CDL Endorsements - The Complete Guide

What Truck Drivers Need to Know About CDL Endorsements

  • Pulling different types of freight and trailers may require truck drivers to pass additional tests to get specific CDL endorsements that allow drivers to do so.
  • Specific circumstances will require restrictions to be placed on a driver's CDL.
  • Endorsements and restrictions will be indicated with a letter code on a driver's CDL.
  • Every state has different requirements for testing, endorsements, and restrictions. Review the CDL manual for your state.
  • Trucking companies may have their own training and certification programs with requirements that go above and beyond CDL endorsement requirements.

See Also: State CDL Manuals Download.

What are CDL Endorsements?

CDL Endorsements are certifications that truckers can earn by passing knowledge-based tests. Some endorsements, such as passenger (P) or school bus (B) endorsements will also require a skills test. Earning endorsements will allow truckers to haul different materials and combinations of trailer types.

While jobs that require endorsements typically can be more strenuous (and even dangerous), they also normally pay better and can come with other benefits for operators. However, hauling tankers up steep mountain roads isn't for everyone. Therefore, it's essential to look into what operating with different endorsements may look like at whatever company you end up at.

What Types of CDL Endorsements are There?

While they vary by state, there are five basic endorsements that truckers can get for their CDL, which include:

These endorsements each allow truckers to do something different. What this means specifically will differ among states. For example, New York has a specific endorsement for transporting metal coils, the Metal Coil Endorsement (M). This endorsement is only used in that state.

New York State Driver's Manual for The Safe Securement of Metal Coils and Other Cargo

The only endorsement that has more or less federalized standards is Hazmat , which requires a background check due to worries about terrorism.

Which CDL Endorsements Should Truckers Get?

New drivers should get as many endorsements as possible. This is true even for some that may never end up getting used. Having as many endorsements as possible will give truckers the most opportunity. This versatility can come in handy for rookies and veterans alike.

Being available is one of the best ways to gain traction in the industry. Truckers can maximize their availability by being able to haul anything. This requires having as many endorsements as possible.

How to Get CDL Endorsements:

Getting the proper endorsement can make all the difference in setting a trucker's career down the path to success. All endorsements will require a written test, and a few will have a practical skills portion that drivers must pass before attaining the certification. A few of the most popular endorsements for truckers include Hazmat , Tanker, and Doubles/Triples Endorsements. Below are simple steps to go about attaining each of them.

Hazmat (H)

Getting the Hazmat endorsement is required for truckers to haul any material that could, per the FMCSA , adversely affect public safety or pose a threat to handlers or carriers during transport.

Because of the materials it allows drivers to haul, Hazmat Endorsements are a little bit trickier to obtain for truckers. Due to legislation passed after the September 11th terrorist attacks, haulers of hazardous materials will have to pass a stringent background check. (This is the only endorsement that stipulates drivers undergo a background check.)

Unless drivers are from a specific state ( FL, KY, MD, NY, PA, TX, VA, or WI), drivers will need to complete an online application. Next, drivers schedule an appointment to visit an application center to provide documents such as a passport and birth certificate. They will also have fingerprints taken.

There is an $86.50 registration fee that is non-refundable and is valid for five years. A $67 reduced rate is available for operators who already have a valid TWIC card (if the operator's state accepts a TWIC card in place for Hazmat).

Tank Vehicles (N)

Endorsements for tank vehicles will allow drivers to transport tanker trailers and over 1,000 gallons of liquid regardless of the container. Tanker endorsements are indicated with an N on a CDL.

Tanker endorsements require drivers to pass a written test that contains questions such as "How far back does a helper stand when pumping or unloading liquids from a tanker?" (The answer is a minimum of 25 feet.) There is no skills test.

Double, Triple, Combo (T)

Truckers will need an endorsement before they can haul a long combination vehicle (LCV). LCVs are any combination of a single truck pulling a trailer connected to a second trailer (or another piece of equipment). These LCVs are typically called doubles or triples because they are often arranged in two to three trailer combinations.

Obtaining this endorsement will require drivers to pass a written exam. Typical questions will cover proper load placement and how to couple and decouple multiple trailers; there is no practical skills test.

Check out this oldie but goodie:

When Can Truckers Get CDL Endorsements?

There is no minimum amount of experience that drivers must have to earn endorsements onto their CDL. But only three endorsements are allowed on a CLP or learners permit. In fact, many truckers take time to add additional endorsements to their future CDL while still in trucking school. This is smart, as drivers will lack the time and energy to add endorsements once out on the road working.

Adding endorsements is also advantageous for new truckers as it helps them stand out in an often-crowded industry. Keep in mind that some endorsements (like Hazmat) require a federal background check that can add to the time before a trucker receives their endorsements.

(Need to get fired up for taking on CDL endorsements? Check out this blog post by Trucking Truth's very own Brett Aquila, where he does a great job breaking down their importance.)

What Are Costs Associated with Getting Endorsements?

There are several costs when it comes to getting CDL endorsements. Typical fees can include paying for study guides, taking additional courses, and state-mandated testing fees.

The good news for anyone looking to save money is that there is a lot of quality information on how to obtain endorsements out there. A lot of it is high-quality and free. Trucking Truth's Career Guide has an entire chapter dedicated to CDL endorsements and what ones new truckers should get. (Spoiler alert: it's as many as possible.)

For example, in New York, each endorsement's written test component will cost $5 each (when not taken with the primary CDL test). However, prices will vary from state to state, as the same endorsement tests will cost $10.00 in West Virginia.

How Long Are Endorsements Good For? (When do CDL Endorsements Expire?)

Truckers should be sure to keep on top of all of their endorsements to make sure that they don't expire. Endorsements such as Hazmat won't expire until five years after security clearance issuance. Give plenty of time when recertifying. Some states, such as Illinois, have a hazardous materials endorsement (H) recertification process that can take up to 60 days to complete.

What Are Endorsement Codes?

Check any CDL for a single letter such as an S, P, N, or X. Those little letters on a standard CDL license are endorsement codes that signify what types of materials and trailers the driver is authorized to haul. Get caught carrying something you're not supposed to be, and the consequences can be severe.

Where Are Endorsements on Your CDL License?

Where CDL endorsements are found on a physical license will vary from state to state. Typically, endorsements are located on the front of the CDL near the class designation, along with any restrictions a driver may be subject to. An example of what Massachusetts's CDL looks like can be found here.

Do CDL Endorsements Transfer from State to State?

It is illegal to have two licenses, and each state has its own CDL testing apparatus. Therefore all endorsements earned in one are unlikely to be transferable to another. New York state, for example, makes out-of-state drivers surrender their existing out-of-state CDL when applying for a new one.

However, some states make it easier for drivers to transfer endorsements earned in different states than others. Florida, for example, will allow for out-of-state transfers. Still, they will charge a $75 fee, and endorsements will have an additional transfer cost. Illinois will let drivers transfer a CDL or CLP as long as specific tests and fees are passed and paid for the out-of-state transfers.

Yet, that doesn't mean drivers shouldn't think that states don't share records on them. There are a variety of databases that house records for drivers that all states are supposed to contribute to and access when issuing a trucker's CDL.

What Restrictions Can Drivers Get?

Drivers can attain endorsements with restrictions if they could not fulfill every requirement of testing. A single letter code indicates such limits on the driver's license. This can happen for reasons as different as taking a road test in an automatic rig or not passing the Air Brakes Knowledge Test. The former driver will receive an E restriction while the latter will get an L restriction.

Restriction codes vary depending on license class but include L, Z, E, O, M, N, and V. States may have many more codes than those listed above.

Delaware's DMV , for example, has 22 different restrictions, one for almost every letter of the alphabet. Another divergence from the standard would be New York, which can have double-digit codes that combine letters and numbers. An example would be E1, which restricts drivers to an automatic transmission. On the other hand, Minnesota has a restriction limiting under-21 CDL holders to intrastate travel only (K).

You can find more on specific restriction codes here.

Straight From the Trucker's Mouth: Advice Found in the Trucking Truth Forums

User PJ from Elberton, GA, on the chances of a new trucker getting to haul tankers:

"Tankers are a different breed of animal. I know of no company that hires new drivers because it is dangerous. My company had a 2-year driving experience requirement but recently dropped it to 1 year. Some dry van/reefer and flatbed companies load totes in/on those trailers, and you must have the tanker endorsement that changed a few years ago. Depending on the company you go to, it is possible to transfer between divisions. Schneider and prime both have tanker divisions as well as their box divisions."

User Steve L. from FL on getting endorsements early:

"I got money me when I took the permit test. All I needed was right here on this site. So, as soon as I started driving a dry van , I was able to haul Hazmat and tankers (or totes that required the tanker endorsement)." User Turtle from Upstate, NY, on getting all endorsements at once: "No, you don't necessarily need the endorsements. But for the paltry sum of $5 apiece for each written test, why not go ahead and get the simple endorsements, making yourself more versatile and marketable in the process? The background check for the HazMat endorsement will cost upwards of $175ish, however. Still a small price to pay for the increased potential, in my opinion."

User James H. from NJ on getting the Doubles/Triples endorsement:

"If you might be interested in a local job, I would recommend doubles-triples as well. As an LTL linehaul driver, I pull doubles about 95% of the time. I get at least a couple placarded trailers a week, so the Hazmat endorsement gets plenty of use too."

Cwc from Columbia, SC, on getting a TWIC:

Nobody *needs* a TWIC till you go to the port. They ask you if you have it. If you don't have it, you can be escorted in some places. But you might be waiting for that escort for a long, long time. Also, I never paid a dime for my TWIC. If you work for a company that wants you to have it. Chances are they will cover it. As for the Passport, if you travel on vacation, then you need it anyways... And Playa Del Carmen is fun and laid back. (🙄)

Sources to Incorporate

FMCSA Drivers Overview

TSA Hazmat Endorsement Application Center

Roehl's Air Brakes CDL Practice Test

Trucking Truth's Truck Driver's Career Guide"

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles CDL and Endorsements Overview


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


Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.


Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle


Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing


Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.


The act of purchasers and sellers transacting business while keeping all transactions in a single state, without crossing state lines to do so.


Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.


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.


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.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.


A refrigerated trailer.


Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


Operating While Intoxicated


Commercial Learner's Permit

Before getting their CDL, commercial drivers will receive their commercial learner's permit (CLP) upon passing the written portion of the CDL exam. They will not have to retake the written exam to get their CDL.

Why Join Trucking Truth?

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