Endorsements and Certifications for Professional Truck Drivers

Endorsements are required “permissions” for CDL holders driving and hauling various types of equipment and freight. You can earn endorsements at the same time as your CDL, or you can apply for them after you have been driving for a while. While FMCSA oversees endorsements at the federal level, the states actually issue them. Procedures to gain endorsement differ depending on the state in which you hold your CDL.

What endorsements are available for professional truck drivers?

As of 2020, the FMCSA recognizes six endorsements. Various states may offer additional endorsements, so it is advised you check with the CDL-issuing authority in your state to consider endorsement that may be required or that you may want to pursue.

Class A, B, and C all have endorsement options, and one or more may be required depending on the requirements of your job. Endorsements are represented by a single letter in parentheses. For example (P) is a designation for the endorsement allow you to transport passengers. Endorsements, definitions, and other information follows.

What is a Passenger Transport (P) endorsement?

The Passenger Transport (P) endorsement allows you to operate a vehicle capable of carrying a certain number of drivers depending on the type of vehicle.

A (P) endorsement is required of Class A, Class B, and/or Class C CDL holders who transport passengers in vehicles with a capacity of 16 or more (including the driver). Drivers of tour buses intracity transport vehicles, and interstate passenger transport carrier vehicles (i.e., Greyhound) are required to hold the (P) endorsement, as a all school bus drivers.

Requirements to obtain the (P) endorsement include:

  1. Written knowledge test
  2. Road skills test.

What is a School Bus/Passenger Transport (S) endorsement?

A School Bus (S) endorsement is exactly what it says. It allows you to operate a school bus and carry passengers. In order to hold an (S) endorsement, you must also hold a (P) endorsement.

Typical requirement for the (S) endorsement are as follows; however, some states may have more stringent requirements. Check with the appropriate state’s issuing agency for details.

  1. Written knowledge test
  2. Road skills test in appropriate vehicle
  3. Specific application form, fees, and background checks depending on state requirements (criminal history, driver record, national criminal history)
  4. Written knowledge test upon renewal in some states
  5. Periodic physical examination in some states

What is a Hazardous Materials or HazMat (H) endorsement?

The Hazardous Materials or HazMat (H) endorsement is required if you are transporting hazardous materials such as flammable liquids, combustible liquids, gases, and other explosive materials. The (H) endorsement is available and required of all CDL holders transporting these materials — even at the Class C level.

To earn and maintain the (H) endorsement, you will have to successful complete the following:

  1. Written knowledge test
  2. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Security Threat Assessment application
  3. Submit fingerprints along with two forms of ID (Driver’s license, DOT medical card, etc.)
  4. Periodic written knowledge retest

What is a Tank Vehicle (N) endorsement?

The Tank Vehicle (N) endorsement allow you to operate a tank vehicle. The (N) endorsement is required for both vehicles designed with attached tanks and vehicles with a temporary tank attached. Examples of tank vehicles are those used to transport liquids or liquid gas materials.

The requirement to obtain the (N) endorsement is passing a written knowledge test.

What is a Doubles and Triples (T) endorsement?

The Doubles and Triples (T) endorsement is for drivers hauling double or triple trailers.

A written knowledge test is required.

What is a Tanker / Hazardous Material (HazMat) combination (X) endorsement?

The Tanker / Hazardous Material or HazMat (X) endorsement allows you to transport hazardous materials in a tank vehicle. In some states, the (X) endorsement is simply a combination of (N) and (H) endorsements.

A written knowledge test is required.

Will professional truck driver endorsements allow me to earn more money?

In many cases, yes.

While the basic endorsements required to haul passengers in the type of vehicle you will be driving do not impact pay (the endorsements are required for the job), the endorsements providing permission to haul hazardous materials, doubles/triples, and to drive tanker vehicles may offer opportunities for increased per mile, hourly, or route-specific compensation.

Extra compensation based on endorsements will vary by the carrier or company. Based on a review of websites showing that estimate salaries based on various factors, in the trucking industry a driver with an (H) or (X) endorsement may earn up to 20% more annually than a driver without the endorsement.

The percentage of “extra” salary a driver can expect might be affected by an employer’s policies related to endorsements. Some carriers may pay the full 20% simply because a driver holds the endorsement and is available to haul hazardous materials when needed. Others may increase the basic compensation per mile but only for the miles the driver is hauling hazardous materials.

How much do professional truck driver endorsements cost to obtain?

Individual state set fees for endorsements, so costs will vary based on location. Typically, endorsements cost $20-$50; however, if federal fees are also required (i.e., TSA fees), total costs can exceed $100.

What is a TWIC card and when is it needed?

TWIC stands for “Transportation Worker Identification Credential.” The U.S. Congress mandated TWIC cards for workers accessing ships and facilities in secure areas of seaports when passing the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

As a truck driver, a TWIC card is necessary if you are hauling cargo into a seaport to be loaded on a ship or if you need access to a seaport to load cargo onto your truck.

In order to obtain a TWIC card, you can complete an application online. It is, however, more efficient to visit a TWIC enrollment center, as the process of applying requires fingerprinting, providing a U.S. Passport or a driver’s license and birth certificate.

The initial cost of a TWIC card is $125.25; however, if you have an (H) or (X) endorsement to transport hazardous materials, the cost is $101.25. Replacement cards are available for a $60.00 fee.

In order to receive a TWIC card you must have a clear criminal record including no incidents of serious offenses such as espionage, treason or murder. Lesser offenses such as arson or smuggling disqualify you from receiving a TWIC card for seven years after conviction or for five years after leaving prison. An applicant presenting a security risk or having any ties to terrorism is ineligible.

TWIC cards are valid for file years before renewal is required.

Drivers holding TWIC cards are eligible to haul cargo other drivers may not be able to legally access. If you hold a TWIC card, a potential employer can be assured that you’ve passed the federal government’s background check.