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What is a tanker endorsement for a CDL and when do you need one?

A tank truck with a silver tank driving on a highway.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

Tanker truck drivers earn some of the biggest money in the trucking industry, working hands-on with a variety of freight and equipment. To get a tanker job, you will first need to get a tanker endorsement for your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Learn what a tanker endorsement is and what the requirements are to get it below. 

What is a tanker endorsement? 

A tanker endorsement is an extra certification a driver can add to their CDL that allows them to haul liquid and gas bulk loads.  

Drivers with this endorsement, signified by the letter “N,” commonly haul food-grade materials such as:  

  • Water.
  • Milk.
  • Juice.
  • Liquid sugar.
  • Vegetable oil.
  • Vinegar.

Many tanker jobs need drivers to haul hazardous materialsthough this requires an extra endorsement, a HazMat endorsement, on the driver's behalf These loads include: 

  • Gasoline.
  • Propane.
  • Alcohol.
  • Paint and paint thinners.
  • Chlorine.
  • Carbon dioxide.
  • Sulfuric acid.

You do not need a tanker endorsement to haul dry bulk freight, such as plastic and wooden pellets, flour or grain. 

When do you need a tanker endorsement? 

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers need a tanker endorsement to operate a vehicle that has: 

  • Loaded liquid or gas containers.
  • Cargo that includes liquid or gas containers with a capacity greater than 119 gallons.
  • A total combined liquid or gas volume exceeding 1,000 gallons.

These regulations are designed to include tanker vehicles as well as dry vans that haul large containers. One example of these containers is Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs), which hold well over 119 gallons. 

If all these factors apply, a tanker endorsement is needed. This is why a driver hauling over 1,000 gallons of material in IBCs needs an endorsement, but a driver hauling over 1,000 gallons of individually packed water bottles in a dry van trailer does not.  

Is a tanker endorsement the same as a HazMat endorsement? 

No, tanker endorsements are not the same as HazMat endorsements. While there is a lot of overlap in tanker and HazMat jobs, the endorsements themselves are separate.  

While a tanker endorsement is about how much you are hauling, a HazMat endorsement is about what you are hauling.  

A HazMat endorsement allows drivers to drive trucks hauling hazardous materials such as: 

  • Toxic chemicals.
  • Fuels.
  • Nuclear waste.
  • Flammable liquids and gases.

So, to haul loads of materials like gasoline or propane that are over 1,000 pounds, drivers will also need a tanker endorsement.  

Fortunately, drivers can get a combination endorsement for tanker and HazMat, signified by the letter “X.” Having a combination endorsement doesn’t mean you have to haul hazardous materials, though, it just gives you the option to.  

What are the tanker endorsement requirements? 

To get a tanker endorsement for your CDL, you will need to: 

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a valid U.S. passport or valid residential status.
  • Have a valid CDL before applying.
  • Pass an eye exam and have your photo taken at the DMV.
  • Pay registration and training fees.
  • Complete and pass the tanker endorsement test.

If you are getting a HazMat endorsement as well (or an “X” endorsement, instead), there will be extra training and certification to be done, including a TSA background check. 

Wondering how to become a tanker truck driver?

Want to expand your driving options by adding a tanker endorsement to your CDL? Check out our blog on how to become a tanker driver to see what steps you need to take. 
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