What To Study For The Hazmat Test

It turns out acquiring a Commercial Driving License is not enough if you want to transport hazardous materials, otherwise shortened as ‘Hazmat’. Every driver that is in the business of moving loads that have been classified by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services as potentially dangerous agents or toxins is legally mandated to obtain hazard materials endorsement. But for you to get a hazard material endorsement, you must pass the CDL Hazmat test.

Sure, the entire process involves submitting an application, passing a medical screening, and getting a TSA background security clearance, but the CDL Hazmat written exam is the true test of your wits. That means you have to study, or else…..Can you handle it? Let’s have a look.

Prepare For HAZMAT Test

Refer To Your State’s Handbook

The hazard materials (hazmat) endorsements are mostly regulated at the state level; hence you should refer to your state’s commercial driver’s handbook. Skim through your state’s handbook until you find the ‘Hazmat section’.  Of course, some subjects are federally regulated by the FMCSA, but the objective of referring to your state’s handbook is to avoid conflicting laws. For instance, a legal statute in one state could be illegal in the next state.

Introduction to the Hazmat Section

Most state’s handbooks will have an introduction to the Hazmat section that discusses what is expected or clarifies the jargon. For instance, the introduction can describe what is a ‘placard’ or who determines if the load you’re carrying is Hazard material.

Hint: It’s the shipper. Also, the introduction may inform you of other processes, like background checks, that you’re expected to go through before you’re fully credited.

Reasons for Regulations and Responsibilities

Everybody has a role to play when handling hazard materials; that’s what this topic will try to explain. It is the shippers that pack the material, label it, and provide the placards. Furthermore, shippers must include an emergency contact in case anything goes wrong. However, the driver is expected to attach the placards and refuse any contents that are leaking, incorrectly labeled or improperly packaged. This topic could also include other rules that should be followed in relation to whoever is handling the hazardous materials.

Communication Rules

The communication rules topic is usually one of the longest and most extensive topics in most state’s handbooks. In essence, it categorizes the hazard materials into nine different classes (memorize those classes, they’re important) and lays out the ground communication rules. Some of the things usually highlighted include the distinction between a label and a placard, where to keep shipping papers and what should be written in the shipping papers.

Also, you should learn how to tell if a load is hazardous just by looking at the shipping papers and if the load is valid for domestic or international shipment. Anything that relates to the handling of the placards, shipping papers, labels or any other markings during transit should be covered in the communication rules topic.

Loading and Unloading

The Hazmat test will obviously include questions derived from the ‘loading and unloading’ section of the state’s handbook. In short, it tells you what you should and shouldn’t do when loading and unloading hazardous materials. For example, you shouldn’t use tools that may damage the package, keep the load close to heat sources, smoke close to flammable materials or use cargo heaters when transporting explosives or flammable gas or liquid.

Besides that, you should be able to distinguish the products that are prohibited to be transported together. This could be poison mixed with food, explosives, and radioactive materials, flammable with oxidizers, explosives, and blasting caps or any other hazardous materials that would have a fatal reaction when combined.

Bulk Packaging, Marking, Loading, Unloading

This section mostly covers the duties of a shipper when packaging, marking, loading, and unloading hazard materials. Such questions are usually answered in this section: How far away should the shipper stand during loading? Who is authorized to move the cargo? What are emergency procedures? Should you turn off the engine before loading and unloading? What about the manholes and valves, should they be closed?

Driving and Parking Rules

Just like loading and unloading procedures, there are some rules you should adhere to when driving and parking a vehicle loaded with hazard materials. Most importantly, pay closer attention to what you should do when transporting explosives, flammable substances, chlorine, and radioactive materials. Some of the rules include carrying an approved gas mask when transporting chlorine, bringing an emergency kit, avoiding parking in crowded areas or close to fire, having a clear view of the vehicle, and stopping before crossing any railroad tracks. Most state handbooks will also have a rule prohibiting commercial drivers from shifting gears when crossing railroad tracks.


Due to the fragile nature of hazard materials, you must learn how to react in case of an emergency. It’s common sense, but for the sake of passing the Hazmat test, you should study this topic extensively. Typically, you’re expected to secure the shipping papers, send for help, contain any small leak or fire and warn others of the potential risk.


Apart from your state’s handbook, you should familiarize yourself with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations aka ‘The green book’ and The Hazardous Materials Regulations, also known as ‘The yellow book’. Taking a few practice tests online will also help you to prepare for the Hazmat test.

In most states, the Hazmat test includes 30 or more questions and for you to pass, you should correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions.

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