Obtaining a HAZMAT CDL Certification

As part of your Commercial Driver License (CDL) application, or in addition to your current CDL, you may want to add a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) or an X – Endorsement to expand your hauling opportunities. Many drivers’ jobs in the energy industry will require you to have this HME, including contract labor services such as HCS.

The process to obtain an HME or X – Endorsement has gotten a little more complicated in light of the USA Patriot Act, but it is still very doable, provided that you do not have a disqualifying criminal history and you can prove your citizenship status or permanent resident alien standing.

The Patriot Act prohibits states from issuing HMEs unless it has been determined by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that the prospective driver does not pose a security risk. In short, the federal government does not want any states issuing HMEs without a federal probe into the driver’s history and current standing. The Act calls for criminal history checks, legal status verification and an examination of appropriate international databases as part of the TSA’s security threat assessment.

You should note that HMEs do not transfer from state to state, even if you have a valid CDL. You will need to re-obtain an HME in each state where you get a CDL. This article will cover what needs to be done to add an HME to your CDL in the state of Texas, for example.

Follow these steps to get your HME and broaden your employment options:

  1. You must first acquire your CDL from Texas, meaning that you must meet all of the federal regulations for the class of license that you seek, you have completed all of the necessary forms and paid the obligatory fees.
  2. Even if you have an HME from another state, the remainder of its validity cannot be transferred to Texas. You will need to undergo a new security threat assessment as part of your Texas CDL application. You must begin this process within 30 days of your CDL and/or HME expiring. If you have an HME, you will be given a 90-day temporary endorsement when your CDL is issued by Texas if all other HME requirements are met, as you wait for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to complete its security threat assessment.
  3. TSA will perform that assessment by examining your fingerprints; verifying your citizenship, immigration eligibility or permanent legal presence in the U.S., and, processing your HME application. Interested drivers will be given the contact information for fingerprinting to begin this assessment, but they are not to begin the fingerprinting process before receiving a Texas CDL.
  4. Incomplete forms, applications and fingerprints are purged within six months from the date of initial application, and TSA closes the file.
  5. After completing the HME application, you must schedule an appointment to have your fingerprints captured after you have heard from the TSA and you have received your CDL. You will be told which vendors you can use to have this done. The fee is approximately $80. You should confirm the cost when you schedule your appointment either online or on the phone.
  6. On the day of your fingerprinting, you must present your Texas CDL, have a digital photograph taken and allow yourself to be digitally fingerprinted. You will be given a tracking number for confirmation. If you have not heard from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) within two weeks of your fingerprinting, email DPS and ask about your application’s status.
  7. Your fingerprints will be forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which will inform the TSA of any criminal history that you may have. TSA will use this information to decide your eligibility for an HME. The list of disqualifying crimes is long, ranging from a felony within the past seven years or release from prison within the past five years, as well as espionage, sedition, treason and similar crimes.
  8. An applicant for an HME must either be: a citizen of the U.S. who has not renounced his/her U.S. citizenship; a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. as defined in section 101(a)(20) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101); a lawful nonimmigrant who has valid, unrestricted employment authorization; a refugee that was admitted under section 8 U.S.C. 1157 and has valid and unrestricted employment authorization, or, is in asylum status under section 8 U.S.C. 1158 and has valid and unrestricted employment authorization.
  9. As for verifying your citizenship, you must have a U.S. birth certificate that is embossed, stamped or has a raised seal as issued by a state or local government. Supplemental proof can include a U.S. passport (valid or expired), a certificate of U.S. citizenship, naturalization or birth abroad, or a U.S. Military ID card or discharge papers.
  10. To verify your status as a permanent resident alien, you must present a permanent resident card/alien registration receipt card (Form I-551). Supplemental documents can include a temporary I-551 stamp in a foreign passport; a temporary I-551 stamp on Form I-94, arrival/departure record, with a photograph of yourself; a re-entry permit, Form I-327.
  11. Once you obtain clearance from the TSA, you will be able to add an HME to your CDL. The Texas DPS will not receive any detailed information on your TSA assessment, only the information that your assessment was either approved or denied.
  12. If approved for an HME, the DPS will mail a new CDL to you. The HME will expire on the date that the CDL does, or five years from the approval date of the TPS, whichever is first.
  13. If denied an HME, DPS will notify you by mail and provide information on how to appeal the decision through the TSA. Appeals can be granted if there was an error in the information used in the TSA’s decision. If you have a conviction for a disqualifying crime, a waiver can be requested if TSA determines there were justifiable factors which deem that an applicant no longer poses a transportation security threat.

In summary, adding an HME to your CDL involves submission of personal information to the federal Transportation Security Administration. Once the FBI and TSA have okayed you, your HME is added to your CDL at little cost to you. States are no longer allowed to independently approve HMEs for drivers, even those with valid CDLs.

If you hope to grab one of the many jobs available in the energy industry as a driver, you will need an HME or X – Endorsement to be approved for the roster at most contract labor companies, including HCS.