If a hazardous material is required to be placarded, then the hazmat endorsement is also required. - Photo: J.J. Keller

If a hazardous material is required to be placarded, then the hazmat endorsement is also required.

Photo: J.J. Keller

Getting a hazmat endorsement on a commercial driver’s license takes more than just completing entry-level driver training and passing a knowledge test. Drivers seeking a hazmat endorsement also are subject to a federal background check.

State driver’s licensing agencies cannot issue, renew, upgrade to, or transfer an HME until the Transportation Security Administration determines that the individual does not pose a security risk. TSA draws its conclusions through a security threat assessment.

It can take up to 60 days for TSA to complete the required background check. You can help minimize the wait time by understanding the steps in the assessment process.

1. Confirm the Need for a Hazmat Endorsement

For the hazmat endorsement requirements, consult the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations, as commercial driver’s licenses are a federal requirement. Section 383.5 defines hazardous materials as “any material that has been designated as hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and is required to be placarded under subpart F of 49 CFR part 172 or any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR part 73.”

The key phrase in this definition is “required to be placarded.” If a hazardous material is required to be placarded, then the hazmat endorsement is also required.

There are two situations that often need clarification when it comes to the hazmat endorsement:

  • Transporting Class 9 materials. Class 9 materials do not require placards for domestic transportation. As a result, a hazmat endorsement is not required if the driver is transporting only Class 9 materials. Placards aren’t required; therefore, the hazmat endorsement is not required. Even if Class 9 placards are displayed, the hazmat endorsement is still not required.
  • Transporting diesel fuel in non-bulk packaging. Whether diesel is regulated largely depends on the type of packaging. Generally, combustible liquids such as diesel are not subject to the hazardous materials regulations when in non-bulk packaging. Therefore, when diesel is transported in non-bulk packaging (119 gallons or less capacity), placards are not required, and the hazmat endorsement is also not required.

2. Complete an Application

The security threat assessment application is submitted in one of two ways based on the state licensing agency of the driver.

A handful of states require drivers to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles for application and fingerprinting information. These states include:

  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Check with these states for additional details.

All other drivers are required to complete an application either at an enrollment center or through TSA’s website. Drivers are instructed to schedule an appointment either online or by calling (855) 347-8371. The application centers accept walk-in appointments, but those with appointments take priority.

3. Visit an Enrollment Center

When drivers visit an enrollment center, they must be prepared to:

  • Provide approved documents to prove identification and citizenship.
  • Submit fingerprints.
  • Pay an application fee.

Once the application is submitted, drivers can check their status online.

4. Wait on TSA’s assessment

TSA investigates the following when determining eligibility:

  • The driver’s citizenship or immigration status
  • Disqualifying crimes
  • Mental capacity (as determined by a court, board, commission, etc.)
  • Terrorist watchlists, Interpol, and other government databases

Drivers may also be ineligible due to incomplete or false application information.

If TSA finds potentially disqualifying information, it will send the driver a letter with instructions on how to proceed.

5. Follow up With the State

When a driver passes the investigation, TSA notifies the state (not the driver). The state verifies the driver’s eligibility when it issues a CDL with a hazmat endorseement. Each driver should check with his or her state licensing agency on how it handles the HME issuance process and status once TSA provides the results.

Kathy Close is a subject matter expert at J.J. Keller & Associates. Her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, and driver qualification. This article was authored under the guidance and editorial standards of HDT’s editors to provide useful information to our readers.

Crimes That Disqualify Drivers from Holding an HME

A driver is ineligible from holding a hazmat endorsement if the security threat assessment process reveals specific criminal offenses.

Permanent Disqualifying Criminal Offenses

The TSA disqualifies an applicant if the assessment finds the applicant was convicted, pled guilty, or was found not guilty by reason of insanity for any of the following felonies, regardless of when they occurred:

  1. Espionage or conspiracy to commit espionage.
  2. Sedition or conspiracy to commit sedition.
  3. Treason or conspiracy to commit treason.
  4. A federal crime of terrorism or comparable state law, or conspiracy to commit such crime.
  5. A crime involving a transportation security incident. (A transportation security incident results in a significant loss of life, environmental damage, transportation system disruption, or economic disruption in a particular area.)
  6. Improper transportation of a hazardous material.
  7. Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, manufacture, purchase, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, import, export, storage of, or dealing in an explosive or explosive device.
  8. Murder.
  9. Threat or maliciously knowingly conveying false information concerning the deliverance, placement, or detonation of an explosive or other lethal device in or against a place of public use, a state or government facility, a public transportations system, or an infrastructure facility.
  10. Violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or a comparable state law.
  11. Attempt to commit the crimes in items 1-4.
  12. Conspiracy or attempt to commit the crimes in items 5-10.

Interim Disqualifying Criminal Offenses

Some criminal convictions only disqualify an applicant temporarily. With the passage of time, the criminal history no longer restricts them from holding a hazmat endorsement. These offenses disqualify the applicant if they were:

  • Convicted, pled guilty, found not competent to stand trial, or found not guilty by reason of insanity within seven years of the date of the application, or
  • Released from incarceration after conviction within five years of the date of the application.

Interim disqualifying criminal offenses include:

  1. Unlawful possession, use, sale, manufacture, purchase, distribution, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, delivery, import, export of, or dealing in a firearm or other weapon.
  2. Extortion.
  3. Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud and money laundering, where the money laundering is related to a permanent or interim disqualifying crime.
  4. Bribery.
  5. Smuggling.
  6. Immigration violations.
  7. Distribution, possession with intent to distribute, or importation of a controlled substance.
  8. Arson.
  9. Kidnapping or hostage-taking.
  10. Rape or aggravated sexual abuse.
  11. Assault with intent to kill.
  12. Robbery.
  13. Fraudulent entry into a seaport (18 U.S.C. 1036) or a comparable state law.
  14. Violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or a comparable state law, other than any permanently disqualifying offenses.
  15. Voluntary manslaughter.
  16. Conspiracy or attempt to commit crimes in this section.

Under Want, Warrant, or Indictment

An applicant will be disqualified if he or she is wanted or under indictment in any civilian or military jurisdiction for a felony listed under the permanent or interim disqualifying crimes until the want or warrant is released or the indictment is dismissed.

About the author
Kathy Close

Kathy Close

Transportation Editor, J.J. Keller

Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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