Endorsements are certifications added to your commercial driver's license (CDL), allowing you to drive specialized commercial motor vehicles and haul different types of goods. You'll need to pass certain tests to earn endorsements and must renew them every time you renew your CDL. Some endorsements, like HAZMAT, require more frequent renewal.
You can obtain as many endorsements as you like. Adding endorsements to your CDL may lead to more job opportunities and a higher salary.
Types of CDL Endorsements
There are six main endorsements you can add to your CDL—each with different requirements, skills, type of cargo carried, and vehicle used. However, your state may offer additional endorsements.
Below is a breakdown of each endorsement with information on the required CDL, mandatory training and tests, the kinds of jobs associated with each, and benefits.
HAZMAT (H) Endorsement
The H or HAZMAT endorsement permits drivers to haul dangerous or toxic substances in amounts requiring placarding, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, agricultural pesticides, household petroleum-based products, explosives, and radioactive materials.
Minimum CDL Required for a HAZMAT Endorsement
Drivers must have a CDL C, at minimum, to qualify for an H endorsement. You can also add a HAZMAT endorsement to a CDL A or CDL B.
Training for a HAZMAT Endorsement
Training covers the kind of hazardous materials you'll carry, HAZMAT driver duties, how to transport hazardous substances safely, federal and state regulations when hauling, loading, and unloading, and security and safety procedures.
You must also take the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) HAZMAT course from an approved ELDT provider.
Tests for the HAZMAT Endorsement
You'll need to take a knowledge test and pass a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Security Threat Assessment. You must be 21 years of age to receive an H endorsement.
HAZMAT Endorsement Jobs
Having a HAZMAT endorsement may diversify your career choices. You'll be able to work with a greater variety of companies—like chemical manufacturers, metal producers, and petroleum processers. HAZMAT trucking jobs include working as a fuel truck driver, hazardous waste shipper, and radioactive waste shipper.
Why Get a HAZMAT Endorsement?
You may be able to increase your earning potential with an H endorsement. This is because employers are often on the lookout for HAZMAT drivers and may offer more competitive wages for these skilled positions. HAZMAT drivers may also experience greater freedom in their work due to the skills and knowledge they obtain with an H endorsement.
Tank Vehicle (N) Endorsement
An N or tanker endorsement allows truck drivers to operate a tanker vehicle carrying liquids or liquefied gases in bulk. Drivers with this endorsement can operate permanent tanks carrying materials weighing 119 gallons or portable tanks weighing 1,000 gallons or more.
Minimum CDL Required for Tank Endorsement
This endorsement can be added to CDL Classes A, B, or C.
Training for a Tank Endorsement
Drivers undergo training on the challenges of hauling liquids, such as shifting cargo with a higher center of gravity. You will also learn how to inspect tankers and the safety rules associated with driving a tank vehicle.
Tests for the Tank Endorsement
You are only required to pass a knowledge exam to obtain an N endorsement.
Tank Endorsement Jobs
Having an N endorsement may widen the pool of jobs available to you as you'll be able to transport both dry and liquid materials. Examples of tanker driver jobs include tanker owner-operator, fuel driver, and liquid tanker driver.
Why Get a Tanker Endorsement?
With a tanker endorsement, you'll learn how to handle and transport liquid cargo. These skills may lead to more job possibilities and a higher earning potential.
Passenger (P) Endorsement
CDL drivers wanting to transport 16 passengers or more, including the driver, need to obtain a passenger, or P, endorsement.
Minimum CDL Required for a Passenger Endorsement
Drivers must have at least a CDL Class C to earn a P endorsement.
Training for a Passenger Endorsement
Drivers learn pre- and post-trip vehicle inspection, procedures for vehicle loading and starting a trip, road safety, prohibited practices, and managing specific equipment. People are the main focus of the work, so drivers also train on how to keep passengers safe.
Additionally, you'll need to take an ELDT-approved course.
Tests for a Passenger Endorsement
Drivers must pass knowledge and road skills tests and complete a background check to earn a P endorsement.
Passenger Endorsement Jobs
You can operate various vehicles with a P endorsement, including city buses, general paratransit vehicles, airport shuttles, tour buses, farm labor vehicles, and segmented buses.
Why Get a Passenger Endorsement?
Since this work involves transporting people, it's more social than other commercial vehicle driving jobs. You may have the opportunity to interact with a variety of people and drive different vehicles.
School Bus (S) Endorsement
A school bus or S endorsement is required if you wish to operate a school bus. You have to obtain a P endorsement first to qualify for an S endorsement.
Minimum CDL Required for School Bus Endorsement
You must have a CDL of any Class for an S endorsement.
Training for a School Bus Endorsement
Training covers emergency procedures, the use of mirrors, understanding dangers where children may be hit by a car, railroad-highway grade crossings, anti-lock brakes, and safety considerations of school buses. This job's primary focus is children, so you'll learn about child safety, student management, and any issues that may arise when transporting students. You are also required to take the appropriate ELDT course.
Tests for a School Bus Endorsement
You must pass a knowledge written exam, a road skills test, and a background check.
School Bus Endorsement Jobs
With an S endorsement, you can work as a school bus driver. However, since you are required to obtain a P endorsement as well to drive a school bus, you'll also have the ability to operate any passenger vehicle.
As with the P endorsement, you'll get to interact with people daily. You also may earn higher wages while working fewer hours.
Doubles/Triples (T) Endorsement
A doubles/triples endorsement is needed if you want to drive a CMV towing two or three trailers weighing 10,001 pounds or more.
Minimum CDL Required for Doubles/Triples Endorsement
Also known as a T endorsement, it's only applicable to CDL A holders.
Training for a Doubles/Triples Endorsement
Training covers coupling and uncoupling trailers, inspections, checking air brakes, and the skills and risks of pulling trailers, like preventing roll-over.
Tests for a Doubles/Triples Endorsement
Those wishing to obtain a T endorsement must pass a knowledge test.
Doubles/Triples Endorsement Jobs
Doubles/triples trailer truck drivers are usually in higher demand because these drivers can transport larger shipments.
Why Get a Doubles/Triples Endorsement?
You'll be able to operate heavier trucks than standard CMVs and carry more cargo, often leading to more competitive pay rates.
Combination HAZMAT and Tank (X)
You can transport hazardous materials in a tanker vehicle with the X endorsement.
Minimum CDL Required for a HAZMAT Plus Tank Endorsement
Training for a Combination HAZMAT Plus Tank Endorsement
You'll undergo training associated with both H and T endorsements and complete the ELDT course.
Testing for a HAZMAT Plus Tank Endorsement
Drivers must be 21 years of age and pass a knowledge test and a TSA Security Threat Assessment.
HAZMAT Plus Tank (X) Endorsement Jobs
You'll be able to operate both HAZMAT and tanker vehicles with an X endorsement, so jobs related to those CMVs are potential options.
Why Get an X Endorsement?
You'll have more freedom in the kind of cargo you wish to carry, and this endorsement may lead to a higher earning potential as you'll have two endorsements in one.
What Endorsements Can I Get With a CLP?
Only three endorsements are allowed on a commercial license permit (CLP): P, S, and N.
CLP holders with a P or S endorsement are prohibited from carrying passengers in a CMV, other than the accompanying CDL holder, federal or state auditors, test examiners, and other trainees. CLP holders with an N endorsement can only drive empty tank vehicles and cannot operate a tanker containing any trace of hazardous substances.
Do CDL Endorsements Lead to Higher Pay?
Having certain endorsements may help you increase your wages as a truck driver. For example, with an H endorsement, you may be able to earn 6% more than the average truck driver's salary. An N endorsement can lead to 4% more money, on average, and an X endorsement could equate to 8% more pay than average. The T endorsement to a CDL can increase your earnings by close to 8%, on average.