Commercial Driver Education in Hawaii

As if living in Hawaii isn't rewarding enough, how would you like to get paid to travel your island home?

You can make a living of surfing the wide open roads, enjoying the endless waves of natural beauty that this state has to offer. To do this, all you need to do is apply for a Hawaii commercial driver's license (CDL).

When you apply for a new CDL, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HIDOT) will require you to pass a series of tests that prove your ability to safely drive a commercial vehicle.

In preparation for commercial driver testing, the HDOT does currently not require CDL applicants to enroll in CDL education, though this will change beginning on February 7, 2022. Taking a commercial driver education course can, however, improve your chances of passing the required CDL exams on your first attempt.


Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the Hawaii Department of Transportation now mandates new CDL applicants complete an entry-level driver training course through an authorized provider. You’ll need to complete this training prior to applying for your first commercial driver’s license, upgrading your existing CDL class, or applying for a HAZMAT, school bus, or passenger endorsement.

Hawaii Commercial Driver's Ed Requirements

As mentioned above, you are not currently state-required to take commercial driver education courses, though this will change beginning on February 7, 2022. Despite this, you should still think about enrolling in CDL education as a way to prepare for HIDOT's required CDL tests.

All CDL applicants are required to pass the following exams:

  • Written general knowledge test.
  • Practical CDL skills road test.

Depending on the classification and endorsement(s) of your desired commercial driver license, you could have to take additional CDL exams.

For a better understanding of your CDL's classification and endorsement(s), refer to the following guides:

Choosing a CDL Test Prep Course

The most effective way to prepare for the Hawaii Department of Transportation's CDL exams is to enroll in commercial driver education.

Taking an in-class course will familiarize you with the topics and format of the commercial driver written test(s).

Enrolling in a behind-the-wheel program will allow you to learn all of the skills required to drive the vehicle you'll be testing in for CDL road exam(s).

So, if you start looking into HI CDL education options, first ask the following:

  • Will the course length and tuition fit in with your schedule and budget?
  • Are the classes taught by certified instructors who hold valid commercial driver's licenses?
  • Do the course curricula teach all of the topics and skills you'll need to know for your particular CDL written and road exams?

Hawaii CDL Classroom Course Curriculum

Before you decide to enroll in an in-class CDL course, make sure that the curriculum at least covers the topics you'll need to know for the written general knowledge exam.

A few of these topics include:

  • Vehicle inspection before, during, and after a trip.
  • Performing basic vehicle maneuvers (e.g. reversing and steering).
  • Creating a safe field of vision.
  • Controlling vehicle speed in compromising situations.
  • Dealing with hazards like:
    • Bad weather.
    • Erratic drivers.
    • Dangerous road conditions.
  • Handling emergency situations.

Additional CDL Written Tests

As previously stated, HIDOT could require you to take additional written tests depending on the classification and endorsement(s) of your prospective CDL.

The other CDL written exam topics you might need to look for in a classroom course curriculum include:

  • Passenger transportation.
  • Vehicles with air brakes.
  • Driving a combination vehicle.
  • Transporting hazardous materials.
  • Hauling a liquid or gas-filled tanker.
  • Vehicles with double/triple trailers.
  • Operating a school bus.

When you feel ready, contact your local HIDOT commercial driver licensing office to make a written test appointment.

Hawaii CDL Behind-the-Wheel Curriculum

Once you pass all of the Hawaii Department of Transportation's written CDL examinations, you'll be given an instruction permit.

The permit is valid for 180 days and allows you to practice driving a commercial vehicle in preparation for your CDL road test. Take advantage of the time you have and consider enrolling in a behind-the-wheel commercial driver education course.

The program that you choose should have a curriculum that teaches the skills you need to master for your practical CDL skills road exam. A couple of these skills include:

  • Performing a full, pre-trip internal and external vehicle inspection.
  • Executing basic vehicle skills (e.g. reversing and parallel parking).
  • Proceeding through intersections and railroad crossings.
  • Entering and exiting the flow of moving traffic.

Additional Hawaii CDL Road Tests

Just like HIDOT's written testing requirements, you could be expected to learn additional behind-the-wheel skills particular to the classification and endorsements of your desired CDL.

Other CDL topics to keep in mind when looking at behind-the-wheel curricula include:

  • Extended pre trip vehicle inspection for buses and trailers.
  • Passenger loading/unloading for school buses.
  • Air brake inspection.
  • Shifting gears with a manual transmission.

If you feel completely confident in your abilities to safely drive your commercial vehicle of choice, schedule an appointment at your local Department of Transportation CDL office for a road exam.

Study on Your Own for a HI CDL

Since commercial driver education is not currently state-required, you always have the option of studying for your CDL on your own.

This might be the most viable choice for you if your budget and schedule just won't allow for the added commitment needed for CDL education.

Everything that you'll be expected to know for your CDL exams is in the Hawaii Commercial Driver License Manual. Use the chart in Section 1 of the manual to determine exactly which sections you'll need to study for your specific CDL exams.

As an extra study tool, consider using CDL practice tests. Practice tests will help to familiarize you with the format of the written exams, and indicate which areas of the CDL manual might need more studying. Plus you can take the practice exam as many times as you need to feel fully prepared.

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