Which CDL Endorsements Should I Get?

by Brett Aquila


When you attend truck driving school, even a company sponsored CDL school, you'll have to decide which endorsements to get when taking your CDL test. We'll talk about which CDL endorsements are available, how you get these endorsements, what it takes to keep them, and why they are important.

What CDL Endorsements Are Available?

Many states have slightly different variations and restrictions on their CDL endorsements, but basically the ones you have to choose from are:

  • Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HAZMAT)
  • School Bus/Passenger Endorsement
  • Doubles/Triples Endorsement
  • Tanker Endorsement
  • Air Brake Endorsement

How Do You Get These CDL Endorsements?

All of the above CDL endorsements require at least taking a written test. HAZMAT is a bit more complex. Since Sept 11, 2001, the Federal Government has taken a closer look at trucking and the possibility that terrorists will use a truck to attack us. Since the most dangerous products to haul would be Hazardous Materials, the government has focused on providing more strict regulations regarding this endorsement.

Along with taking an initial written test, you will now have to have a background check done and re-take a written test every two years to maintain your HAZMAT endorsement. This process is a bit of a pain, but it's really not that big of a deal. It just goes with the territory.

But the rest of the endorsements simply require passing a written test. They do not require re-testing, background checks, or any sort of driving test.

Which CDL Endorsements Will I Want To Get?

The question of which CDL endorsements you should get is incredibly simple - all of them. Why? Because every endorsement is an opportunity at a whole subset of truck driving jobs (or bus driving for that matter). Other than HAZMAT , all of the endorsements are fast, simple, and inexpensive to get. You take a simple written test, pay a few bucks for it (Like $20 or something like that), and you're done. Now you have all kinds of job opportunities you wouldn't have otherwise. Even HAZMAT, the toughest of all, is certainly not a big deal.

But I Know What Endorsements I Need!

Many of you right now are thinking "This is fine, but I don't need passenger. I'm going to drive a truck, not a bus - ever!" or "I don't want to haul hazardous materials - I'm not getting my HAZMAT endorsement". You think so? Can you really predict your future that well? You know exactly what's in store for you, eh?

Baloney you do! Let me tell you a quick story.

Driving A Shuttle Bus

After several years of driving truck I thought I'd try something new and go to school for Harley Davidson Mechanics. While I was in school I needed a part time job to help pay the bills and get me through. I contacted a temp agency and they had a client who needed someone to drive a shuttle bus for workers, shuttling them to the job site in the morning and back to their vehicles in the afternoon.

They had a hell of a time finding someone. They offered me $400/week salary to come in for about 45 minutes in the morning and return for 45 minutes in the afternoon to shuttle workers in a school bus about 1/4 mile - seriously. It was by far the easiest and best-paying job (for the time I put in) I've ever had. Fortunately I had all of my endorsements because it required a passenger endorsement. Do you think seven years prior to this I knew I would be driving a shuttle bus? Not a chance. Do you think the 15 minute written test which cost me $15 to take was a good investment? It got me through an entire year of schooling and I made over $16,000 in a period of about 40+ weeks that I worked that job. 15 minutes + $15 dollars = $16,000??? You do the math.

I Don't Wanna Hear It!

Listen to me, people. I don't wanna hear the ten million reasons you think are so important right now as to why you won't need certain endorsements. I'm telling you after almost 20 years in the industry that you should get every endorsement available. It's simple to achieve, inexpensive, and incredibly valuable. You do not want to limit your job opportunities. You have no idea what life has in store for you or what jobs are available out there that you might love!

If you want to be successful in truck driving, and in life in general, you have to make smart decisions based on your long term good. Saving a few minutes of study time, a few dollars of pocket change, and a little bit of testing time will cost you the opportunity of thousands of jobs for the rest of your life. Do the math. I've heard tons of drivers over the years express regret at not getting certain endorsements, and most of them wound up going down to the DMV to take the endorsement tests like they should have in the first place. But I've never once heard a driver regret having an endorsement.

So do the smart thing - get all of your CDL endorsements. It doesn't make a bit of sense not to.


Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.


Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations


Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.


Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.


Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.


When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

by Brett Aquila

Related Articles:

When Will I Know If Trucking Was The Right Career Choice?

by Brett Aquila

Becoming a truck driver is a big career choice. When will you know if you belong in trucking, or if you should walk away? Read on - we'll let you know

Learning How To Back Up A Big Truck

by TruckerMike

Learning how to back up a big rig is no easy task, but a few tips and tricks here from a trainer can really make it a lot easier.

CDL Testing Day From A Trainers Perspective

by TruckerMike

After four weeks on the road with my student, it was time for him to take his CDL exam. We were both very nervous. Testing day is incredibly stressful.

4 Mistakes That Cause Students To Fail CDL Training And How They Can Be Prevented

by Driver Solutions

CDL training is certainly not easy. Here are four main reasons why people tend to fail their training at truck driving school and how to prevent them.

Factors Affecting Job Placement In The Trucking Industry

by Tanya Bons

Finding a truck driving job after graduating from CDL training is not guaranteed. Here we cover factors affecting your chances of finding work in trucking

What Causes People To Fail CDL School?

by TruckerMike

Most people get through truck driving school, but others do not. Here's some great advice that will help you pass truck driving school with flying colors.

Keep That License Clean: Your Career Depends On It

by Rhonda

For a truck driver that CDL is everything. Here is some great advice on protecting that license.

Passing The CDL Road Test: What Are CDL Examiners Looking For?

by Brett Aquila

What are the CDL examiners looking for when you're taking your road test? Here are some important factors that will determine whether or not you'll pass.

The Backing Range At Trucking Driving School - It's Like Clown Soup For The Soul

by Brett Aquila

Learning to back up a rig is clumsy at best. Nothing about it is easy. Having fun with it helps make learning easier, but prepare to embarrass yourself!

Private Schooling Versus Company-Sponsored: The Basic Differences

by Brett Aquila

Company-sponsored CDL training versus private CDL training is one of the first big career decisions you'll make. Here's a quick rundown of the differences.

Join Us!

We have an awesome set of tools that will help you understand the trucking industry and prepare for a great start to your trucking career. Not only that, but everything we offer here at TruckingTruth is 100% free - no strings attached! Sign up now and get instant access to our member's section:
High Road Training Program Logo
  • The High Road Training Program
  • The High Road Article Series
  • The Friendliest Trucker's Forum Ever!
  • Email Updates When New Articles Are Posted

Apply For Paid CDL Training Through TruckingTruth

Did you know you can fill out one quick form here on TruckingTruth and apply to several companies at once for paid CDL training? Seriously! The application only takes one minute. You will speak with recruiters today. There is no obligation whatsoever. Learn more and apply here:

Apply For Paid CDL Training

About Us

TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

Read More

Becoming A Truck Driver

Becoming A Truck Driver is a dream we've all pondered at some point in our lives. We've all wondered if the adventure and challenges of life on the open road would suit us better than the ordinary day to day lives we've always known. At TruckingTruth we'll help you decide if trucking is right for you and help you get your career off to a great start.

Learn More