In order to drive commercial vehicles such as trucks, you must first get your license. However, if you want to operate certain types of specialty vehicles, you may need additional CDL endorsements. Whether you want to work in a specific field of driving, or you are simply looking to expand the types of routes you are able to drive, here is everything that you need to know about trucker endorsements.
What is a CDL endorsement?
When you get your commercial driver’s license (CDL), it does not give you unlimited freedom to drive any kind of commercial vehicle, anywhere you like. Firstly, there are three types of CDL license, Class A, Class B, and Class C. These different licenses require different qualifications, and allow you to drive different kinds of vehicles. You can read more about Class A CDLs here.
A CDL endorsement is a further qualification that you can add on to any of these CDL licenses. It allows you to operate certain types of specialist commercial vehicles. Essentially, it provides added permissions to your license and extra qualifications for your resume. It is also a necessary step to take if you are looking to drive a certain kind of vehicle or take certain kinds of routes.
What are all of the available CDL endorsements?
The exact CDL endorsements that are available or required for certain vehicles is something that can vary from state to state, as do the specific requirements for securing those endorsements. Some endorsements require nothing more than an additional test, but some will also require things such as criminal background checks and even fingerprinting. With that in mind, here is a list of the available CDL endorsements.
H: Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT)
This is an endorsement that is required for driving vehicles that transport hazardous materials. This might include flammable, combustible, or explosive substances. In order to secure this endorsement, you will have to take a written knowledge test, as well as passing some security measures including a background check and submitting your fingerprints.
N: Tank Vehicles
A tank vehicle or “tanker” requires a slightly different set of skills to operate than those required for driving a typical truck. A regular CDL only gives you a permit to operate vehicles transporting dry goods. If you want to transport liquids, you have to secure this N endorsement with a written knowledge test.
X: Hazardous Materials in a Tank
Essentially combining the two above endorsements, an X endorsement qualifies you to drive vehicles that transport hazardous materials in a tank. This will also require a written knowledge test.
This endorsement allows you to drive passenger vehicles such as buses. It does not include school buses, as that requires a separate endorsement. Securing a P endorsement will require both a written knowledge test and a practical road skills test, as buses tend to be quite different from other large or commercial vehicles.
S: School Buses
As mentioned, a separate endorsement is required if you want to be able to drive school buses, and this will be on top of your P endorsement. In order to get the additional S endorsement, you will have to take the road skills test in the relevant vehicle, as well as passing a background check and paying additional fees.
T: Doubles and Triples
If you want to operate a vehicle with a double or triple trailer, you will have to get a T endorsement. This will usually only require a written knowledge test.
As mentioned, a CDL license is required before you can get these additional qualifications. The endorsements that you can get will also depend on the class of CDL that you have. Class A endorsements include all of the above. If you have a Class A license, you will be able to apply for any of them. With a Class B license, you can get the H, N, P, S, and X endorsements. If you want to get a Class C license, you will actually be required to get one or more of the H, P, or S endorsements. That is because a Class C license is used for operating a vehicle that transports more than 15 occupants or hazardous materials.
What are CDL restrictions?
Whenever the conversation is about CDL endorsements, the subject also typically includes restrictions. A CDL restriction is almost the opposite of an endorsement, in that it covers situations where your license covers every type of vehicle denoted by its class, except those classified by that restriction. This usually happens when you take the test in a vehicle that does not have all of the necessary equipment. They are as follows:
- L — an air brake restriction based on falling the Air Brakes Knowledge Test
- Z — an air brake restriction based on having taken the practical test in a vehicle without air brakes
- E — restricted to driving vehicles with automatic transmissions only
- O — prevented from driving vehicles with a fifth wheel connection
- M — allows you to operate only Class B or C passenger vehicles
- N — allows you to operate only Class C passenger vehicles
- V — a medical variance restriction, for conditions such as diabetes, hearing impairment, seizures, or vision impairments
Perhaps it goes without saying, but the best way to ensure the most job opportunities is to minimize the number of restrictions on your license, and secure as many CDL endorsements as possible. While it may or may not increase your pay, it certainly will open up the types of jobs you are able to apply for. Just always remember to double-check regulations in your state and/or the region where you intend to work.
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