Types of CDL endorsements: What they’re good for and how to get them

by | May 17, 2024

Driver’s License Endorsement: Making Commercial Driving More Versatile

Commercial driving is a very broad sector. With a CDL, practically no opportunities are missed in any sector. Beyond that, with the endorsements added to the CDL, the area is that much broader and opens up many more opportunities to work in fields that are generally better earnings opportunities.

Every endorsement allows the driver to engage in some commercial motor vehicles, transport a certain cargo, or passengers who must meet the safety standards of the business. The guide below in detail, will highlight the CDL endorsements, their numerous benefits linked to them, and the steps that one must take to earn the endorsements.

Endorsement on Driver’s License

An endorsement on the CDL is more than just a certification; it is a necessary qualifier within the commercial driving industry because it gives the license holder clearance to operate a specific type of specialized vehicle or transport a specific kind of cargo that would be otherwise prohibited. From school buses to hazardous materials, each endorsement comes with its specific operation and safety training, getting commercial drivers ready for the road’s challenges.

CDL Endorsements

CDL endorsements are part and parcel of the driver going for specialization in particular sectors of transportation. All the endorsements are added to a normal license, aiming that the drivers are qualified and competent to operate specialized vehicles.

Types of CDL

The classes of Commercial Driver’s Licenses are A, B, and C, each one being defined by the assigned Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of vehicles they are licensed to operate. These drivers must hold a Class A CDL. Any driver of a vehicle greater than 26,001 pounds in GVWR and which tows trailers or other vehicles with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds must carry a Class A CDL.

This goes along with the person driving the vehicles whose GVWR is greater than 26,001 pounds but that also tows trailers or other vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less. Finally, a Class C CDL is needed for those involved in the operation of a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or the transportation of hazardous materials in quantities requiring the display of placards.

Basic knowledge of the classes, as well as the differences in endorsements and gross vehicle weight rating, would be important for the commercial driver who may want to follow requirements set by the state in order to enhance further his skills.

Endorsements for Class A CDL

A Class A CDL allows drivers to operate a combination of vehicles with a GCWR over 26,001 pounds, but under which the vehicle being towed weighs more than 10,000 pounds. A standard endorsement for a Class A includes:

  • T Endorsement (Double/Triple Trailers): Allows for towing of double or triple trailers. This endorsement is particularly very important for drivers handling very long, heavy loads, more so in sectors like freight hauling where big volumes of goods or materials need to be moved across states.
  • X Endorsement (Tank and Hazardous Materials): A combination of a hazmat endorsement (H) and tanker (N) endorsement; this is a prerequisite for drivers who haul hazardous substances in liquid or gaseous form.
  • Horsement (Hazardous Materials): Drivers are required to haul materials that have the potential of endangering public safety if not handled properly. Includes materials under federal HAZMAT regulations.

These endorsements require successful completion of a written knowledge test and, for some, a skills test following federal CDL endorsement guidelines. They necessitate specialized entry-level driver training due to the complexities and responsibilities involved.

Endorsements for Class B CDL

Class B CDLs permit the operation of a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more and towing of less than 10,000 pounds, e.g., large buses, box trucks, and dump trucks. A Class B CDL is typically combined with the following most common endorsements:

  • P Endorsement (Passenger): Needed when operating passenger carriers, such as buses, for more than 15 seating capacities. It is essential that the driver is able to present appropriate criteria to ensure the safety of the passengers and know the things to do during an emergency.
  • S Endorsement (School Bus): Specifically required for drivers who operate school buses. It includes additional safety training to manage and protect school-age passengers.

Drivers must pass both written and skills tests to obtain these endorsements, ensuring they meet the safety standards required for operating larger passenger vehicles.

Endorsements for Class C CDL

A Class C CDL is required for operating vehicles that are designed to transport more than 16 passengers or carry hazardous materials in a capacity requiring a placard but does not meet the criteria for either Class A or B. Endorsements for Class C include:

  • P Endorsement (Passenger): Similar to Class B but tailored for smaller passenger vehicles.
  • Horsement (Hazardous Materials): As with Class A, this endorsement is necessary for transporting placarded hazardous materials.

Types of CDL Endorsements

T Endorsement

This endorsement is vital for drivers operating double or triple trailers, focusing on the unique handling characteristics and safety considerations of towing multiple trailers.

P Endorsement

Critical for drivers operating passenger vehicles, this endorsement emphasizes the importance of safety and proper handling of vehicles that can carry 16 or more passengers.

N Endorsement

The N or tanker endorsement is essential for drivers operating tank vehicles carrying liquids or gaseous materials, teaching them how to handle shifts in load and center of gravity.

H Endorsement

This endorsement is necessary for the transportation of hazardous materials, requiring drivers to undergo rigorous safety and security training to manage and transport these substances safely.

X Endorsement

The X endorsement combines the hazardous materials and tanker endorsements, qualifying drivers to handle a broader range of sensitive and potentially dangerous cargoes.

S Endorsement

For instance, S endorsement directly speaks of safety measures and legal obligations by school bus operators that relate to children’s transportation, including control over children’s behavior and provision for their safety while on board.

Each of these endorsements carries a written knowledge test and, for some, a driving skills test. The aim of this exercise is to ensure that commercial drivers are well-prepared for the diversified situations they may encounter along the way.

State-Specific CDL Endorsements

While the federal regulations provide a basic guideline of what to include in CDL classifications and endorsements, then each state will be free to develop its own special needs and endorsements based on their needs and regulations. Their state-endorsed CDLs go into even more specific aspects of driving, tailored to unique driving conditions or specific types of cargo that predominate that state.

For instance, some states have forest product endorsements, which are quite valuable to drivers in those states where logging is a significant industry. Others may have farm vehicle endorsements, which are important for those agricultural states where drivers may have to transport livestock or large agricultural equipment.

It is, therefore, necessary for drivers to consult with their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, or an equivalent office, to understand the endorsements available and their prerequisites. Other requirements for an endorsement may include further training, examinations, or a background check.

What Does The Difference Between CDL Restrictions And Endorsements

CDL restrictions limit what a driver can do or what can be operated by the driver; endorsements are additional qualifications of what the driver can operate.

Restrictions on a commercial driver’s license are placed for the driver’s performance during the CDL exam or due to certain limitations, such as vision impairments or the inability to operate a manual transmission. Some of the most common restrictions include:

  • E Restriction: Prohibits operating a manual transmission vehicle.
  • L Restriction: The driver must not be permitted to drive vehicles equipped with air brakes.
  • K Restriction: Intrastate only—this limitation that only restricts the driver to.
  • On the other hand, endorsements are added to a CDL to allow drivers to drive specific types of vehicles or carry specific types of cargo that require additional training and skills. Examples might include:
  • H Hazardous Materials Endorsement: Allows for the operation of a commercial vehicle while carrying hazardous materials.
  • Horsement (Tank Vehicles): This endorsement enables the driving of tank vehicles.
  • P Endorsement (for Passenger Vehicles): Necessary for vehicles designed to carry more than 16 passengers.

Endorsements are generally viewed as a positive and are sought by drivers looking for ways to expand options in their career while restrictions can limit jobs, and drivers must face how to get rid of these restrictions if they want to have their roles expanded to their greatest potential.

How to Get CDL Endorsements

Getting CDL endorsements is done through a few steps, which may vary slightly from state to state and from the specific type of endorsement. The general way in which it is carried out includes:

  1. Training: Obtain the necessary training for the specific endorsement. Training may be completed through an employer, a private driving school, or self-study materials.
  2. Written Knowledge Test: In many endorsements, applicants should take and pass a written knowledge test. This would be similar to the test drivers must pass to get their CDL and would include certain rules and safety protocols involving the endorsement. Studying for such tests generally involves preparation with the state-provided CDL manual or from special training courses.
  3. Skills Test: Some endorsements, particularly the P and S endorsements that entail driving a passenger carrier and a bus, respectively, also require one to take a road skills test. Additional Requirements: For certain endorsements, such as the H endorsement for hazardous materials, drivers are required to go through a background check by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which includes fingerprinting.
  4. Application and Fees: When drivers successfully pass any required tests, they will apply for the endorsement at their state licensing agency and pay the necessary fees.
  5. Further Education: Certain endorsements, such as hazardous materials, require recertification or further training in specific cases periodically.

Drivers who may ask, “Can I get an endorsement added to my CDL?” Well, yes. Adding endorsements pretty much involves the same process of getting the endorsement in the first place, except for maybe having to take a few more extra steps if the endorsement has expired or state requirements have changed.


The added endorsements are the commercial driver’s further benefits in regard to improving qualifications and increasing employability. With each endorsement, new opportunities in the field of trucking and transportation arise; it becomes possible to transport most efficiently and carefully all possible kinds of cargo and passengers. Whether you need to transport hazardous materials or carry passengers, you need the correct endorsements to have a compliant, successful career in driving.

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