Endorsements: they’re those little letters on your CDL. Do they make a big difference in your career?

Actually, endorsements are the government’s permission to perform sensitive, difficult, or potentially hazardous tasks performed by commercial drivers that they have deemed needs special training to perform. Endorsements that may be added to a CDL are as follows:

Endorsement code — Description

T — Double/Triple Trailers *
P — Passenger **
N — Tank vehicles *
H — Hazardous materials *
X — Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials endorsements *
S — School Bus **

*Knowledge Test only
**Knowledge & Skills Tests

Your average CDL applicant may or may not heed the advice of his or her truck driving school instructor and pursue some of those endorsements, thinking they may not need them, or that they don’t have the time to pursue them.

But really, you may not be able to afford NOT to go after CDL endorsements.

As it turns out, those instructors were right: endorsements DO make a difference. It may be difficult to quantify how much money truck drivers with HAZMAT endorsements, for example, make than drivers without endorsements, but it’s certainly something that is recommended. The trucking blog Trucker Country goes a little further, saying having endorsements “can be the difference in getting your ideal job or having to accept an average one.”

So which endorsements should you pursue? What if I said all of them? That’s what the bloggers at Trucking Truth advocate. “…every endorsement is an opportunity at a whole subset of truck driving jobs,” they said.

And with the opportunities that many endorsements can bring, it may be a good idea. The cost associated with each is minimal, and the exams are short and simple. The HAZMAT endorsement, the most difficult to obtain, is even a relatively easy process.

The advantages of this approach is easy to see. You will have all of the certifications possible in the trucking industry, you will increase your employability and the flexibility you have in your job (that is to say you’ll be able to transition from truck driver to bus driver virtually seamlessly if you ever decide a career shift is in order.

But even if you do, you have an inherent advantage over otherwise similarly qualified job candidates if you are able to perform tasks like towing a double or triple trailer or drive a tank vehicle. If you are legally able to perform all of the same commercial driving tasks they are and then some, you have a distinct advantage over them. If you can do ALL of them, well, the only peers you have are others who can say the same thing.

And what are the drawbacks? In the short term, you are spending money and time on something that is not necessarily directly related to their job, and you may not ever use some of those endorsements. However, it can also be argued (and quite successfully) that, to an employer, you will appear to be a more responsible and mature job candidate if you went through the extra trouble and expense of getting all of the endorsements for which you are eligible.

In the end, you are the one who has to decide which endorsements are right for you. Just be sure you make an informed decision based on the best interests of your career rather than a snap decision based on a few extra moments of your time. It could mean quite a bit to your career and your future.