Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) are ever-present in the 21st century. From medical equipment, to flammable gases, corrosive agents, and even nuclear waste, Americans are surrounded by HAZMAT daily.
Thankfully, the majority of hazardous items is safely transported to specialized storage or destruction facilities around the country.
- 1 What is a HAZMAT Driver?
- 2 How to Become a HAZMAT Truck Driver
- 3 How to Get Hired as a HAZMAT Driver
- 4 Job Prospects
- 5 HAZMAT Driver Salary
- 6 Conclusion
What is a HAZMAT Driver?
HazMat drivers are professional truck drivers who successfully transport hazardous substances out of harm’s way.
These haulers are responsible for making our lives a bit safer and are expected to maintain meticulous standards of practice when handling dangerous materials.
Logistically speaking, a HazMat hauler is an experienced Commercial driver who has trained with handling, delivering, and disposing a variety of toxic items.
They are often the first to spot and respond to critical issues. These drivers get paid a premium for their qualifications, safe driving records, and high standards of health.
Below are the steps involved in becoming a Hazmat hauler.
How to Become a HAZMAT Truck Driver
Step 1: Obtain a Valid Commercial Driver’s License
There are a few stringent requirements to become certified to transport large quantities of hazardous materials.
First of all, the successful applicant must have an active Commercial Driver’s License (CDL- Class A).
State regulations on CDLs differ, but most require a learning period allowing you to practice driving with another CDL holder in the vehicle.
After the permit period, the applicant must pass a driving skills test at a DMV location or receive an endorsement from a DMV certified training center or employer.
Learn about getting your CDL.
Step 2: Obtain the HAZMAT Endorsement
Being an endorsed commercial driver is not enough to be trusted with hauling HazMat. Extra steps are needed to ensure strict safety standards.
A separate application is necessary for HAZMAT certification. The requirements include:
- Being 21 years of age, providing proof of identification
- Supplying proof of citizenship (or legal residence)
- Completing medical/eye exams
- Passing a HAZMAT knowledge test
The fee for undertaking this application ranges from $80-$110.
During the application period, an intensive TSA (Transportation Security Administration) background check will take place.
This background check can take up to 60 days.
Certain criminal convictions will make you immediately ineligible for certification, with a specific focus on anything related to terrorism, espionage, treason, or violent crimes.
If your application is successful, you are eligible to start hauling Hazmat.
Step 3: Obtain Tanker Endorsement
A lot of hazardous materials is transported in tankers, think gasoline, pressurized gases, or anything flammable.
To be functional as a HazMat truck driver a tanker endorsement is necessary.
Fortunately, the HazMat endorsement (H) and tanker endorsement (N) can be coupled as an “X” endorsement on your CDL.
These can be obtained separately or at the same time. Either way, the applicant must take two separate knowledge tests.
The “X “endorsement is the most desirable for HazMat transportation companies as it allows drivers to transport a variety of substances. A valid CDL with an “X” endorsement will give drivers the best chance of finding employment in this field.
State requirements for transporting HazMat differ, check your State laws.
How to Get Hired as a HAZMAT Driver
Working for a company that transports HazMat comes with a lot of expectations.
Successful drivers have an extremely clean driving record.
Most companies require at least 3 years of accident-free driving for new hires. There is simply no substitute for displaying good judgement on the road when moving HazMat.
While this may seem unfair to younger drivers, risks must be mitigated as much as possible. Furthermore, HazMat hauling firms require a High School Diploma or GED as a standard of basic education necessary for the field.
Above average applicants have some form of HazMat handling experience. Superior candidates will have Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training or certification.
Furthermore, general first-aid certification will give employers confidence in your ability to handle a possible accident.
What Does a HAZMAT Driver Do?
Once hired, the number one priority will be safety.
These responsibilities are not only about handling the material, but adjusting routes based on road conditions, traffic, and time or population density.
Some materials are very time sensitive so prompt delivery is also a paramount concern. Finding a balance between the two can be a challenge.
Meticulous records of the journey will be expected for every transaction. Safety protocols must be followed at all times to ensure the security of the driver and those unloading and disposing of the waste.
Lastly, the risk of criminals using these materials as a weapon against innocent people is a small, but terrifying, possibility in transit. Maintaining a good sense of judgment and respecting security practices are of utmost importance.
In the unlikely event of an accident, HAZMAT drivers are the first line of defense in reducing the risk to others. Using proper practice can save lives and make a huge difference for the first responders when they arrive.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy tractor and truck related jobs are expected to grow 5% from 2017-2024.
If we focus on HAZMAT removal workers, employment in this area is expected to grow 7% between 2014 to 2024 or 3,300 jobs.
Employment Growth Factors
- Requirement to remove and clean up hazardous items at sites recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Increase in recycling of waste
- With the decommissioning of nuclear plants, these facilities will need to be cleaned up for safe closure
- Natural employee attrition
With a very low barrier of entry and high demand, HazMat trucking could be a viable career choice for many Americans.
HAZMAT Driver Salary
With salaries ranging from $32,670 and $50,190* annually for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, trucking is one of the most lucrative professions that does not require higher education.
Some drivers can make much more than the average. For example, here’s an ad by First River Energy looking for a Crude Oil trucker with both Hazmat and Tanker endorsements. The company provides a starting salary of $75,000.
HazMat drivers are some of the safest and most reliable in the field, so expect to earn at the higher end of the spectrum. An increased sense of responsibility and expectations rightfully justifies the pay scale.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*
If you are considering driving as a career, it can be worthwhile to think about getting HazMat and tanker training at the outset.
This will put you in a superior position when applying for jobs and give you a wide variety of options when considering possible employers.
Handling the bureaucracy can be difficult, so why deal with it more than once? If you are an experienced driver with a clean record, there is no reason not to increase your horizons for employment by adding an X endorsement to your already impressive credentials. The benefits come with certain small risks, but plenty of opportunity.
Now you tell us, are you considering a career in Hazmat? Share in the comments.
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