Do I have to pass a background check to obtain a hazmat endorsement?

Fingerprinting and a background check are considered a standard part of the application process for a HAZMAT endorsement for each CDL driver. These processes are required by the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA Patriot) Act and in addition to the CDL test requirements such as passing a HAZMAT test.

Fees for the background check will vary according to your location and who is providing the fingerprint service. Contact your local DMV office for details.

Passing the Background Check

Generally, only felony level crimes will cause problems with your criminal check. You'll lose your endorsement for life if convicted of terrorism, espionage, distribution of explosives, arson, or the improper distribution of hazardous material. Crimes such as rape, assault, immigration violations, robbery, smuggling, or identity fraud will disqualify you if they happened within the last seven years or you've been released from incarceration for these crimes within the last five years.

A misdemeanor drug charge will not cause you to fail the background check; only felony level drug charges will be considered. However, it's important to be aware of what your state considers a felony level drug possession charge. While Illinois law sets felony marijuana possession at more than 30 grams, for example, Washington law makes possession of 40 grams a felony. In Texas, marijuana possession is not a felony until you are found with 112 grams.

NOTE: You might want to make sure your driving record is up to par before beginning the process to obtain a HAZMAT endorsement on your CDL. Although it's probably not directly related to background check (unless you have a qualifying crime lurking around), it's better to be aware of what's there upfront.

Appeals and Waivers

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will send you a letter notifying you of the decision to deny your hazardous materials endorsement if you do not pass the background check. The reason for the denial will be detailed in the letter unless it is considered classified information.

You have 15 days from the receipt of the letter to appeal the decision if you believe it was reached based on incorrect information. You can apply for a waiver if the disqualifying information is correct, but you believe you should be awarded a HAZMAT endorsement for your commercial license based on other extenuating circumstances.

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