Applying for a New CDL in Hawaii
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The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 was designed to improve highway safety. Its purpose was to ensure that drivers of commercial vehicles are qualified to drive them, and to remove unsafe drivers from the highways. The Act didn't require federal driver licensing―states still license commercial drivers―but it established minimum standards that states must meet when issuing commercial driver's licenses (CDLs). It required states to upgrade their existing programs to follow the new federal standards.
Before the Act was passed, many commercial vehicle drivers operated vehicles they were not properly trained on or qualified to drive. Even in states that had separate license classes, drivers were not necessarily tested in the types of vehicles they would be driving. States must now test commercial drivers according to federal standards, to ensure that drivers know how to operate the trucks or buses they intend to drive.
The Act also made it illegal to have more than one driver's license. You can hold a regular or commercial driver's license, but not both. You can have one license from the state you reside in, but not from any other states. In the past, bad drivers could more easily hide their driving histories by getting several licenses. Today, all the states are connected to a national database to check driver histories.
If you are ready to apply for a commercial driver's license in Hawaii, you should know there is one major requirement that sets Hawaii apart from other states. That is, you must be 21 years of age to apply―period. There is no intrastate option for those between 18 and 21 years of age, as there is in other states.
Of course, in Hawaii the interstate alternative is out of the question anyway. And while the state technically has a grand total of three so-called interstate highways, this is more the product of politics than roads that actually cross state borders.
Thus, if you have an inkling to land a job with one of the sightseeing companies as a tour bus operator, you will have to wait until you are 21. Even if you are coming from another state and already possess a CDL, you will have to wait until turning the proper age before you can put the document to use in Hawaii.
One other thing to keep in mind is that each county has specific offices that handle the CDL examination process. By no means can you just waltz into any office expecting to begin the procedures.
In most cases, there are only one or two sites per island. So make sure you are headed to the right place. The proper office locations are listed below.
Other than these two quirks, the rest of the process, coupled with the information discussed above in the federal CDL overview, is essentially the same as in other states:
- Have a passport-type photo taken, or bring a 2" x 3" head shot that looks official. The photo must be in color.
- Fill out the CDL application.
- Present the examiner with your current driver's license, your Social Security card, and a certified birth certificate to verify your age.
- Supply a DOT medical report proving that you are fit to apply for a CDL.
- Take and pass an eye exam.
- Take and pass the written general knowledge test and any of the written endorsement exams. All of the information on the test is gleaned from the CDL Handbook.
If you make it this far with flying colors, you will be the proud owner of a CDL instruction permit. This document allows you to practice driving in the class of vehicle you intend to take the actual road test in. Of course, you must always be under the supervision of a licensed commercial driver while you are practicing. The permit is valid for six months, but if you need more time to prepare, you can renew it.
Once you have undergone the necessary training or otherwise feel ready to take the next step, you can schedule an appointment to take the skills test. The skills test, or on-road driving test, is administered only at select offices. If you meet with success on the skills test, you simply pay the final fees (see below) and you are ready for the road.
A CDL is valid for six years if you are between the ages of 21 and 71. It is only valid in two-year stretches if you are 72 or older. Once you crest that age, your DOT medical clearance will also be scrutinized more thoroughly.
- General knowledge test: $15
- Endorsement tests: $5 each
- CDL instruction permit or driver's license: $30
- Complete skills test (including vehicle inspection, basic control, and road skills): $50
Depending on the type of commercial license you receive and the endorsements you earn for it, your CDL may come with one or more restrictions:
- Code K: CDL operator cannot drive a commercial vehicle with air brakes. This occurs when an applicant fails to pass the air brake portion of the test with a score of 80% or higher.
- Code O: The CDL applicant is restricted from driving commercial vehicles with automatic transmissions.
- Code X: If you have a "P" (passenger) endorsement , this restriction limits you to only driving B or C class commercial vehicles.
- Code Y: Applies to those with a "P" endorsement who can only drive Class C vehicles.
- Code Z: CDL holder cannot operate a Class A commercial vehicle with combination trailers.
You must self-certify your type of vehicle operation with your county's licensing office by January 2014. This means you must self-certify one of the following driving categories:
- Non-Excepted Interstate
- Excepted Interstate
- Non-Excepted Intrastate
- Excepted Intrastate
If you choose Non-Excepted Interstate, you must provide your county's licensing office with a federal medical certificate.
Note: In the rural locations, it might be best to call first to double-check the testing hours and to confirm the site.
- CDL Unit
- 99-501 Salt Lake Blvd.
- Honolulu, HI 96818
- (808) 487-5534
- Department of Finance
- 444 Rice St.
- Lihue, HI 96766
- (808) 241-6550
Hawaii (Big Island)
- Hilo Police Station
- 349 Kapiolani
- Hilo, HI 96720
- (808) 961-2222
- Old Kailua Airport
- (808) 327-3580
- Waimea Police Station
- 9835 Kaumaualii Highway
- Waimea, HI 96796
- (808) 887-3087
- Maui Service Center
- 70 East Kaahumanu Ave., Suite A-17
- Kahului, HI 96732
- (808) 270-7363
- Hana Police Station
- Mile Marker 33
- (808) 248-8254
- Mitchell Pauole Center
- Aiona Street and Ala Malama Avenue
- Kauanakakai, HI 96748
- (808) 553-3430
- Lanai City Gym
- (808) 565-7878
- (Definitely call ahead at this location, due to staffing shortages.)
To be eligible for a CDL, you must have a clean driving record. Federal regulations require you to pass a physical exam every two years. To operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce, you must be at least 21. Many states allow those as young as 18 to drive commercial vehicles within the state. You must be able to read and speak English well enough to read road signs, prepare reports, and communicate with the public and with law enforcement.
The Act established three separate classes of commercial driver's licenses. Every state issues licenses in these categories:
- Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
- Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR.
- Class C: Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.
Many states make exceptions for farm vehicles, snow removal vehicles, fire and emergency vehicles, and some military vehicles.
To be licensed for certain types of commercial vehicles, extra testing is required. If you pass, you will receive an endorsement on your CDL. These are the five endorsements that you can apply for. Each requires between one and five knowledge (written) tests, and two require driving (skills) tests.
- T―Double/Triple Trailers (knowledge test only)
- P―Passenger (knowledge and skills tests)
- N―Tank Vehicle (knowledge test only)
- H―Hazardous Materials (knowledge test only)
- S―School Buses (knowledge and skills tests)
In the interest of public safety on the highways, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations require interstate commercial drivers to be medically fit to operate their vehicles safely and competently. You are required to have a physical exam and carry a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certificate if:
- You operate a motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) or gross combination weight (GCW) of 4,536 kilograms (10,001 pounds) or more in interstate commerce.
- You operate a motor vehicle designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, in interstate commerce.
- You operate a motor vehicle designed or used to transport between nine and 15 passengers, for direct compensation, beyond 75 air miles from your regular work-reporting location, in interstate commerce.
- You transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring placards, in interstate commerce.
You must carry a current copy of your medical examination certificate with you when you drive. Residents of Mexico or Canada who drive in the United States can be certified by doctors in their countries, provided they meet the U.S. requirements.
There are no federal standards in place for on-the-road commercial driver training. The government only requires that you take and pass your CDL knowledge (written) and skills (driving) tests. Longer-combination-vehicle (LCV) drivers must receive training in driver wellness, driver qualifications, hours of service, and whistleblower protection.
Your state's commercial driver's manual is a good place to learn basic information, but you will need to be professionally trained to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
In order to pass your driving skills tests, you will need to learn how to inspect vehicles before driving, learn how to couple and uncouple tractors and trailers, and have plenty of practice driving. This includes driving in different conditions and on different road surfaces, turning, parking, backing up, and braking.
Many motor carriers train their employees, while other drivers take courses at private driving schools, vocational or technical schools, and community colleges. Individual states often approve or certify training courses. The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) has set minimum standards for training curriculum and certifies driver training courses that meet industry and Federal Highway Administration (FHA) guidelines. Many employers require their drivers to take PTDI-approved training.
Some states may specify minimum training guidelines. Check with your state's motor vehicles department to see if there are minimum training requirements to get your CDL.
Under the USA PATRIOT Act, commercial drivers transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) must pass a background records check and be fingerprinted. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for conducting the background checks for all commercial drivers with hazmat endorsements or who want to add hazmat endorsements to their licenses. The TSA developed this program to carry out the USA PATRIOT Act mandate and protect citizens from the potential threat of terrorists using hazmat cargo. The requirement is a result of the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56, Section 1012) and the Safe Explosives Act (Public Law 107-296, Section 1121-1123), ARS 28-3103(A)(2), and 49 CFR 1572.
If the TSA disqualifies you because of your background, you can appeal their finding or seek a waiver. However, if you are found guilty of a disqualifying crime, you must declare any disqualifying conditions and surrender your hazmat endorsement (if you already have it) to your state's department of motor vehicles or other licensing agency.
Applying for a Hazardous Materials Background Check
After you get a CDL, apply for a background check from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if you'll be obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement. You may do this online or by contacting a TSA agent. They will ask for:
- Your CDL or CDL permit number.
- Proof of legal status.
- Proof of Identity.
Next, the TSA will ask you to go to a fingerprint office to give your fingerprints. The TSA and the FBI will conduct background investigations. You will pay:
- $38 for fingerprints.
- $34 for the TSA background check.
- $17.25 for the FBI background check.
The TSA attempts to finish background checks within 30 days. You will be notified by mail. If you are approved, you can then go to your state's licensing authority (wherever you got your CDL) to complete your hazmat application process. If you are denied, you can appeal or seek a waiver.
- Hazmat endorsements must be renewed at least every five years.
- Your state might require renewal more often.
- Get a new background check each time you renew your hazmat endorsement.
You must arrange for the background check no less than 30 days before the expiration of your current approval, or your CDL may be canceled.
Conviction of any of the following crimes will disqualify you from being eligible for a hazmat endorsement:
- Assault with intent to murder
- Kidnapping or hostage-taking
- Rape or aggravated sexual abuse
- Immigration violations
- RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations
- Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, or manufacture of an explosive device, firearm, or other weapon
- Distribution of, intent to distribute, possession, or importation of a controlled substance
- Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud
- Crimes involving a severe transportation security incident
- Improper transportation of a hazardous material
- Conspiracy or attempt to commit any of these crimes
Remember that your state also has its own guidelines that may be stricter than the federal ones. For more information, consult your employer, the DMV, or the Federal Motor Carrier Association.
Other Topics in This Section
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- Getting Behind the Wheel of a Big Rig: How to Land a Trucking Job
- Want to Do Even More with Your CDL? CDL Classes and Endorsements
- CDL Holders: Completing the Medical Exam Report Requirement
- How to Apply for a Hazardous Materials Endorsement
- Commercial Driver’s License Requirements: Do You Have What It Takes?
- How to Prepare for the CDL Test