A differential on a tractor-trailer combination means something very different from a pay differential, but the two are oddly related. A truck’s differential can mean the transmission’s differential, or the power divider, which is another differential altogether. A pay differential? That is how much more a truck driver might be able to make with certain endorsements for your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Certification – Earning a CDL
The CDL you earn comes from a state’s motor vehicle agency, but once you have it, you are under the supervision, ultimately, of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA regulates trucking in all 50 states. They set driver hours, work conditions, equipment limitations, and licensing requirements.
FMCSA does not, however, provide you with your CDL. Each state examines and licenses you, and you can only be licensed (certified) in one state. Every other state, operating under FMCSA’s guidelines, recognizes your state’s certification of your ability to follow the rules and regulations to operate a commercial vehicle.
Getting Endorsements on Your CDL
Once you have your CDL, you can add endorsements. These are not separate papers to tote around; they are codes on your license:
- T—Double and triple trailers
- P—Passenger vehicles—Whether the rental car company’s small airport van or the cross-country luxury coach, a vehicle carrying people requires this endorsement
- S—School buses, because our littlest passengers are most in need of safe conduct
- N—Tank trucks carrying relatively harmless liquids like milk, vegetable oil and wine
- H—Hazardous materials (hazmat) vehicle of any size, from a passenger car carrying radioactive medicine to a pickup carrying blasting caps to a HVAC contractor’s repair truck carrying welding gases
- X—Tank and hazardous materials—For dangerous loads such as gasoline, propane, acetic acid and other chemicals that could disrupt roads and lives through a spill, fire or explosion
Interestingly, flatbed operation is neither a special certification nor an endorsement, but does require special skills. You can receive specialized training to operate flatbed, and you often will see a pay differential (depending on the national carrier that employs you). Another special circumstance is drayage.
Drayage is the term for driving loads to and from ports in the United States. Pick up a container from a container ship at the port of New Orleans and drive it 30 miles to a New Orleans warehouse for repacking; that is drayage. Getting onto the port’s piers, however, is not easy, and should not be.
Earning a TWIC® Card
Due to national security, our ports are protected by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which follows the Maritime Transportation Security Act. The Act requires that workers with access to maritime facilities and vessels have the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC®. You cannot simply go to your motor vehicle department and get this certification:
- You complete the online application or visit an application center
- Provide documentation (citizenship, etc.) and fingerprints
- Pay for a five-year certification (currently costing $128, though you get a reduced rate of $105.25 for having hazmat endorsement or possessing a Free and Secure Trade Card)
- Wait for your TWIC® card or denial
Some trucking companies reward the special hurdles a driver goes through to earn a TWIC® with a pay differential; others do not.
What are the Best Trucking Endorsements to Get?
If you are just determined to start a squabble at a truckstop, announce something like this: “I think [blank] is the best endorsement.” You will be certain to offend many drivers. Dry van operators, including day cab drivers sometimes think they’re better than flatbed drivers. Flatbed drivers may disregard tank truckers. Tank truck drivers think dry van drivers are lightweights. It does not matter—if you do not have the endorsement, the one you do not have is the one you pretend not to like.
But for pay differentials, you can hardly argue against X—tank and hazmat. Many dry van operators are now required to pick up tank endorsement even if all they carry is a barrel of glue and a truckload of feathers. Any liquid, in any size container, can slosh, which can cause a spill or throw a truck’s center of gravity off.
FMCSA is charged with keeping our nation’s highways safe, regardless of who drives on them. To do that, FMCSA has strict requirements for anyone wanting to earn hazmat endorsements. The process is complicated, expensive, and as invasive as getting a TWIC®.
TSA will screen you and do a thorough background check, which you pay for (around $110). You still have to take your state’s Hazardous Materials Endorsement Knowledge Test. and pay both the test and endorsement fees. These vary from state to state.
The Very Best Trucking Certification Is . . .
You cannot get any endorsement without a CDL, and you cannot get a CDL without excellent training. Contact Advanced Technology Institute today to learn how ATI can help you train to be a commercial driver. The Tractor-Trailer Driving certificate could be your best certification, because it can open the road to a new career for you.
DISCLAIMER – Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) makes no claim, warranty or guarantee as to actual employability or earning potential to current, past or future students or graduates of any educational program offered. The Advanced Technology Institute website is published for informational purposes only. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information contained on the AUTO.edu domain; however, no warranty of accuracy is made. No contractual rights, either expressed or implied, are created by its content.
Gainful Employment Information – No-CIP Tractor-Trailer Driving