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:
- New York
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.
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