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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Beginner’s Guide to CDL Endorsements – Hazardous Materials Endorsement Renewals

Before Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program existed, drivers in many states who were licensed to drive passenger vehicles could also legally operate a tractor-trailer or bus. Licensing systems for commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) varied widely in states where they did exist. This meant that many drivers operated vehicles they may not have been qualified to drive. Also, drivers with numerous traffic convictions were able to obtain licenses from more than one state because no state-to-state tracking system existed.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was established with the goal of correcting the problem by making it illegal for drivers to hold more than one license and by requiring states to meet minimum testing and licensing standards for CMV drivers. Drivers who operate special types of CMVs must pass additional tests to obtain the required CDL endorsements. Endorsements include:
TDouble/Triple Trailers
NTank Vehicle
HHazardous Materials
X – Combination of Tank Vehicle and Hazardous Materials

CMVs transporting hazardous materials pose both safety and security risks; therefore, drivers of these vehicles must meet stringent requirements. They must be able to take action to minimize the risk of hazardous materials incidents by following strict procedures. They must be especially careful to identify potential problem areas, decide whether weather or road conditions could affect their shipments, and provide feedback to management about potential problems. They must have highly specialized knowledge of hazardous materials regulations and handling, operation of emergency equipment, and emergency response procedures. A driver obtains a Hazardous Materials Endorsement by passing a knowledge test.

Many states, including New York and Ohio, require drivers to pass the knowledge test every time they renew their Hazardous Materials Endorsement; the renewal must occur every five years or less.

Hazardous Materials drivers also receive ongoing training from their employers. Additional training is required whenever the driver’s job description changes; a change in the Hazardous Materials Regulations is considered a change in job description.

Because vehicles transporting hazardous materials present a potential threat to national security, drivers must pass a Transportation Security Administration security threat assessment process when they apply for or renew a Hazardous Materials Endorsement. Individuals who do not successfully complete the TSA's security threat assessment process will not be issued a hazardous materials endorsement. To comply with this requirement, states must notify the holder of a hazardous materials endorsement that the individual must pass the security threat assessment process at least 60 days prior to the expiration date of the CDL or hazardous materials endorsement. The notice must advise a driver that, in order to expedite the security screening process, he or she should file a renewal application as soon as possible, but not later than 30 days before the date of expiration of the endorsement.

Obtaining and maintaining a Hazardous Materials Endorsement on a CDL can be a daunting prospect because of the many requirements associated with this highly responsible occupation, but the personal and professional rewards will be worth the effort.

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