Commercial Driver Education in Hawaii
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There is little doubt that one way to position yourself for a decent- to high-paying job on the islands is by obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL). The license, available in three classes, opens up a wealth of opportunities for those interested in a career driving trucks or buses.
And just as a prospective surgeon would not walk into an operating room, pick up a scalpel, and begin a heart bypass without years of schooling, so a future commercial driver should not just hop in an 18-wheeler or people carrier and take to the road without some intensive training.
That's not to say you can't hunker down with the CDL Manual and somehow cram all of the significant material into your head, then go out and ace the general knowledge exam and endorsement tests. This will garner you a CDL instruction permit―but it won't get you anywhere near ready to actually get behind the wheel.
To progress to that point, you need to put your instruction permit to use by practicing driving until you have mastered the art of maneuvering an unwieldy commercial vehicle along Hawaii's many two-lane highways. You'll need someone with a commercial license for the type of vehicle you are driving to ride along with you at all times while you practice. However, if they are not a professional driving teacher, they really can't explain everything you need to know to handle every tricky situation a commercial driver might encounter.
Most likely you will need to turn to a professional training program to help you along the path to a CDL license. The training needs to be rigorous and thorough, because the tests involved―both written and hands-on―are tough. Plus, the better education you have, the better your chances are of landing a top job.
Luckily, there are a few schooling options available on the islands. But the do-it-yourself folks still have some leeway, especially when it comes to home-study materials for the written exams.
There are plenty of businesses, most advertising online, that provide comprehensive study packages for the general knowledge test and each of the endorsements exams. Fees vary widely, but you can figure on spending around $100 if you opt for this route. It's not a bad start: Passing the written exams with at least an 80% score gets you that permit and opens a wealth of what-to-do-now options.
Most of the companies that provide actual behind-the-wheel training also prepare you from the get-go for the written exams. They, in a sense, are immersion programs that guide you through the entire process from the beginning until the end, and in many cases, even administer the tests.
But it is possible to join midstream, especially at community colleges with commercial driving programs. They may offer all types of classes for the different classes of CDL, so you can pick and choose.
A few private companies, mostly on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, also provide comprehensive behind-the-wheel instruction. The fees tend to be comparable to the community college programs.
In many cases, the training goes well beyond the basic federal and state standards. Plus, the private companies tend to have pretty good contacts in the local industry, which equates to job placement. Since Hawaii has third-party testing, you can sign up with a private company and get both training and testing from them.
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