CDL Endorsements: Everything You Need to Know

As a truck driver, you have a lot of opportunities in front of you. While you can stick to hauling general freight, you can significantly increase your earning potential by accepting different types of cargo. 

Depending on your commercial driver’s license’s (CDL’s) class, you may be able to obtain various trucker endorsements that can have you earning more for less work. With that in mind, we’re going to delve into the different types of CDL endorsements and CDL endorsement codes so you can give your career a jump start. We’ll also explore the main methods for adding an endorsement to a CDL in CA and other states.

What are the Different Types of CDL Classes?

Before you can start earning endorsements, you need to have the proper CDL to get you into a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). 

The type of CMV you plan to operate will dictate which CDL class you need. CDLs are broken into three different classes that determine the type and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the CMV you’re legally permitted to operate. 

Truckers have been required to hold a CDL since April 1, 1992. This mandate was instituted to reduce unqualified drivers from operating large vehicles. Be aware that some states offer more classes of CDL, such as ones that make exceptions for farming vehicles or first response trucks.

The three primary permit classes are comprised of :

Class A CDL

Holding a Class A CDL grants you the authority to pilot a vehicle with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds. This includes a towed object/vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in excess of 10,000 pounds. 

Vehicles you’re permitted to operate with a Class A CDL include:

  • Tractor-trailers and flatbeds
  • Livestock carriers
  • Tank vehicles 
  • Truck and trailer combinations 
  • Tractor-trailer buses
  • Semi-truck with a flatbed trailer

You can even be authorized to operate some Class B and Class C trucks, granted you’ve earned the appropriate CDL Class A endorsements.

Common occupations for CDL Class A holders include:

  • Heavy Truck drivers
  • Couriers
  • Bus drivers

This is the most common CDL issued.

Class B CDL 

After you receive a Class B CDL, you are allowed to drive a vehicle at or in excess of 26,001 pounds in gross combination weight rating. If the vehicle is used for towing, the gross vehicle rating cannot surpass 10,000 pounds. 

If you are towing, the GVWR of the vehicle being towed may not exceed 10,000 pounds.

Vehicles you’re permitted to operate with a Class B CDL include:

  • Straight trucks
  • City and tourist passenger buses
  • Segmented buses
  • School buses
  • Box trucks (designed for delivery services)
  • Dump trucks with a small trailer
  • Tractor-trailers

Similar to how Class A CDL endorsements allow you to operate different vehicles, if you take the time to get the right Class B endorsement you can operate some Class C vehicles.

Class C CDL

A Class C CDL and the appropriate driver training are required to operate a single vehicle with GVWR of fewer than 26,001 pounds or vehicle towing another vehicle that has a GVWR that does not exceed 10,000 pounds as well as a passenger vehicle with 16 (including the driver) or more people. This class of CDL is also required to operate a truck hauling dangerous cargo that has been labeled as hazardous material (HAZMAT) under federal guidelines.

With a Class C CDL and the correct endorsements, you can operate:

  • Small trucks equipped to transport HAZMAT
  • Passenger vans
  • Small truck towing a trailer

How Many CDL Endorsements are There?

As described in the classes section, different CDL endorsements can affect which CMV you can operate and whether you can drive passengers. When applying for your CDL you need to also apply for the endorsement you’re seeking. Once you’ve declared which ones you want, you’ll be issued the appropriate CDL endorsement test, which you can take in one of the designated testing center locations near you. As is the case for the different CDL Classes between different states, you can also expect different endorsement requirements per state, which you can find online. 

CDL endorsements are essential for commercial drivers to operate particular types of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). There are additional tests to obtain the following federal CDL endorsements outside of Class A, B, or C CDL requirements. Note: There may be other endorsements depending on the state. 

The different endorsements you can pursue include:

H Endorsement 

An H endorsement permits the CDL holder to operate a vehicle that is loaded with HAZMAT. To receive a HAZMAT endorsement, you first need to pass a written knowledge test that will ensure you are capable of transporting hazardous materials. 

N Endorsement 

Having an N CDL endorsement allows an operator to drive a tanker vehicle (vehicles that haul resources in the form of liquid and gasses). For a tanker CDL endorsement N, a driver needs to complete a written knowledge test.

P Endorsement 

If you’re looking to operate a vehicle or bus that seats 16 (including you, the driver) or more people, you first need to get a P endorsement. The passenger P endorsement is only issued to those who have passed both a written knowledge test as well as a road test. If you want to drive a school bus, separate forms and a federal background check are needed (as school bus drivers require two different endorsements). 

S Endorsement 

The second endorsement a school bus driver needs is the S endorsement. As stated above, to receive an S endorsement, you will first need to pass a written knowledge test, road skills test, as well as a background check.

T Endorsement 

The T endorsement permits you to drive either a double or triple trailer. In order to get a T endorsement, you will need to take a written knowledge test.

X Endorsement 

The X endorsement allows you to operate a vehicle that is hauling HAZMAT within a tank. To get this combination endorsement, you will need to pass a written knowledge test. 

CDL Restrictions

Similar to how your CDL endorsements grant you access to different vehicle types and loads, you can inversely receive CDL restrictions. The restrictions marked on your CDL will limit the vehicles you can operate.

E Restriction 

The E restriction refers to the type of transmission you’re allowed to operate in terms of a CMV. If you perform your road skill test while using an automatic transmission, your CDL will be marked with an E restriction. This E restriction prohibits you from driving a CMV with a manual transmission.

L Restriction 

An L restriction dictates what type of braking system your CMV can have. Having an L restriction on your CDL will prohibit you from operating a vehicle with a full air brake system. An L restriction is obtained by either driving a vehicle without a full air brake system or if you failed to pass the air brakes knowledge exam.

M Restriction 

An M restriction is placed on any Class A CDL that passed their P (passenger) or S (school bus) endorsements with a Class B or C passenger vehicle. This M restriction excludes the driver from operating any Class A passenger vehicles.

N Restriction 

The N restriction is reserved for Class B CDL holders who obtained their P (passenger) or S (school bus) endorsement in a Class C passenger vehicle. The Class B CDL holder is prohibited from operating a Class B passenger vehicle.

O Restriction 

The O restriction is issued to Class A CDL drivers who took their road skill test in a vehicle not equipped with a fifth-wheel connection or pintle hook. An O restriction limits the driver to only CMVs without a fifth-wheel connection.

V Restriction 

The V restriction is marked on a CDL when the holder has a reported medical variance by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Medical variances are impairments that can present a hazard on the road. Some medical variances include:

  • Diabetes
  • Hearing issues
  • Seizures
  • Eyesight impairment

Z Restriction 

A Z restriction on your CDL means you are not authorized to operate any CMV with full air brakes. The Z restriction is issued if you performed the road skills test in a vehicle outfitted with air over hydraulic brakes.

Which CDL endorsements are available for each CDL Classification?

Different CDLs allow you the opportunity to obtain different CDL endorsements.

Class A CDL holders have access to the following CDL endorsements:

  • H endorsement (Hazardous Materials)
  • N endorsement (Tanker Vehicles)
  • P endorsement (Passenger Vehicles)
  • S endorsement (School Bus Transport)
  • T endorsement (Double and Triples) 
  • X endorsement (Combination endorsement covering both Tanker and Hazardous Materials)

Class B CDL holders have access to the following CDL endorsements:

  • H endorsement (Hazardous Materials)
  • N endorsement (Tanker Vehicles)
  • P endorsement (Passenger Vehicles)
  • S endorsement (School Bus Transport)
  • X endorsement (Tanker and Hazardous Materials)

Class C CDL holders have access to the following CDL endorsements:

  • H endorsement (Hazardous Materials)
  • P endorsement (Passenger Vehicles)
  • S endorsement (School Bus Transport)

Tenstreet can help put your endorsements to work!

If you’re interested in getting a CDL and are looking for a way to advance your career with the right CDL endorsements, download the Driver Pulse App to help manage your driving career. You can store your application information, including all your endorsements and licenses, and apply to new jobs in minutes. You can also search for jobs suited specifically to the licenses you have. 

Ready to find the perfect job for you? Get the app today! 

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