CDL Endorsements: How to Advance Your Commercial Driving Career

tractor trailer

Whether you already have a (Commercial Driver’s License), or looking to obtain one, its important that to broaden your career options and open doors to new work opportunities and ultimately more pay. Obtaining CDL endorsements is one such opportunity. In this post, we will look at CDL endorsements, their requirements, how to get them, and the advantages they provide.

Types of CDL Classes

For new drivers looking to obtain their CDL and any endorsements its important to understand the type of CDL classes first as each class determines what type of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) you can operate.  CDL classes are broken down into three distinct categories based on kind of vehicle and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that a driver is permitted to operate.

The following are the three major CDL classes:

Class A CDL

Allows the driver to operate a vehicle combination with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or higher.  Tractor-trailers, truck-and-trailer combos, and tanker trucks fall within this category.  This is the most common CDL class.

Class B CDL

Allows the driver to operate single vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or greater.  It also lets the driver to operate cars capable of pulling trailers weighing less than 10,000 pounds.
Straight trucks, huge buses, segmented buses, and box trucks are examples of vehicles in this class.

Class C CDL

Drivers driving vehicles meant to convey 16 or more people (including the driver) or vehicles transporting hazardous commodities are affected.  Vehicles having a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds that are not covered by Class A or Class B CDLs are also included.  Small buses, passenger vans, and various kinds of hazardous material delivery trucks are examples of Class C vehicles.

It’s crucial to remember that extra endorsements may be necessary within each CDL class to drive certain kinds of vehicles or handle specialty cargo, such as hazardous chemicals, tankers, or passenger transport. These endorsements are gained in addition to the CDL class and demonstrate the driver’s expertise in certain areas.


Here is a quick comparison chart to help you decide on which CDL class you plan on pursuing.

CDL Class Vehicle Type
Class A Combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, including towed units with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more. Examples include tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, and tanker vehicles.
Class B Single vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. It also includes vehicles towing a trailer with a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds. Examples include straight trucks, large buses, segmented buses, and box trucks.
Class C Vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or vehicles used to transport hazardous materials. It also includes vehicles with a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds that are not covered by Class A or Class B CDLs. Examples include small buses, passenger vans, and certain types of hazardous material transport vehicles.


What Exactly Are CDL Endorsements?

CDL endorsements are qualifications or permits that may be added to a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to enable you to drive specialized vehicles or carry specified kinds of goods. These endorsements demonstrate your ability to handle unusual driving situations while maintaining safety and regulatory compliance.


Types of CDL Endorsements

There are several sorts of CDL endorsements available, each catering to a distinct set of driving needs and businesses. Let’s look at some of the most popular:


(H) Hazmat Endorsement

Drivers with the Hazmat certification are permitted to carry hazardous items. It necessitates a grasp of the dangers connected with hazardous chemical transportation as well as adherence to appropriate safety laws.  Pursuing this endorsement requires you undergo a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) background check, including criminal history and immigration status.


(N) Tank Vehicle Endorsement

The Tanker endorsement is required for drivers who operate vehicles intended to carry bulk liquids or gases. This certification ensures that drivers are aware of the special issues of driving tankers, such as greater braking distance and load surge.


(P) Passenger Endorsement

Drivers with the Passenger endorsement may carry people in vehicles such as buses and vans. It addresses issues such as passenger safety, loading and unloading processes, and dealing with emergencies on board.


(T) Double/Triple Trailer Endorsement

Drivers with the Double/Triple Trailer endorsement are permitted to drive vehicles that have numerous trailers attached. This endorsement stresses abilities such as extended combination maneuvering, keeping adequate control, and avoiding jackknife scenarios.


(S) School Bus Endorsement

Drivers with the School Bus endorsement may transport students to and from school. It focuses on student safety, traffic management surrounding school zones, and the special obligations involved with school transportation.


(X) Tank Vehicles/ Hazardous Materials Endorsement

 A tank vehicle certification that also includes hazardous materials (HazMat). It enables a CDL holder to operate vehicles that transport tank loads as well as hazardous materials.


Which CDL Endorsements are Available for Each CDL Class?

You have the option to earn several CDL endorsements depending on your CDL class.

The following CDL endorsements are available to Class A CDL holders:

  • H endorsement (Hazardous Materials)
  • N endorsement (Tanker Vehicles)
  • P endorsement (Passenger Vehicles)
  • S endorsement (School Bus Transport)
  • T endorsement (Double and Triples)
  • X endorsement (Combination endorsement covering both Tanker and Hazardous Materials)

The following CDL endorsements are available to Class B CDL holders:

  • H endorsement (Hazardous Materials)
  • N endorsement (Tanker Vehicles)
  • P endorsement (Passenger Vehicles)
  • S endorsement (School Bus Transport)
  • X endorsement (Tanker and Hazardous Materials)

The following CDL endorsements are available to Class C CDL holders:

  • H endorsement (Hazardous Materials)
  • P endorsement (Passenger Vehicles)
  • S endorsement (School Bus Transport)


Important CDL Restrictions


While endorsements allow you to legally operate more commercial motor vehicles, CDL restrictions are designed to limit the ones you can operate.  Fortunately, once you obtain your endorsement, these restrictions are lifted.

These limits are usually denoted by a letter or a combination of letters, and they represent specific constraints or extra criteria for the CDL holder.

Here are some examples of the various types of CDL restrictions:


(E) Manual Transmission Restriction

 An E restriction on a CDL implies the driver is not permitted to operate a vehicle with a manual gearbox. They are only available in automobiles with automatic transmissions.

(L) Air Brakes Restriction

A L restriction denotes that the CDL holder is only permitted to operate cars without air brakes. They are not authorized to operate automobiles with air brake systems.

(M) Class B/C Passenger Vehicle Only Restriction

The M restriction is applied to CDLs for drivers who will exclusively operate Class B or Class C passenger vehicles, such as a bus or a passenger van. It denotes that the CDL holder is not permitted to drive Class A vehicles.

(N) Tank Vehicle Operation Restriction

CDLs with a N restriction are issued to drivers who will exclusively operate tank trucks. This implies they cannot drive other sorts of commercial vehicles.

(O) No Fifth-Wheel Connection Operation Restriction

 The fifth-wheel connection restriction limits the CDL holder’s authorization to operate vehicles with a fifth-wheel connection. A fifth-wheel connection refers to the coupling mechanism between a tractor unit and a trailer in a combination vehicle.

(P) Limited Passenger Vehicle Operation Restriction

The P restriction applies only to CDLs held by drivers who will operate passenger vehicles. It denotes that the CDL holder is unable to drive a vehicle with more than 16 passengers, including the driver.

(S) School Bus Operation Restriction

CDLs with a S restriction are granted to school bus drivers. It indicates that the CDL holder is only permitted to drive a school bus and is ineligible to operate other sorts of commercial vehicles.

These are some of the most typical limitations that may be imposed on Class A CDLs. It should be noted that the particular limits may differ depending on the licensing body and the legislation of the jurisdiction where the CDL is granted.

(V) Medical Variance or Medical Waiver Restriction

The CDL V restriction is a limitation on a commercial driver’s license (CDL) that denotes the usage of a medical variance. CDL holders must fulfill various medical requirements to verify that they are physically and psychologically competent to drive commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).

A CDL holder may request for a medical variance if they have a medical condition that does not match the basic medical standards. The CDL V limitation is added to their license to reflect that a medical variance has been approved.

Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT)

In addition to any endorsements and restrictions it is equally important to note that entry-level drivers will be also be subject to the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rules beginning February 7, 2022. This comprises applicants to:

  • Obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time
  • Upgrade a current CDL to a higher class
  • Obtain a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time

The ELDT standards create a Federal standard for CDL candidate training. Applicants must successfully finish this training before they are allowed to:

  • Take the CDL Skills Exam
  • H Endorsement Knowledge Exam

Drivers will use the FMCSA website’s Training Provider Registry to find a training provider. More information may be found at FMCSA ELDT Regulations.

How to Obtain Commercial Driver’s License Endorsements

A few actions are required to get CDL endorsements. Let’s go through the steps:


1. Learn About Your Specific State Requirements

Start your journey by learning about your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) endorsement requirements. Each state may have somewhat different requirements, so get acquainted with the rules that apply to your region.

2. Examine the Endorsement Material

Once you’ve decided which endorsements you want to pursue, get the necessary study materials. Manuals, instructions, and practice exams particular to each endorsement are often included in this material. Examine the information thoroughly to acquire a thorough knowledge of the endorsement criteria.

3. Schedule and Attend Endorsement Tests

To arrange the endorsement examinations, contact your local DMV. These exams often include a written knowledge test as well as, in certain situations, a practical skills test. Arrive prepared and confident, armed with the information you learned from reviewing the endorsement material.

4. Pay the Mandatory Fees

Obtaining CDL endorsements usually has various fees associated with the process. The costs of gaining CDL endorsements vary based on the state and the exact endorsements desired. Fees are often charged for both the knowledge exam and the issuing of the endorsement. Here is a breakdown of the fees, with examples:

Knowledge exam: Taking the written knowledge exam necessary for earning a CDL endorsement typically comes with a price. This charge covers the cost of giving the exam and evaluating the applicant’s competence in the particular endorsement area. For example, if you are looking to obtain a Hazmat endorsement, you can expect to pay between $30 to $100 to take the Hazmat knowledge test.

Endorsement Issuance: After passing the knowledge exam and receiving the endorsement, there is typically a price for granting the endorsement.. This price defrays the administrative expenses of renewing your license and issuing the endorsement. The fee varies based on the jurisdiction and the kind of endorsement. For example, gaining a Tank Vehicle endorsement may cost from $10 to $50.

Renewal Fees: It’s vital to remember that CDL endorsements have expiry dates and may need to be renewed.  Just like other CDL associated fees, renewal costs vary by state and the endorsement type.  For example, renewing a Passenger endorsement may include paying a cost ranging from $20 to $75.

It’s worth noting that the costs indicated above are just examples and might vary greatly depending on the issuing state and licensing agency. Furthermore, certain jurisdictions may provide bundled pricing for numerous endorsements or discounts for veterans or specific vocations.


The Advantages of Obtaining CDL Endorsements

Obtaining CDL endorsements might help you advance your commercial driving career dramatically. Let’s look at some advantages:

Increased Job Opportunities

CDL endorsements provide access to a broader variety of work prospects. Employers often want specialist drivers for tasks such as hazardous material transport, passenger transportation, and tanker operation. Obtaining endorsements improves your chances of gaining lucrative opportunities in these industries.

Increased Earning Potential

You may negotiate higher rates or obtain extra pay incentives if you have more endorsements. Specialized endorsements are often in high demand, enabling you to leverage your abilities and expertise for greater pay packages.

Improved Professional Development

Obtaining CDL endorsements indicates your dedication to professional development.  Endorsements show your prospective employer that you have invested the time and effort required  to obtain the knowledge and skills required to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.  Drivers with endorsements are highly sought after and employers are willing to pay a higher rate for that specialized knowledge.


Studying and Preparing for CDL Endorsement Tests

Preparing for CDL endorsement examinations requires a methodical approach. Here are some pointers to help you succeed:

Take Advantage of Study Guides and Practice Tests

Use study resources and CDL practice tests prepared expressly for each endorsement. These websites imitate the test environment and give useful insights into the issues you should concentrate on.

Participate in CDL Endorsement Preparation Courses

Consider taking CDL endorsement preparation classes. These courses offer organized learning experiences as well as professional coaching to help you properly traverse the endorsement content.

Make and Follow a Study Plan

Create a study schedule that permits you to cover all of the required information while also making time for practice exams and review. Maintain discipline and stick to your strategy to guarantee thorough preparation for the endorsement examinations.


The Road Ahead

CDL endorsements may dramatically advance your commercial driving career, allowing you to pursue new possibilities and increase your earning potential. You may broaden your skill set as a skilled truck driver and stand out in a competitive job market by knowing the many sorts of endorsements, following the methods to earn them, and devoting time to research and preparation.

The majority of endorsements are fairly easy and inexpensive to get although the HAZMAT does require a bit more work, endorsements for the most part are a simple written test and a few dollars away.  Why not give yourself the best possible options for advancement by pursuing all the endorsements available.  Not only will you open the door to more job opportunities but higher paying ones as well.


CDL Endorsement Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Can I get several CDL endorsements?

Yes, depending on your interests and professional objectives, you may acquire various CDL endorsements. Each endorsement requires a unique set of examinations and criteria.


How long does it typically take to get a CDL endorsement?

The time it takes to acquire a CDL endorsement depends on many things, including the difficulty of the endorsement and your study and preparation efforts. The procedure might take anything from a few weeks to a few months on average.  We recommend putting together a comprehensive study plan including practice tests to ensure you meet your deadline.


Do I have to take the CDL endorsement exams again when I renew my license?

In general, CDL endorsements do not expire unless there are particular conditions or regulatory changes. You normally do not have to retake the endorsement examinations while renewing your license.


Can I add endorsements to my CDL after I acquire it?

Yes, you may add endorsements to your CDL after you get your first one. To get extra endorsements, follow the requirements provided by your state’s DMV.


Is there an age limit for acquiring CDL endorsements?

The age limit for CDL endorsements varies based on the kind of endorsement and your state’s requirements. Check with your local DMV for the precise age requirements for the endorsements you want to pursue.


Which CDL endorsement test is the most difficult?

The complexity of CDL endorsement examinations varies according to the applicant’s experience and expertise. Many drivers, however, consider the Hazmat endorsement exam to be one of the most difficult because of the comprehensive information covering hazardous materials transportation rules and safety considerations.


Which CDL endorsements pay the most?

The Hazmat (H) endorsement and the Tanker (N) endorsement are two of the highest-paying CDL endorsements. Due to the specialized expertise and added duties necessary for delivering hazardous products or huge volumes of liquid, drivers with these endorsements are sometimes paid more.


How long do CDL endorsements last?

Generally, CDL endorsements are good for the same period of time as your CDL license. Typically, the expiration date of your endorsements will coincide with the expiration date of your CDL. To prevent fines or the loss of driving privileges, it is essential to renew your CDL and endorsements before they expire.