Besides being a legal requirement in certain instances, hazmat endorsement offers multiple benefits. It creates opportunities for trucking companies and truck drivers to secure more contracts, generating revenue.
However, the application process can be somewhat complicated and requires numerous steps. This article provides all you need to know about hazmat endorsement and discusses the step-by-step process to help you obtain the certification.
What Is a Hazmat Endorsement?
Hazardous material endorsement (HME) is a certification that allows commercial vehicle drivers to legally transport hazardous materials in the United States. A particular classification is attached to the regular commercial driver’s license (CDL), granting the bearer the authority to drive dangerous materials.
CDL drivers 21 years old or older who wish to obtain the certification must meet specific eligibility requirements and pass a hazmat test. The applicant must apply for a federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security threat assessment and have their fingerprints taken, among other necessary procedures.
Why Do You Need a Hazmat Endorsement?
Here are four reasons why you need a hazmat endorsement:
- Legal requirement: The law requires CDL drivers operating certain commercial motor vehicles, including those transporting hazardous materials, to secure an HME. The rule generally applies to loads that need placarding to haul, as defined by law.
- More opportunities: Obtaining a hazmat endorsement adds to your credentials and enables you to transport a wider cargo range than the average Class A CDL holder. This makes your applications more attractive to employers. Trucking companies with hazmat-endorsed drivers can also take on hazmat transportation contracts in Classes 1-8.
- Additional endorsements: Some jobs may require obtaining an HME and a tanker endorsement. This combination, usually called an X endorsement, makes CDL drivers even more competitive. It also makes sense, as tankers predominantly carry and transport hazardous materials.
- Increased revenue: More opportunities usually translate into increased revenue, which is the goal of almost every trucking company. Drivers with hazmat endorsements are likely to charge more per mile, which is an effective strategy to stay ahead of the competition.
What Are the Requirements for Getting Hazmat Endorsement?
Applicants of hazmat endorsement must meet specific requirements, including the following:
1. Citizenship and Age Requirements
The applicant must be a U.S. citizen at the time of application. Non-citizens may also hold hazmat endorsements if they are lawful permanent residents of the U.S. or nonimmigrant aliens, refugees or asylees in lawful status and have a CDL issued by a U.S. state. The applicant must present evidence of their residence status when making the application. It helps to check the state where your license is being issued to confirm if there are additional requirements.
In addition to the residence requirements, the HME applicant must be at least 21 years of age, although they may be eligible to apply for a commercial driver’s license at age 18. Federal law also requires the applicant to disclose all previously issued permits for the past 10 years, regardless of type or state, where applicable.
2. Federal Medical Requirements
An applicant for hazmat endorsement must satisfy the federal medical requirements under 49 CFR Part 391 and secure a valid Department of Transportation medical examiner’s certificate. Physical examinations are performed by medical examiners registered with the Federation Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Federal and state laws require fingerprint-based background checks to confirm the applicant’s criminal history or ascertain whether they pose security threats that warrant denial of the HME. Fingerprinting also helps the agency verify the applicant’s citizenship status. This is necessary for new applicants and those seeking to renew their certifications.
4. Entry-Level Driver Training
First-time applicants of HME must complete hazmat entry-level driver training before taking the hazmat knowledge test. The applicant may obtain the training from a training provider listed on the training provider registry, a system created and managed by the FMCSA. The training provider can be an educational institution, a training school, school districts, state and local government agencies, joint labor-management programs, motor carriers, owner-operators, and individuals.
Besides these qualifications, a person may be temporarily disqualified from obtaining a hazmat endorsement if they’re convicted or found not guilty due to insanity within the last seven years or were released from jail in the previous five years for certain named offenses. Specified crimes may be cause for permanent disqualification.
Steps to Get a Hazardous Materials Endorsement
Here are the steps on how to get a hazmat endorsement:
1. Meet the Entry-Level Driver Training Requirements
First-time HME applicants must complete the entry-level driver training as explained above.
2. Take the Hazmat Knowledge Test
Taking and passing the hazmat knowledge test is a prerequisite for getting your certification. The test consists of 30 questions, of which you must get at least 24 correct answers — 80% total. As a tip, partner with an experienced institution to prepare you adequately for the test so you can increase your chances of acing it the first time.
3. Complete and Submit the HME Application
The Patriot Act of 2001 requires HME applicants to undergo a TSA security threat assessment or background check before being issued the endorsement.
You can do this online or in person at an application center, unless you’re from Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York or Wisconsin, where you may visit your local DMV. You can visit an application center after scheduling an online appointment to continue with your application.
This process may require you to provide various documentation, including your passport, birth certificate, certificate of report of birth, certificate of naturalization or citizenship or Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Services citizen ID. After completing the TSA security screening, you may have to wait a while to hear back from the agency.
4. Complete the DMV Check
The TSA and DMV work together to issue the HME. Usually, the TSA forwards your results to the DMV, where you’ll undergo additional tests. The DMV may require you to produce documents such as:
- Identification documents
- Driver’s license
- Social Security card or W-2 form
- Printed confirmation notice of self-certification with the DMV
- Recent medical certificate completed by a certified medical examiner
Hazmat Endorsement FAQ
Do you have further questions? Here are the answers to some HME FAQs:
1. How Much Does Hazmat Endorsement Cost?
The HME application costs $86.50. Applicants with TWIC cards may pay less.
2. How Long Does the Hazmat Endorsement Process Take?
The duration varies depending on multiple factors, so it’s best to contact your local DMV for accurate information. However, the process can take up to 90 days.
3. How Often Should You Renew Your Hazmat Endorsement?
The renewal period depends on the state you’re in, but the endorsement may expire after four or five years.
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