Do you have what it takes to work for hazmat trucking companies? In addition to the normal issues that face trucking companies, those that haul hazardous materials require additional certification and regulatory compliance to ensure strict safety standards are maintained.
Following the World Trade Center terrorist attack and the passing of the Patriot Act, the process for acquiring a hazmat endorsement for commercial driver’s licenses has become more intricate.
The added restrictions on these types of trucking jobs are designed to avoid possible damage and negative impact to the environment or people as a result of a mistake.
Once you successfully complete the certification process, you will have the opportunity to work very rewarding and profitable hazmat trucking jobs.
What is a Hazmat Driver?
Essentially, a hazmat driver is any professional truck driver who has earned the endorsements legally required to transport hazardous materials. Examples of hazardous materials include items such as:
- Flammable or combustible liquids or solids
- Radioactive materials
The Department of Transportation defines a hazardous material as "any item or chemical which, when being transported or moved in commerce, is a risk to public safety or the environment."
Because of the risks associated with hauling hazardous materials, drivers are significantly more specialized and credentialed. As a result, you can usually command a higher salary for your services. Currently, Payscale.com reports that the average annual pay for a hazmat certified tanker driver averages over $60,500, with driver pay reaching as high as $84,500.
How to become a Hazmat Truck Driver
Before you begin the process of acquiring your hazardous materials endorsement, you will need to meet certain requirements. You’ll need a valid CDL in the state you’ll be applying and your commercial license must be in good standing and must not be suspended or revoked. You’ll need proof of your full legal name, U.S. citizenship, and birthdate, as well as your social security number. You’ll also have to present a DOT medical card and medical waiver if applicable.
TSA Criminal Background Checks
The next step will be security clearance with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This process involves an advanced TSA background check, including getting fingerprinted and providing proof of your U.S. citizenship. The TSA will conduct a meticulous background check to make sure you are qualified to drive hazardous materials across the country. These background checks can take up to two months, and you will have to pay around $80 to $120 to have them completed on your behalf.
Notification of Approval
The TSA will eventually notify you of the results of your background check by mail. Be patient, as this can take some time to arrive. If you are approved, you are all set to take the hazmat knowledge test for your state. If you are denied approval, however, you have 60 days to appeal. Denial does not mean your CDL has been revoked, it simply means you are denied access to hazmat trucking jobs.
Passing the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Knowledge Test
When your background check is complete and you have received approval from the TSA, you are now all set to take the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Knowledge Test in your state. This test will cover required truck parts for hauling hazmat, weight restrictions, markings, and more.
Renewing the Hazardous Materials Endorsement
You will also be required to renew your hazmat endorsement on a regular basis. In most cases, this will be every five years, but it could change depending on the state where you are licensed. During renewal, you will be required to submit new fingerprints and you may be required to complete a written test that demonstrates your competency in handling hazmat trucking jobs.
Finding Jobs With Hazmat Trucking Companies
Once you are certified to drive a hazmat truck, then you may choose to use an online job board, such as CDLjobs.com, to research and apply to the various trucking companies that haul hazardous materials. While the employment market is significantly narrower, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a positive job outlook for employment of hazardous material removal workers projected to grow 17 percent through 2026.
Ready to get started?
If you're interested in a career in the trucking industry, it may be beneficial to obtain your hazmat endorsement at the onset. While many drivers may think they’ll never want or need to get the endorsement, the fact of the matter is that your circumstances might change. You may find yourself in a position where being able to apply for truck driving jobs hauling hazardous materials could help your career. It may be the difference between being hired and not being hired, even if you’re never given a hazmat load by any trucking companies.
The benefits of applying for and getting your endorsement far outweigh the investment.