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