hazmat endorsement.


In addition to meeting the basic requirements for hazmat certification, you’ll also need to take your state’s hazmat endorsement test. Your state’s hazmat endorsement test will typically consist of 30 questions on various aspects of hazardous material transport, including proper placard usage, driving and parking rules, driver responsibilities, and the proper way to handle emergencies involving hazardous materials.

To increase your likelihood of achieving a passing grade, you should brush up on your hazardous materials knowledge before taking the hazmat endorsement test. Taking an online practice test gives you an opportunity to become familiar with some of the questions that’ll be featured in the real test.

Keep in mind that some companies may compensate you for the cost of obtaining your hazmat endorsement, as well as the cost of your TSA screening. Your company may also pick up the tab for endorsement renewals and additional training.

Additional Endorsements

Hazardous materials can come in all shapes and forms. However, the majority of hazardous materials you’ll transport will likely be stored in tankers. Gasoline, various oils, and pressurized gases are among the numerous hazardous materials that rely on tanker transport. If you haven’t already obtained a tanker endorsement on your CDL, you’ll need it to legally haul tankers containing hazardous materials.

The good news is that you can obtain your tanker endorsement at the same time as your hazmat endorsement. However, you’ll still need to take separate tests for your hazmat and tanker endorsements.

Once you’ve passed both tests, you may notice an “X” endorsement on your CDL instead of the “H” hazmat endorsement you were expecting. The “X” endorsement covers both hazmat and tanker endorsements, so you won’t have to worry about not having the right endorsements listed on your CDL.

If you already have an “N” tanker endorsement, your state will convert it into an “X” endorsement once you’ve earned your hazmat endorsement.


If you’re driving for a trucking company, you may receive additional hazmat training from your employer during or after you’ve obtained your hazmat endorsement. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires employers to provide training for employees who are new to transporting hazardous materials, as well as recurring training for experienced employees.

During your training, you’ll become more familiar with the identification, handling, and transport of hazardous materials. You’ll also receive training for handling certain types of hazardous shipments, including those that require extra security measures. The DOT requires trucking companies to retrain their hazmat-certified drivers every three years and maintain records regarding their training.

In some cases, you may be paired with a supervisor who’s already hazmat certified until you learn the ropes. If you’re an owner-operator, the DOT allows for self-training and testing as long as it conforms to the DOT’s training requirements.

Becoming hazmat certified can help give your trucking career a tremendous boost. If you need a pre-owned semi-truck to match your changing transport needs, contact us at Arrow Truck Sales today.