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Top 11 Heavy Truck Driver Certifications

This article will cover the top certifications and qualifications necessary for becoming a successful heavy truck driver.

Photo of Brenna Goyette
Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 15 min read

Certifications for heavy truck drivers are important in the job market because they provide employers with a way to gauge an applicant’s knowledge and skills. Having a valid certification from a professional organization demonstrates that the driver has met certain standards, is knowledgeable about safe driving practices, and is able to operate commercial vehicles safely and responsibly. Additionally, certifications may be required by law in some states or provinces, making them even more important. Having certifications can also make an applicant more attractive to employers since it shows that they are serious about their career and have taken the initiative to improve their skillset.

This article reviews some of the top certifications for Heavy Truck Drivers and explains how they can help further a driver's career.

What are Heavy Truck Driver Certifications?

Heavy truck driver certification is a course of training that prepares individuals to operate large trucks, such as tractor-trailers, safely and efficiently. This certification is typically obtained through an accredited truck driving school or by attending classes offered by the state. The program usually consists of classroom instruction and on-the-road training in order to ensure that the individual has the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful in their role as a heavy truck driver.

The main benefit of obtaining heavy truck driver certification is that it helps to ensure that drivers are proficient in operating these large vehicles safely and responsibly. This can help reduce the risk of accidents due to improper operation or lack of understanding about how to properly maneuver these vehicles. Additionally, having this certification can make drivers more attractive for employment opportunities with companies looking for experienced professionals who are capable of navigating these large vehicles safely and efficiently. As such, having this certification can open up new job opportunities for those seeking a career in the transportation industry.

Pro Tip: Make sure to research the requirements for heavy truck driver certification in your state. While most states have similar rules, there may be some variations that could affect your ability to operate a commercial vehicle. Additionally, it is important to maintain your certification by completing any necessary examinations or training prior to your expiration date.

Related: What does a Heavy Truck Driver do?

Top 11 Heavy Truck Driver Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Heavy Truck Drivers today.

1. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a type of driver’s license required in the United States for drivers who wish to operate commercial motor vehicles, such as buses, semi-trucks, and other large vehicles. The CDL is issued by each state's Department of Motor Vehicles and is valid only within that state.

It typically takes four to six weeks to obtain a CDL. To get a CDL, applicants must first pass a knowledge test on traffic laws and regulations specific to the class of vehicle they will be driving. They then must pass a skills test that includes pre-trip inspection, basic control maneuvers, and on-road driving. Finally, they must pass an eye exam and submit proof of identity.

The cost of getting a CDL varies from state to state but generally ranges from $50-$200 for the application fee and testing fees. Additional costs may include fees for medical exams or background checks if required by the state.

2. National Safety Council Defensive Driving Course

The National Safety Council Defensive Driving Course is a comprehensive program designed to help drivers learn the skills and knowledge needed to become safer, more responsible drivers. The course covers topics such as understanding traffic laws, controlling speed, recognizing hazards, avoiding distractions, and managing stress. It also provides an overview of defensive driving techniques to help drivers stay safe on the road.

The course typically takes 8 hours to complete and can be taken in one day or over multiple days. It is available online or in person at approved National Safety Council locations. The cost of the course varies depending on the location but generally ranges from $50-$100 USD.

In addition to completing the course, participants must pass a written exam in order to receive their certificate of completion. This certificate is valid for three years and may be required for insurance discounts or other purposes.

3. National Tanker Endorsement

The National Tanker Endorsement (NTE) is an endorsement issued by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) that allows a driver to operate a tank vehicle. This endorsement requires additional training and testing beyond what is required for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The NTE is required for drivers who will be operating vehicles with tanks that are designed to transport hazardous materials in quantities greater than 119 gallons.

The training and testing requirements for the NTE vary by state, but generally include completing a classroom course, passing both a written and skills test, and providing proof of medical fitness. Depending on the state, it may take up to two weeks to complete the necessary training and testing for the NTE.

To obtain an NTE, you must first obtain a valid CDL from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Once you have your CDL, you can then contact your local DMV or motor carrier safety office to find out what the specific requirements are for obtaining an NTE in your state. You may also need to contact the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for more information about obtaining an NTE.

The cost of obtaining an NTE varies by state but typically ranges from $50-$100 depending on the fees associated with taking any necessary courses or tests.

4. Hazardous Materials Endorsement

Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) is a special endorsement to a commercial driver’s license that allows the holder to transport hazardous materials. The endorsement requires additional training and background checks, as well as passing a written exam.

The process of obtaining an HME can take up to two months, depending on the state. In order to get an HME, applicants must first complete a Hazardous Materials Training Course approved by their state DMV. This course will cover topics such as proper handling and labeling of hazardous materials, emergency response procedures, and security measures for transporting hazardous materials. After completing the course, applicants must pass a written exam in order to receive their HME.

In addition to completing the training course and passing the written test, applicants must also submit fingerprints for a background check and provide proof of identity. Depending on the state, there may be additional requirements such as drug testing or medical exams.

The cost of obtaining an HME varies from state to state but typically ranges from $50-$100 for the training course plus any applicable fees for fingerprinting or other requirements.

5. Air Brake Endorsement

Air Brake Endorsement is a certification that allows drivers to operate vehicles with air brakes. This endorsement is required for any vehicle that has an air brake system, including buses, trucks, and trailers.

It typically takes up to two weeks to get the Air Brake Endorsement, depending on the jurisdiction. To get the endorsement, you must pass a written test and a practical exam. The written test covers topics such as air brake system components, pre-trip inspections, and safety rules related to air brakes. The practical exam tests your ability to inspect and operate an air brake system on a vehicle.

The cost of the Air Brake Endorsement varies by jurisdiction but usually ranges from $50-$100. In some jurisdictions, you may also be required to pay for the written or practical exams separately.

6. Doubles/Triples Endorsement

Doubles/Triples Endorsement is an additional endorsement to a commercial driver’s license (CDL) that allows the holder to drive vehicles with two or more trailers. It is required for any vehicle combination with three or more trailers. It is also known as a “T-Endorsement” because it adds the letter “T” to the CDL license class.

To obtain this endorsement, drivers must pass a written exam and a road test. The written exam covers topics such as air brakes, coupling and uncoupling procedures, and safe driving techniques for double and triple trailer combinations. The road test includes backing up, turning, shifting gears, and other maneuvers while driving a vehicle with two or more trailers attached.

The cost of obtaining the Doubles/Triples Endorsement varies by state but typically ranges from $20-$50. The process usually takes 1-2 weeks depending on the state’s processing time.

7. Transportation of Passengers Certification

Transportation of Passengers Certification (TPC) is a certification program designed to ensure that individuals who provide transportation services for passengers are knowledgeable and competent in the areas of safety, customer service, and legal requirements. The certification is required by many state and local governments, as well as private companies, in order to operate legally.

The TPC program consists of an online training course that covers topics such as vehicle operation, passenger safety, customer service, and legal requirements. The course takes approximately eight hours to complete and must be completed within 90 days of registration. Upon successful completion of the course, applicants will receive their TPC certification card.

To get certified, applicants must first register with a TPC provider and pay the associated fee. Fees vary depending on the provider but typically range from $50-$100 per person. Once registered, applicants can start the online training course at any time. Upon successful completion of the course and passing a final exam with a score of 80% or higher, applicants will receive their TPC certification card in the mail within two weeks.

The cost for Transportation of Passengers Certification varies depending on the provider but typically ranges from $50-$100 per person.

8. Tank Vehicle Endorsement

Tank Vehicle Endorsement is a special endorsement that must be added to a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in order to operate a vehicle with an attached tank. Tank vehicles are used to transport liquids, gases, and other hazardous materials. The endorsement is required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

It typically takes up to three weeks to obtain the Tank Vehicle Endorsement. The process involves passing both a written and skills test administered by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles. The written test covers topics such as loading and unloading, emergency procedures, and proper handling of hazardous materials. The skills test requires applicants to demonstrate their ability to safely operate a tank vehicle.

To obtain the Tank Vehicle Endorsement, applicants must first have a valid CDL. They must also meet all other requirements for obtaining a CDL, such as being at least 21 years old and having held a valid driver’s license for at least one year.

The cost for obtaining the Tank Vehicle Endorsement varies from state to state but typically ranges from $50-$100.

9. Combination Vehicle Endorsement

A Combination Vehicle Endorsement is a special license endorsement required for operating any vehicle combination with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. This includes vehicles such as tractor-trailers, double and triple trailers, tank trucks, tow trucks, and buses.

In order to obtain this endorsement, you must first pass the written knowledge test at your local DMV office. Depending on your state's requirements, you may also be required to take a road skills test in addition to the written exam. The tests cover topics such as vehicle inspection, air brakes, coupling/uncoupling trailers and other safety-related topics.

The cost of the Combination Vehicle Endorsement varies by state but typically ranges between $15-$50. It usually takes around 30 minutes to complete the application process and receive the endorsement.

10. Cargo Securement Certification

Cargo Securement Certification is a program that provides training and certification for individuals who transport cargo on commercial motor vehicles. This certification is required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in order to ensure that goods are being transported safely and securely.

The certification process involves completing an online course, which typically takes between four to six hours to complete. The course covers topics such as cargo securement principles, regulations, and best practices. Once the course is completed, applicants must pass an exam in order to receive their certification.

The cost of the Cargo Securement Certification varies depending on the provider, but typically ranges from $50-$100 USD. Additionally, some states may require additional fees or registration costs before allowing applicants to take the exam.

Once certified, individuals will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of safe cargo securement practices and obtain a valid certificate that meets FMCSA requirements for transporting cargo on commercial motor vehicles.

11. Hours of Service Certification

Hours of Service Certification is a certification program that helps truck drivers and motor carriers comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. It is designed to ensure that drivers are aware of the FMCSA’s Hours of Service rules, which dictate how many hours a driver can be on the road in any given day or week.

The certification process typically takes between 2-4 hours to complete and consists of an online training course, followed by a final exam. The cost for the certification varies depending on the provider, but generally ranges from $50-$100.

To get certified, you will first need to find an approved provider who offers the Hours of Service Certification program. You will then need to register for the course and pay the associated fee. Once registered, you will be able to access and complete the online training course at your own pace. After completing all modules within the course, you will then take a final exam which must be passed in order to receive your certification.

Do You Really Need a Heavy Truck Driver Certificate?

Yes, it is important for heavy truck drivers to have a Heavy Truck Driver Certificate (HTDC). This certification is required in many states and provinces in order to operate a commercial vehicle. Having the certificate ensures that the driver has the necessary knowledge and skills needed to safely operate large trucks, such as those used for hauling freight over long distances. It also provides employers with assurance that their employees have been properly trained and are qualified to drive the vehicles they are responsible for handling.

In addition to being legally required, having an HTDC can open up more job opportunities for a driver. Employers often prefer hiring individuals who have been certified by an accredited organization, as it shows they are committed to their profession and take safety seriously. In some cases, heavy truck drivers may be able to negotiate a higher salary if they possess an HTDC compared to those without one.

Furthermore, having an HTDC can give drivers peace of mind when on the road. Knowing that they are well-trained and knowledgeable about the laws governing heavy truck operations can reduce stress levels while driving, which in turn can lead to increased safety on the roads. By taking the time to obtain this certification, heavy truck drivers can ensure that they are prepared for any situation they may encounter while driving.

Ultimately, obtaining a Heavy Truck Driver Certificate is essential for anyone looking to become a professional heavy truck driver. Not only does it provide legal protection and job security, but it also provides peace of mind while driving so that everyone remains safe on our roads.

Related: Heavy Truck Driver Resume Examples

FAQs About Heavy Truck Driver Certifications

1. How do I become a certified heavy truck driver?

Answer: You will need to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You will then need to complete formal training and pass the necessary tests for the type of vehicle you plan to drive.

2. What are the requirements for obtaining a heavy truck driver certification?

Answer: Requirements vary from state to state, but typically include passing written and driving tests, being at least 18 years old, having a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance, and providing medical clearance from an approved doctor.

3. What type of training is required for a heavy truck driver certification?

Answer: Heavy truck drivers must complete formal training in order to be certified. This includes classroom instruction as well as hands-on driving experience with an experienced instructor.

4. Are there any age restrictions for obtaining a heavy truck driver certification?

Answer: Yes, most states require that you be at least 18 years old in order to obtain a CDL and become certified as a heavy truck driver.

5. Do I need special endorsements on my CDL in order to drive certain types of trucks?

Answer: Yes, some states may require certain endorsements on your CDL in order to legally drive certain types of vehicles such as tankers or double/triple trailers.

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