CDL Tanker Endorsement vs Hazmat Endorsement: Understanding the Differences and Benefits

Are you considering advancing your commercial driving career and wondering about the differences between a CDL tanker endorsement and a Hazmat endorsement? This guide will help you understand the distinctions, the benefits, and which endorsement might be the best fit for your career goals.

What is a CDL Tanker Endorsement?

A CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) tanker endorsement is necessary for drivers who want to transport vehicles with tanks carrying liquids, powders, or grains. Examples include tankers filled with water, milk, juices, soap, concrete powder, or animal feed. Here’s a quick rundown of key points:

  • Application: To obtain a tanker endorsement, you need to pass a written test. If you already have your CDL license, you simply purchase another permit and pass the test. There are no additional road tests or fingerprinting required.
  • Duration: Once you have the endorsement, it stays on your license as long as your CDL is valid.
  • Benefits:
    • Higher Pay: Tanker driving is specialized, often leading to higher wages.
    • Work-Life Balance: Most tanker jobs are regional or local, providing more home time.
  • Challenges: Requires more skill due to the handling of liquid surge and load management.

What is a Hazmat Endorsement?

A Hazmat (Hazardous Materials) endorsement is essential for drivers transporting hazardous materials. This includes substances like gasoline, dynamite, and certain chemicals. Key aspects include:

  • Application: Obtaining a Hazmat endorsement involves passing a written test and a TSA background check with fingerprinting.
  • Duration: The endorsement is valid for 2 to 4 years, depending on your state, and requires renewal with additional fingerprinting and testing.
  • Benefits:
    • Higher Pay: Due to the specialized and risky nature of the work, Hazmat drivers are in high demand and can command higher wages.
  • Challenges: More stringent requirements and higher responsibility due to the dangerous nature of the materials being transported.

Should You Get Both Endorsements?

For new drivers, it is generally recommended to start with the tanker endorsement due to its relatively straightforward process and the potential for local or regional jobs that offer more home time.

For experienced drivers looking to expand their skills and job opportunities, obtaining both endorsements can be highly beneficial. However, securing a Hazmat job without experience can be challenging due to the higher risk involved. Companies typically prefer drivers with experience before entrusting them with hazardous materials.


Both the CDL tanker and Hazmat endorsements offer unique benefits and challenges. Your decision should be based on your career goals, experience level, and willingness to meet the necessary requirements. If you’re just starting, consider the tanker endorsement first, and as you gain more experience, you can pursue the Hazmat endorsement to further enhance your qualifications.

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