Learning how to be a commercial driver can be challenging enough, but some people may enjoy a bigger challenge: becoming a hazmat driver.
What is a Hazmat Driver?
They receive additional training in safely handling and driving loads of dangerous chemicals, radioactive and nuclear materials, poisons, explosive or flammable items, or similar substances.
Many of these materials could hurt or kill animals or people if they were exposed. They also could damage the soil, water or nearby vegetation if they are ever spilled. In some cases, even a small amount of material is dangerous enough, but a whole truckload could be devastating for a whole community.
With all these risks, why would someone want to be a hazmat truck driver? Partly it’s because there’s a need for it. Manufacturers and other companies such as fabricators or mining companies may require many of these raw materials in their operations, so they need someone reliable to get these items to their proper locations.
Some hazardous materials are also considered waste products, so they need to be taken somewhere to be properly disposed of or stored so they don’t hurt the environment or anyone around them.
Being a hazmat driver also pays well, so it could be a favorable occupation for someone who enjoys driving and focuses on following safety procedures as much as possible. It is also expected to grow in demand. Having the required endorsements and hazmat experience can also qualify a driver for a wider variety of jobs instead of only a basic commercial trucking endorsement.
How to become a hazmat driver
Some people start by being commercial drivers first and then have additional hazardous material training. Others may learn both skills consecutively through a specific hazardous driver training program.
Knowing basic trucking skills will help learn the basic equipment and how to safely navigate roads. In some cases, drivers with hazardous cargo may have a firm time limit so they may have to plan certain routes, or may be required to stick to certain types of roads due to their cargo.
Hazmat drivers commercial driving endorsements for tractor-trailers, then a code H endorsement for handling hazardous materials and a N endorsement for hauling a tanker. A X endorsement can also be received that includes the tanker and hazardous endorsement.
Like any other driving program, the requirements for credentials may vary by state. You’ll likely have to start with a good driving record, a high school diploma, no criminal record, and have a standard driver’s license.
Then you’ll take a written test, get a learner’s permit for trucks, then pass a commercial driver’s test.
Then you can learn the information about hazardous driving on your own or enroll in a program.
In some cases, because there is such a high demand for hazmat drivers, some companies may pay for you to enroll. So, you can carry non-hazardous cargo for them and gain general driving/hauling experience while studying to receive your hazardous credentials. This advanced knowledge and experience behind the wheel can be useful when competing for jobs from people who may have only basic endorsements.
A final part of the process of becoming a hazmat truck driver is approval from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration which verifies your medical status, your identity, your citizenship, and your lack of a criminal record.