Hazardous materials are so prevalent in our modern world, and they need to travel from place to place. This point may seem fairly obvious, but most people are likely to drive down the highway without ever noticing the trucks that pass them with placards showing they’re transporting hazardous material.
The drivers who safely get hazardous materials from Point A to Point B may blend in with other truck drivers on the road, but they have a special job. We all depend on hazmat drivers to keep our roads and communities safe, even when potentially dangerous materials are on the move. These materials can include everything from gasoline to perfume, but what they all have in common is that they require special care and handling to avoid having a detrimental effect on people or the environment.
If you’re interested in creating new professional opportunities for yourself, you may be asking, “What do I need to do to become a hazmat truck driver?” In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about how to become a hazmat truck driver, including the courses you need to take, how to get a commercial driver’s license, what endorsements you need and how to get them. Finally, we’ll look at some reasons you should consider becoming a hazmat driver and which industries need hazmat drivers.
What Hazmat Truck Driver Training Courses Do You Need?
First, it’s essential to understand all hazmat truck drivers must receive specialized training that helps them stay safe and do their jobs effectively with minimal risk of a mishap occuring. Training isn’t just a good idea, though. It’s the law. The statute that governs requirements for hazmat drivers is Chapter 51 of Title 49 of the U.S. Code. Section 5107 of that chapter is all about outlining the training requirements for hazmat employees.
According to §5107, employees must receive training on how to safely load and unload, handle, store and transport hazardous material. Plus, they must receive training in how to respond to an emergency incident involving the transportation of dangerous materials. More specifically, training must cover the following areas.
- General awareness/familiarization: Every hazmat driver must learn the basics of how to deal with hazardous materials, according to the regulations.
- Function-specific: Since every job is different, this requirement for function-specific training means all employees get trained in the unique demands of their role.
- Safety: Safety training should outline the potential dangers inherent in hazardous materials and how to protect yourself. Safety training may also cover how to respond to a hazardous materials emergency.
- Security: As of 2003, security awareness training is another requirement that applies to all hazmat employees. This training covers the security risks hazmat drivers should be aware of and how to maintain a proper level of security.
In addition to the requirements above, if your employer has a security plan, you and all other employees who work for the company must receive training on that plan and how to implement it.
The law doesn’t specify what exactly your training should look like. It could come in the form of lectures, interactive videos, conferences or any other instruction. While the way the training takes is up to your employer, the law specifies hazmat drivers must receive documentation to certify they have completed training. If your employer conducts the course in-house, they should provide this documentation. If you undergo instruction from an external source, you should get a certificate at the end to acknowledge you’ve completed it.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) dictates the requirements above, but the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) also requires training for any workers who may come into contact with hazardous materials. There’s no question — you can’t become a hazmat truck driver without first undergoing the proper instruction. You should also stay on top of ongoing training requirements after you become certified.
How to Get a CDL Driver’s License.
Before you can become a hazmat truck driver, you must get your commercial driver’s license (CDL). So, let’s take a moment to look at how to get one. CDLs come in three different classes: A, B and C. If you want to be a hazmat truck driver, you’ll need a Class A CDL. The exact requirements for obtaining your CDL vary from state to state, since every state’s bureau or department of motor vehicles has different regulations.
Generally, the process looks similar to the process you went through to obtain your first driver’s license. Here are the steps you can expect to go through to earn your CDL.
1. Check the Regulations for Your State
The first thing you’ll want to do is get a copy of your state’s commercial driver’s licensing manual. You should be able to find this manual at your local DMV or on their website for download. Since every state is a little different, you want to make sure you understand the requirements for your state.
2. Pass a Knowledge Test
The next step is to study for and pass a knowledge test that demonstrates you understand the relevant laws and the vehicle you plan to operate. Everyone must take a general knowledge exam, but if you want to be a hazmat driver, you will also have to take a hazardous material knowledge test. Again, not all states have the same requirements, so make sure you check to see what the rules are in your state.
3. Obtain Your Commercial Learner’s Permit
If you pass the required tests and have the necessary qualifications, you’ll receive your commercial learner’s permit, or CLP, which allows you to drive a commercial vehicle as long as a licensed commercial driver accompanies you. These qualifications include having a suitable driving record from the last 10 years, being medically fit and having all the necessary documentation. Find out what documentation your state requires. You may need to provide proof of your identity and residency, for instance. You will also need to pay a fee to get your CLP.
4. Pass a Skills Test
The final step is to pass a skills test. You must wait at least two weeks after getting your CLP before taking the skills test to get your CDL. Your state may have other requirements you must fulfill before taking the skills test. You’ll want to practice so you’re ready for this exam. It consists of three parts: the vehicle inspection test, the basic controls test and the road test. If you pass, you’ll finally receive your CDL.
What Are the Types of Hazmat Endorsements?
In addition to the CDL itself, you’ll also need some special endorsements to work as a hazmat driver. An endorsement is essentially extra permission you have alongside the general licensure to operate a commercial vehicle. Three types of hazmat CDL endorsements are relevant to hazmat truck drivers, including the following.
- (N) Tank vehicle endorsement: An N endorsement allows you to operate a tank vehicle, a type of truck specifically for transporting liquids or liquefied gases. The trucking industry typically uses tankers to transport hazardous materials, which is why hazmat drivers should have the endorsement they need to drive one. Without the endorsement to operate a tanker, you’ll have a real disadvantage in the field.
- (H) Hazardous materials endorsement: An H endorsement is the one that directly applies to all hazmat drivers. It is a requirement for transporting hazardous materials. In addition to the written knowledge test, you’ll have to turn in a TSA Security Threat Assessment application and have fingerprinting done.
- (X) Tanker/hazmat combo endorsement: For most hazmat drivers, an X endorsement is a perfect choice, since it is a combination of the N and H endorsements. That means, with one endorsement, you can gain the certification you need to transport hazardous materials and to operate a tanker.
Adding an endorsement to your CDL through the DMV is pretty simple. All you have to do is pass a special written test that pertains to the particular area you want to qualify for. You’ll also need to pay a fee, which typically ranges from around $20 to $50. Hazmat endorsements cost more than others because they involve a background check.
When you get an endorsement, you’ll get a mark on your commercial driver’s license, which means you won’t have to carry any additional documentation to show you have earned an endorsement. You’ll either get your new driver’s license with the endorsement marked the day you pass the test, or you’ll get it mailed to you shortly thereafter.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Hazmat Truck Driver?
You may be wondering, with all the required training and certification, why should you go through the trouble to become a hazmat truck driver? It turns out, there are some pretty convincing reasons. Let’s look at a few of the benefits of becoming a truck driver who can haul hazardous materials.
1. Job Security
This reason applies to any job in the trucking industry. Since 2005, the trucking industry has been dealing with a shortage of truck drivers. As current drivers retire and fewer young people go into trucking, many companies are scrambling to try to fill positions. While this creates a headache for some companies, it means the industry has plenty of opportunities. If you have the skills it takes to effectively transport hazardous materials, you can expect to find a job easily and for that job to remain secure.
2. Good Salary
Salary is a crucial factor for just about anyone when considering a career path or a job opportunity. Truck drivers tend to enjoy a comfortable living, without needing to go into debt for a college degree. Especially due to the worker shortage mentioned above, companies are willing to pay truck drivers good money. This fact is especially true for hazmat drivers, who enjoy some of the highest salaries in the trucking industry. According to Glassdoor, a company that collects salary reports, the average salary for a hazmat driver is over $50,000 a year.
3. Competitive Edge
Whether you’re already a truck driver or are looking to become one, adding a hazmat endorsement to your CDL, along with the proper training, can make you more marketable in the field. If a company needs some drivers to transport hazardous materials, even if it’s only on occasion, the fact that you’re up to the task will give you a competitive edge over job applicants who only have their CDL. If you’re looking for a way to stand out, a hazmat endorsement is an excellent way to do just that.
Which Industries Need Hazmat Drivers?
Hazardous materials are all around us, so there are plenty of job opportunities for transporting it. Many people tend to picture materials like explosives when thinking of hazmat, but hazardous materials can be everyday products like batteries, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, pharmaceuticals and more. Even companies that don’t have a reputation for using hazardous materials likely depend on hazmat in some way.
Four primary industries account for the vast majority of all industrial materials and wastes. These industries include:
- Chemical manufacturing
- Primary metal production
- Metal fabrication
- Petroleum processing
Hazmat School — Your Online DOT Hazmat Training Provider
If you want to become a hazmat truck driver, the first step is to get the necessary training. The great news is that you can receive the instruction you need online. E-learning is a valid option for fulfilling your hazmat training requirements, but make sure before you enroll in an online course that it meets the requirements from DOT, EPA and OSHA.
At Hazmat School, we offer online courses tailored to various industries that fulfill all the DOT, EPA and OSHA requirements. All our Remote Instructors™ have the expertise and the passion to help you succeed with everything you need to become a hazmat truck driver. They track your progress and are there to answer all your questions. Every year, we help more than 20,000 students through our online training.
When you finish a course with Hazmat School, you’ll receive an official certificate that acknowledges your accomplishment. Remember, you’ll need to have a CDL with the necessary endorsement(s) to meet all the legal requirements for transporting hazardous materials. Being a hazmat driver comes with some significant benefits, so the training is well worth the reward. With the right training, you’ll be ready to get behind the wheel and safely transport hazardous materials. Enroll in hazmat training with Hazmat School today.