Hard-working truck drivers deliver upwards of 70 percent of America’s goods and materials while taking home lucrative salaries. But like any career path, there are always opportunities to increase your earnings. One of the tried-and-true ways women and men who operate heavy-duty vehicles can quickly augment their salaries involves getting CDL HazMat training and an endorsement.

By learning about hazardous materials and how to transport them safely, trucking companies are generally willing to pay a premium for your services. That’s why a HazMat endorsement study guide and CDL HazMat training could change the trajectory of your trucking career and secure your place among top earners.

What is a HazMat CDL Endorsement?

The HazMat endorsement is available to qualified CDL-holders who wish to take a position hauling sensitive and sometimes dangerous materials. The endorsement remains available to qualifying professional drivers who already possess a Class A, B, or C driver’s license. The CDL license someone earns generally defines the manner, vehicle type, and weight that hazardous materials can be lawfully transported. In terms of trucker benefits, CDL professionals with a HazMat endorsement are considered more valuable and earn higher salaries.

HazMat Study Guide: Materials To Know

When truckers haul hazardous materials, their load’s source of origin is expected to label them appropriately. As part of your CDL HazMat training, qualified truck drivers learn the corresponding placard to the nine classes of hazardous materials. These symbols are universally recognized by their image, color, and design, to serve two basic purposes.

First, they articulate the specific items being transported, and that allows truckers to take appropriate safety measures. Second, warning signs let first responders know what type of threat they are dealing with in the event of an accident or spill. Truckers who plan to earn a HazMat endorsement must familiarize themselves with the following classes of hazardous materials.

8 Classes of Hazardous Materials

classes of hazardous materials

  • Class 1 (Explosives): This class of hazardous items involves any products or materials prone to accelerated detonation or combustion due to a chemical reaction. These generally include things such as ammunition and fireworks, among others.
  • Class 2 (Gases): Although this group is determined by vapor pressure standards and atomic pressure, the gases typically include aerosols, fire extinguishers, natural gas, and propane, among others.
  • Class 3 (Flammable Liquids): Any liquid that suffers a potential flashpoint between 140 and 149 degrees is considered a hazardous material in terms of transportation. Common items include alcohol, gasoline, diesel fuel, paint products, and kerosene, among others.
  • Class 4 (Flammable Solids): Materials prone to explosion under certain circumstances fall under this category. Perhaps the most widely known example remains batteries.
  • Class 5 (Oxidizing Substances, Organic Peroxides): This class of hazardous materials can contribute to combustion by increasing oxygen through chemical reactions. Although organic hydrogen peroxide may be the most well-known in this group, others include ammonium nitrate fertilizers and sodium nitrates.
  • Class 6 (Toxic and Infectious Substances): Substances that can cause significant injury, health conditions, or death when humans come into contact with them fall into this category. Contact generally includes inhalation, skin contact, or swallowing. Pathogens, fungi, parasites, tear gas, biomedical waste, cyanide, acids, and bacteria rank among the common examples.
  • Class 7 (Radioactive Material): Any material that emits ionizing radiation falls under this designation because it presents a human and environmental risk. Although everyday people often think in terms of depleted uranium being transported, medical isotopes, radioactive ores, and even density gauges qualify.
  • Class 8 (Corrosives): Items such as acids, batteries, dyes, and flux, can degrade or disintegrate other materials. This means they also pose a clear and present danger to the environment and living organisms.

The comprehensive list kept by federal and state agencies also covers wide-reaching dangerous materials. To earn a HazMat endorsement, CDL-holders will need to know how to identify these materials and the safety precautions necessary for effective transportation.

HazMat Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

Truckers are tasked with increased safety and security measures when transporting hazardous materials. If handled improperly, they pose a health and safety risk to CDL professionals and others in the supply chain. And beyond the obvious threat to the environment and community members, these loads may be targeted by hijackers. Therefore, truckers would be well served to consider the following HazMat safety protocols.

  • Truck Security Measures: Always remove keys from the tractor when the engine is not running and lock the doors behind you when exiting. Anytime a driver is outside a 25-foot radius of the vehicle, make sure windows, doors, and access to compartments are secured. 
  • Trailer Security Measures: Check that all cabinets, hoses, and tools remain fully secure when not being utilized. When truckers are transporting hazardous materials, all compartments should stay in a locked position. Shipping papers should always remain on the passenger’s seat for easy access and drivers are urged to record the date, time, and the number of trailer and tank seals. 
  • Travel Security Measures: When leaving a facility, look carefully to see if anyone is surveilling your departure. Never discuss the contents of the nature of your cargo. Maintain reasonable communications with the dispatcher and keep devices charged in the event of an emergency. Remain mindful of logistical challenges and impediments that might cause loads to shift or spills to occur.

Truck drivers who enroll in CDL HazMat training are usually tasked with keeping a copy of the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook for hazardous materials onboard. This essential document should be placed on any pre-trip inspection checklists. Make sure the volume covers emergency response measures that correlate to the hazardous materials you are transporting. It’s critical for truckers to know the information frontward and backward to maximize safety at all times.

How Do You Get A HazMat CDL Endorsement?

The study involved in passing the knowledge test and process may seem tedious, but truck drivers who obtain a HazMat endorsement generally find it financially rewarding. Men and women who already have a CDL undergo a process that includes the following.

Meet HazMat requirements: Applicants must be at least 21 years old, hold a valid CDL, provide proof of residence, citizenship, and supply a medical examiner’s certificate that is commonly called a DOT medical card.

  1. Fill Out The Application: A HazMat endorsement application can be filled out online in many states. The application forms are essentially a vehicle for government agencies to conduct background checks. Some states require applicants to work directly with the local DMV. 
  1. Visit TSA: After filing the proper forms online, applicants need to get in touch with a Transportation Security Administration (gov) application center. These locations can be found by visiting the online platform and entering your zip code. Applicants can also call (866) 289-9673 to schedule an appointment. The TSA center typically takes your fingerprints and verifies the applicant’s identity. 
  1. Check Application Status: It often takes officials 1-2 months to verify credentials and process applications. Periodically check the status of your application online. Print it out once approved. If the HazMat endorsement request is rejected, you have a right to appeal and clear up any discrepancies. 
  1. Take the HazMat Test: Once you secure approval, truckers will need to take the CDL HazMat endorsement test at a local DMV. These facilities may offer tests on select days, require an appointment, or welcome walk-ins.

It’s essential to work with a CDL HazMat study guide that reflects the sometimes regional issues involved in transporting dangerous materials. Some states provide study manuals on easy-to-access online platforms, and renewal manuals have become relatively commonplace. The TSA typically requires truckers to renew their HazMat endorsement every five years and possess a working knowledge of the latest safety precautions.

Earning a CDL HazMat endorsement generally makes truckers increasingly valuable to freight carriers and fleet operations. If you are wondering what opportunities might be available for truckers with HazMat endorsements, view available jobs in your area.

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