A quick lesson on the hazmat endorsement

By: Heather Ness

Publication: Hazmat Transportation Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 11/13/2019

Often, we’re presented with different driver and hazmat load scenarios along with one basic question: in this situation, does my driver need a hazmat endorsement on his or her commercial driver’s license (CDL)?

Typically, this comes up in two common situations:

  1. Drivers are transporting Class 9 materials, or
  2. Drivers are transporting diesel fuel.

Hazmat endorsements 101

First, a lesson on hazmat endorsements. For the hazmat endorsement requirements, we need to look at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, as CDLs are an FMCSA 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 subpartF 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.

Hazmat endorsement changes finalized

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is making it official. The agency recently adopted a rule change to adopt into regulation two interim final rules (IFRs) published in 2003 and 2005:

  • The 2003 interim rulemaking amended the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) to prohibit states from issuing, renewing, transferring, or upgrading a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with a hazmat endorsement unless the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) first conducted a security threat assessment and determined that the applicant does not pose a security risk warranting denial of the hazmat endorsement.
  • The 2005 IFR essentially incorporated TSA’s definition of a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) as equivalent to a Transportation Security Card (TSC).

Because FMCSA adopted the 2003 and 2005 interim final rules without change, drivers are already complying with the appropriate regulations regarding the hazmat endorsement and background checks.

The final rulemaking, published in the Federal Register on October 1, 2019, was effective October 31, 2019.

Class 9 materials and diesel fuel

Now, to address our two common situations.

Class 9

Class 9 materials do not require placards for domestic transportation and 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.

Many of you might be wondering, “What if I placard Class 9 materials anyway?” The answer to this question goes back to the key phrase in the definition — “required to be placarded.” While Class 9 materials do not require placarding, they may be placarded according to the hazardous materials regulations (HMR). If you choose to placard a Class 9 material, that’s fine, but the endorsement is not required because the placards were not required.

Diesel fuel

Whether diesel is regulated largely depends on the type of packaging. Generally, combustible liquids such as diesel are not subject to the HMR when in non-bulk packaging. Therefore, when diesel is transported in non-bulk packaging, placards are not required.

However, when diesel is transported in bulk packaging (greater than 119 gallons liquid capacity), it is regulated and does require placards.

Therefore, a hazmat endorsement is required if the driver is transporting diesel in bulk packaging requiring placards.

Remember, whether a package is bulk or non-bulk depends on the capacity of the packaging.


Key to remember: When placards are required by the hazmat regulations, a hazmat endorsement is required. If placards are placed on a hazmat shipment, but are not required to transport the hazmat legally, then the driver does not require a hazmat endorsement.

About the author
Heather Ness - Transportation Editor

As an Editor in Transport Operations, she provides regulatory support for a variety of products, including manuals, online services, forms, handbooks, and software. Her areas of expertise include Canada's federal and provincial transportation safety regulations and Canada's laws regarding vehicle licensing, vehicle size and weight limits, and fuel taxes.

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