Overview of Each CDL Endorsement – All You Need to Know

| Last Updated: November 8, 2021

Getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL) isn’t always enough to ensure you raise your employability levels and earning potential. 

If you want to land better, high-paying jobs even faster, you should consider adding several CDL endorsements to your Class A, Class B, or Class C CDL. 

This article discusses each CDL endorsement in-depth to help you decide which endorsements you should add to your CDL for better employment prospects. 

CDL Endorsements

The table below provides a quick overview of various CDL endorsements and what each allows you to do as a CDL driver.

Endorsement

Permits/Allows For

H – Hazardous Materials

Permits you to transport hazardous materials

N – Tank Vehicle

Permits you to drive a tank vehicle, with either a temporary or permanent tank connected to the vehicle

X – Tanker/HAZMAT Combo

Allows transporting hazardous materials in a tank vehicle

P – Passenger Transport

Allows for operating vehicles meant to carry a specified number of people

S – School Bus/Passenger Transport

Allows for operating a school bus

T – Doubles/Triples

Allows towing double or triple trailers

What Is a CDL Endorsement?

A CDL endorsement is a special permission granted to a CDL holder to allow them to drive a certain type of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and haul special types of cargo. 

You can take CDL training classes and pass the skills test to obtain your CDL on its own, but it never hurts to add one or a few more endorsements to boost your hirability rate. 

CDL endorsements are added to an individual driver’s commercial driver’s license and have to be renewed each time you renew your CDL. 

How Many CDL Endorsements Are There?

There are six CDL endorsements that commercial drivers can choose from to enhance their licenses. 

Some endorsements apply to multiple types of CDL, as we’ll see later in our discussion.

CDL Endorsements List

The six CDL trucking endorsements have varying characteristics, such as different requirements, benefits, types of vehicles allowable, and types of freight you can transport. 

Below is a detailed overview of the six endorsements and their various characteristics. 

1. Hazardous Materials Endorsement

The H Endorsement, also called the HazMat/HAZMAT Endorsement, is issued to CDL drivers looking to operate hazardous waste and hazardous materials for which a placard is required. 

Such hazardous materials include combustible and flammable gases and liquids.

The Hazardous Materials Endorsement is the hardest to get because it involves extra steps taken by the issuing state to ensure state and federal laws are followed to the letter for maximum safety. 

Benefits of Earning Hazardous Materials Endorsement

A HazMat endorsement allows you to enjoy the following advantages:

  • Better pay rates since most trucking companies have to compete for the few HazMat drivers available
  • Allowance to combine the H Endorsement with the Tank vehicle endorsement to enable you to transport bulk fluids in tanks
  • Ongoing training from trucking companies that want their HazMat drivers to stay up to date with new regulations and trends
  • Enjoying the advanced technology used by carriers, such as collision avoidance systems that help reduce the severity and risks of accidents

Photo credit: airmountlogistics.com

How to Get Hazardous Materials Endorsement

Different states may have different processes for obtaining the HazMat Endorsement. Generally, you’ll be required to meet some or all of the following to get your endorsement.

  • Pass a written HazMat knowledge test
  • Cover about $100 for the total endorsement cost
  • Take a TSA Security Threat Assessment screening application
  • Avail two means of identification – DOT medical certificate and driver’s license
  • Have your fingerprints taken and submitted at an authorized prints collection site
  • Complete written tests to maintain the endorsement in some states
  • Be at least 21 years old 
  • Be a legal permanent US resident or have a valid Employment Authorization Document
  • Be a legal US citizen.

2. Tank Vehicle Endorsement

The tank vehicle endorsement, also called the tanker endorsement, is necessary for CDL drivers to transport bulk liquids or gases in tank vehicles. 

The tank endorsement ensures that the vehicle is loaded the right way and completely safe and that the operator knows how to react readily to any situation.

The tank can be permanently attached to the vehicle, with its capacity rated at 119 gallons or more. 

The tanker may also be temporarily attached to the vehicle (portable), with its capacity rated 1,000 gallons or more. 

Benefits of Tank Vehicle Endorsement

The tanker endorsement assures you of various benefits, such as:

  • High earning potential and leverage when negotiating payments
  • Better chances of finding bulk fluids transportation jobs
  • Enhanced knowledge on the safe transportation of bulk wet loads 

How to Get Tank Vehicle Endorsement

You’ll have to fulfill the following to obtain your tank vehicle endorsement.

  • Apply for the test at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state
  • Pay $20 – $50 for the test
  • Pass the Tank endorsement knowledge test containing 20-30 questions 
  • Submit an eye exam with a recent photo of the condition of both eyes
  • Submit your most recent photo to the DMV
  • Pass a criminal background test
  • Have valid US residential status or valid US passport

3. Tanker/HAZMAT Combo Endorsement

The Tanker/HazMat combined endorsement is required of CDL drivers transporting hazardous materials in a tank vehicle. 

You will have to undergo more comprehensive training to obtain both the HazMat and Tank Vehicle endorsements at a go. 

Having the combo endorsement doesn’t force you to transport only hazardous materials. Instead, it gives you the freedom to choose between hazardous materials and bulk fluids as you wish. 

Benefits of Getting Tanker/HazMat Combo Endorsement

With a combined tanker and HazMat endorsement, you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Freedom to choose between transporting either hazardous materials or bulk fluids in tank vehicles
  • Better employability levels because of the dual experience with bulk load transportation
  • Higher earning potential than CDL holders with only tank vehicle or HazMat endorsement

Photo credit: tankmart.com

How to Get Tanker/HazMat Combo Endorsement

The tanker/HazMat combined endorsement requires you to meet various requirements as outlined below.

  • Pass a written knowledge test
  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be a US citizen
  • Be a legal permanent US resident or have a valid Employment Authorization Document
  • Pay the fees for the endorsement.

4. Passenger Transport Endorsement

The Passenger endorsement, P, allows CDL drivers to operate vehicles designed to carry a specified number of people on vehicles such as tourist, tour, and segmented buses. 

The number of passengers for most states is 16 or more, including the driver. Some states require ten passengers, including the driver as the minimum number. 

Other passenger vehicles you can drive with a P endorsement include airport shuttles, general public paratransit vehicles, and farm labor vehicles. 

Benefits of Getting Passenger Transport Endorsement

CDL drivers with the P endorsement enjoy benefits such as:

  • Interacting with people from all walks of life and different cultures in their day to day passenger transport work
  • Maintaining and holding themselves to high levels of etiquette, safety, and respect human life since they will be transporting living people
  • Permission to operate various types of buses such as tour, city, and segmented buses

How to Get Passenger Endorsement 

CDL drivers seeking the Passenger endorsement must pass both a written knowledge test and a skills test. The skills test comprises a mandatory road skills test. 

Passenger endorsement aspirants must also have a clean driving record. You must also have at least three years of consecutive driving experience. 

Aspirants for the P endorsement must be of good moral standing and pass a background check for criminality. 

As a CDL driver seeking the Passenger endorsement, you must also prove you can do the following:

  • Use correct passenger loading and unloading procedures or techniques
  • Respond well to emergencies
  • Use the proper methods for handling unruly passengers
  • Ably transport passengers of all ages and all physical disabilities

5. School Bus/Passenger Transport Combo Endorsement

The School Bus endorsement, S, is required of CDL drivers operating a school bus. Like the P endorsement, the S endorsement is treated with extra caution since you’ll be transporting people. 

Benefits of Getting School Bus/Passenger Transport Combo

Obtaining the School bus/passenger endorsement combination sets you up to enjoy various benefits such as:

  • Interacting with students of different ages and cultures daily
  • Maintaining high standards of self-discipline because you have to safeguard the students’ lives on and off the road
  • High earning potential with fewer working hours, especially where you are only required to transport students a few hours per day in the morning and evening

How to Get School Bus/Passenger Transport Combo Endorsement

Since you’ll be transporting people, the S endorsement has strict requirements and qualifications that you must meet. These include:

  • Passing a written knowledge test
  • Passing a skills test that consists of a road skills test
  • Passing a state criminal background check
  • Passing periodic physical examinations to retain the endorsement
  • Paying the total cost of the endorsement
  • Passing a national criminal background check (in some states)
  • Have a clean driver’s record
  • Mandatory Passenger Transport Endorsement

6. Doubles/Triples Endorsement

The Doubles/Triples Endorsement allows CDL holders to drive CMVs towing double or triple trailers at once. 

The T endorsement improves a regular CDL license, which only allows the holder to operate single trailers.

Double and triple trailers are also called Longer Combination Vehicles – LCVs

Photo credit: challenger.com

Benefits of Doubles/Triples Endorsement

CDL holders with the T endorsement enjoy benefits such as:

  • Gaining greater CDL experience by driving heavier loads that necessitate working harder and smarter
  • Higher earning potential because of the ability to haul heavier loads
  • Permission to pull triple trailers in states where triple trailers are allowed (some states do not legalize pulling triple trailers)

How to Get Doubles/Triples Endorsement

As a CDL driver, you must pass a written knowledge test to obtain the T endorsement. You must also pay the total cost for the endorsement.

CDL Endorsements for Each CDL Classification

There are three CDL classifications, namely Class A, Class B, and Class C CDL. Each CDL class has applicable CDL endorsements, as discussed below. 

Class A CDL Endorsements

You can add one or more of the following endorsements to your Class A CDL:

  • Hazardous Materials
  • Passenger Transport
  • Double/Triples 
  • Tank Vehicle
  • Tanker/Hazardous Materials Combination
  • School Bus/Passenger Transport Combo

Class B CDL Endorsements

A Class B CDL allows you to add one or more of the following types of endorsements:

  • Hazardous Materials
  • Passenger Transport
  • Tanker
  • Tanker/Hazardous Materials combo
  • School Bus/Passenger Transport

Class C CDL Endorsements

Holders of Class C CDL must have one or more of the following Class C endorsements:

  • Passenger Transport
  • Hazardous Materials
  • School Bus/Passenger Transport combination

Conclusion 

A plain commercial driver’s license will get your foot through the door in the trucking industry, but it’s not enough to ensure you get higher earnings and a high-quality trucking experience.

To enhance your skills, experience, employability, and earning potential, it’s advisable to acquire as many CDL endorsements as possible out of the available six for the type of CDL you have. 

Depending on the type of CDL license you have, you can add one or a combination of the following CDL endorsements:

  • Hazardous Materials Endorsement – H or HazMat or HAZMAT
  • Tank Vehicle or Tanker Endorsement – N
  • Tanker/Hazmat Combo Endorsement – X
  • Passenger Transport Endorsement – P
  • School Bus/Passenger  Transport Combo – S
  • Double/Triples Endorsement – T

People Also Ask

While we have covered most of the aspects of CDL endorsements, you may still have some unanswered questions about the topic. Here are some answers to possible questions. 

Which CDL Endorsement Pays the Most?

The T endorsement for doubles and trailers pays the most in most states because the drivers pull heavier loads that mean more work.

CDL drivers with the double/trailer endorsement earn up to $90,000 or more per year in their first few years of experience. 

The tanker endorsement and HazMat endorsement follow closely at positions two and three, respectively. 

It’s important to note that there may be overlaps between the pay rates for these three top earners, depending on factors such as the state, type of CDL held, and the employer. 

Can You Get a HazMat Endorsement Without a CDL?

You can’t get a HazMat Endorsement without a CDL. Each CDL endorsement requires you to have a CDL. 

How Much Does It Cost to Get CDL Endorsements?

You can expect to spend between $2 and $80 for different CDL endorsements. 

The cost for endorsements depends on your state, CDL training school, CDL type, and other endorsement-specific requirements such as payable background checks. 

What Is an AB Endorsement on a CDL?

An AB or Air Brakes endorsement is required of any CDL driver operating a commercial motor vehicle with an air brake system. 

Do You Need Tanker Endorsement for Dry Bulk?

No, you don’t need a tanker endorsement for dry bulk. A tanker endorsement is required for CDL drivers operating tank vehicles that transport bulk liquids or gases. 

Does a Tanker Endorsement Expire?

Your tanker endorsement will only expire if your CDL is expired. To prevent it from expiring, you should always renew your CDL in good time. 

Is a Tanker Endorsement Same as HazMat?

The tanker endorsement is not the same as a HazMat endorsement. 

A tanker endorsement is required to transport bulk liquids or gases in tank vehicles, while a HazMat endorsement is needed to transport hazardous waste or materials in placarded vehicles. 

However, the two CDL endorsements are closely related in that hazardous materials are usually liquids or gases. 

The two endorsements further relate when you consider that they can be obtained together at once as the tanker/HazMat Combo (X) that allows CDL drivers to transport hazardous materials in tank vehicles.



After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.