A hazardous material is defined as any biological, chemical, radiological or physical compound that has the potential to cause health risks, bodily harm or damage to humans, animals or the environment. The certification process for earnign the CDL Hazardous Materials Endorsement requires training, testing and a criminal background check for issuance in the State of Texas.
Hazardous materials can include but are not limited to:
- Carcinogenic chemicals (cancer causing)
- Corrosive liquids or powders
- Explosive and flammable materials
- Unstable and reactive substances
- Compounds that may release dust, gas, mists or vapors that are harmful
These materials are both defined and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and governed by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in some cases, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
What Does It Take to Get the Hazardous Waste (HME) Certification?
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has a four-step application process for Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME). Before writing the exam and passing the assessment, owner-operators and fleet drivers must meet specific criteria to be eligible.
Drivers who are not eligible to apply for the HME endorsement are:
- Commercial drivers who are not landed residents of the United States, or who have lawful status as a refugee or granted temporary asylum.
- Commercial Driver License holders who been certified to the Texas Commercial Driver Licence Application Intrastate Driver Certification (CDL-5) Section A classification.
- CDL drivers who have a current valid Texas Limb Waiver.
- CDL drivers who have a non-domicile CDL which means they are a resident of a foreign country, such as Canada or Mexico even if their CDL license was issued by the State of Texas.
Hazardous materials require a special endorsement that requires extensive training for public and environmental safety. Given the risks of misappropriation of dangerous chemicals and toxins (including for the use of terrorist activities), a thorough background and criminal record check is part of the screening process.
Drivers who have been convicted of specific crimes including espionage, sedition, treason or terrorist related activities are permanently disqualified from receiving a hazardous materials endorsement for their CDL licensure, and there is no appeal process for those specific crimes.
Step One: Submission of the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Application
Successful completion of the application for Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) can take up to two months or longer, depending on the status of the applicant. The first step is to visit the Driver License Office to pay the application fee and submit the completed application in person, for processing.
Part of the application process is to ensure that the driver meets all federal regulations for the class endorsement, and that the driver successfully completes training and passes the final Hazardous Materials Exam. It is not possible to request a temporary HME endorsement until the separate application and security threat assessments are completed.
Step Two: Engage in Comprehensive Training and Pass the HME Driver Examination
The written examination has thirty (30) questions and requires a score of at least 80% in order to pass the exam. Within 90-days of the application for HME endorsement, the driver has up to three opportunities to successfully demonstrate their competencies on the exam. Individuals who do not pass after three failed attempts, are required to pay the fee again, and are required to wait a designated period before rewriting the exam.
Step Three: Complete Required Fingerprint Check
In the State of Texas, fingerprints are conducted by a designated vendor IdentoGO. During the application process, drivers will be issued a Service Code that can be used to schedule the appointment for fingerprinting. There is a non-refundable fee for the service, and drivers must ensure that they provide accurate information to allow their fingerprints to be linked to their HME application. A digital photograph is taken, and drivers must present their valid Texas issued CDL license.
Step Four: Pass the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Threat Assessment
Because of the potential for public safety threat with regards to the safe handling of hazardous commercial materials and anti-terrorism measures, the fingerprints for the driver applicant are provided to the FBI for screening. The Federal Bureau of Investigation provides a comprehensive report and threat assessment of the driver to the TSA, including a background check and report on criminal history (if any).
Drivers who are approved for the Hazardous Materials Endorsement are issued a new CDL licence which is mailed to the home address on record, and the endorsement is valid for five (5) years. Drivers who are declined the HME endorsement can pursue an appeals process with the TSA. The Texas Department of Public Safety is not provided with the details of the threat assessment in compliance with privacy requirements, they are only informed whether the CDL driver has been approved or denied the request for HME.
Once a CDL driver has received their Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) they are required to renew every five years and submit to new fingerprint evaluations at the time of renewal.