A Hawaii CDL, or commercial drivers license, is required by drivers who operate large vehicles for commercial purposes within the state, or between Hawaii and another state or country. The Hawaiian Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees licensing for both CDL and non-commercial license applicants in the state. There are several requirements that drivers applying for a commercial license must meet before they can be found eligible to professionally operate a large motor vehicle. Before a driver can be found eligible to operate a commercial vehicle, he or she must earn a commercial driver’s permit and demonstrate capability behind the wheel.

Applying for a CDL license can be done by submitting an application in person, to a nearby DOT licensing agency. After completing both the written and skills-based exams, approved drivers will be given permission to operate commercial vehicles in one of three classes. All drivers must complete a comprehensive medical exam to receive their licenses, as well. Read on for more important details about licenses for commercial drivers in Hawaii.

CDL Requirements in Hawaii

CDL license requirements in Hawaii aim to make sure that the driver applying for a license is capable of safely operating large vehicles, and has had a good driving record throughout his or her career. CDL requirements for all applicants in Hawaii include being at least 21 years of age and being able to present the following documentation:

  • Proof of name, date of birth and Social Security Number (SSN)
  • The Application for CDL (DOT 4-764), signed and completed
  • A current color or black and white photograph (passport photo-sized)
  • Proof of domicile in Hawaii
  • Proof of passing a vision test
  • Proof of passing a knowledge test for the class vehicle you intend to drive, plus any endorsements
  • Proof of passing the applicable driving skills tests
  • Information on previous state driver’s licenses held in the previous 10 years
  • A valid and recent CDL medical certificate (Form MCSA-5876)
  • Proof of legal presence in the USA
  • Having no outstanding traffic violations

Certain groups of drivers do not need a CDL to drive a commercial vehicle. Drivers in this category include active-duty military drivers and federal, state and county firefighters and police who are authorized to operate emergency vehicles.

How to Apply for a CDL Permit in Hawaii

A CDL permit must be held by all HI drivers before they can be found eligible for a full commercial license. The HI CDL learners permit is issued by the DOT once a driver has submitted a complete application packet and has passed the state’s written knowledge exam, in person. A complete application consists of the documents and information listed above for a full license, minus proof of passing the driving skills test, which is taken after the driver has held the permit for at least 14 days.

CDL permit rules allow for the driver-in-training to practice driving vehicles of the applicable class, only if accompanied by another person licensed to drive that class of vehicle. Permits issued in Hawaii are valid for 180 days from issuance, and can be renewed once for another 180 days, if needed.

CDL Written Test in Hawaii

The CDL written test must be passed before a driver can apply for a learners permit, or subsequently, a full license, in Hawaii. The CDL general knowledge test, required by all drivers, consists of questions concerning the basis of safe commercial vehicle operation and state and federal laws applicable to this group. There is no option to take an online CDL test in Hawaii, as all drivers must complete the exam in person, at a DOT location. Some of other tests that only drivers applying for licenses in specific classes include:

  • The passenger transport test, for all bus driver applicants.
  • The air brakes test, for drivers of vehicles with air brakes, including air over hydraulic brakes.
  • The combination vehicles test, needed to drive combination vehicles.
  • The hazardous materials test, for the transport of haul hazardous materials, as defined in 49 CFR 383.5. These drivers must also pass a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) background check.
  • The tank vehicle test, for hauling any liquid or gaseous materials in a tank, or tanks, having an individual rated capacity of more than 119 gallons, and an aggregate rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more.
  • The doubles/triples test, required to pull double or triple trailers.
  • The school bus test, for new drivers of school buses.

Hawaii CDL Training Schools & Practice Tests

To aide in CDL prep, the HI DOT has published a Commercial Driver’s License Manual that extensively covers all of the topics that will be tested on the state’s knowledge exams. Consisting of over 150 pages, the CDL handbook is the new commercial driver’s best study material in preparation for the state’s exams.

Drivers who would like further instruction can enroll in one of the many private CDL training schools offered across Hawaii, especially if they would like hands-on practice operating a vehicle under the supervision of a professional trainer. Many schools offer specialized training in Class A, Class B and Class C vehicle operation. Note that no online training schools are offered in Hawaii.

How to Get a CDL License in Hawaii

How to get a CDL license in Hawaii begins with receiving a permit through the process outlined above. Once the driver has held his or her permit for at least two weeks, he or she can submit another CDL application form with proof of ID, SSN and a valid passport-sized photograph. At this point in the process, applicants will also be asked to provide a completed medical examiner’s certificate to demonstrate that they are up to the necessary health standards to safely operate a commercial vehicle.

When submitting the CDL application, the driver will have the chance to schedule the necessary driving skills tests required to receive their licenses. The driver must complete all three parts of the exam at the same time in order to qualify for the license. Drivers should also be ready to pay the necessary application fee. You can get your CDL and take the required skills tests at the following DOT locations:


CDL Unit Kapalama Hale
925 Dillingham Blvd.
Honolulu, 768-4185


  • Hana Police Station, Hana
  • County Complex, Kauanakakai
  • Lanai Gym, Lanai City
Maui Service Center
Maui Mall
Kahului, 270-7363


  • Waimea Police Station, Waimea
Hilo Police Station
349 Kapiolani St., 961-2222


West Hawaii Civic Center
Kailua-Kona, 323-4800


Lihue Civic Center
4444 Rice St.
Lihue, 241-4242

CDL Driving Test in Hawaii

To receive the Hawaii CDL license, drivers must complete all three parts of the driving skills exam in the class of vehicle they plan on operating. These tests can be completed at any of the DOT locations listed previously. The three parts of the HI CDL driving test include:

  1. Vehicle inspection: Testing the driver’s ability to judge the safety of the vehicle.
  2. Basic vehicle control: Looking at the driver’s skill in controlling the vehicle in a variety of situations and moves.
  3. On-road driving: Requires the driver to operate the vehicle in different ways in various traffic situations.

How to Get a CDL as a Military Member in Hawaii

Any HI resident who possesses a military CDL is exempt from having to apply from a state-issued CDL, and can use his or her military license as valid permission to operate commercial vehicles. No special CDL for veterans is advertised by the HI DOT.

CDL Medical Exams in Hawaii

All drivers must complete a CDL physical and the accompanying paperwork (Form MCSA-5876) before they will be granted permission to drive commercial vehicles in Hawaii. The physical must be carried out by a DOT medical examiner on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners to be valid.

The exam will test the driver’s ability to meet the demanding physical requirements of operating a commercial vehicle for long durations. Some drivers with certain physical impairments or illnesses may be able to receive medical waivers from the DOT to still be able to receive a HI commercial license. Certificates are valid for a maximum period of two years from the exam date.

Types of CDL Classes in Hawaii

There are three types of CDL licenses in HI. According to Hawaiian statutes (FMCSR and 286-2, HRS), commercial drivers can apply for a Class A license if their vehicle if driving “any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the GCWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.” A Class B CDL or Class C CDL is generally required by drivers of larger vehicles, or those requesting certain endorsements to transport people, hazardous cargo items and more.

Types of CDL Endorsements in Hawaii

The Hawaiian DOT issues CDL endorsements to qualified drivers to transport a variety of types of materials or people. Drivers can apply for a hazmat endorsement, a tanker endorsement and several others, according to their specific commercial needs. Some commonly requested commercial endorsements in Hawaii include:

  • Code E: Not for a manual transmission CDL vehicle.
  • Code J: For an automatic or synchromesh transmission, only.
  • Code K: This CDL is not valid for operating in interstate commerce. It authorizes intrastate commerce driving, only.
  • Code L: This is for a no-air-brake-equipped CDL vehicle.
  • Code M: This CDL is not for a Class A passenger vehicle. The passenger endorsement will be restricted to Class B and C vehicles if the bus used for the passenger endorsement skills tests is a Class B bus.
  • Code N: This is not for a Class A/B passenger vehicle. It is restricted to a Class C passenger vehicle.
  • Code O: The class A CDL is not valid for operating tractor-semitrailer combinations if the vehicle used for the class A CDL skills test is a truck-trailer combination.
  • Code P: This means no passengers are allowed in the CDL bus.

Interstate vs. Intrastate Commercial Drivers Licenses in Hawaii

An intrastate CDL is only valid for the transportation of goods or people within a state’s boundaries. Interstate CDL licenses are, instead, valid for transport between states. In Hawaii, most drivers can easily qualify to bring goods interstate, unless they have there is a specific restriction placed on their licenses. Drivers who operate both within Hawaii and between Hawaii and other states must have interstate commerce permission.

Commercial Driving License Fees in Hawaii

The total CDL license cost in Hawaii is made up of a range of fees. Beginning from the CDL permit cost, HI commercial drivers can expect to pay a combination of the outlined fees, which may include the following:

  • Application fee for a permit: $30
  • Fee per year for renewal: $5
  • Fee for a duplicate license or any change to the information on the license: $15
  • Fee to take the general knowledge test: $15
  • Fee to take each special knowledge test: $5
  • Additional fee to take the aural test: $15
  • Fee to take the skills tests: $50
  • Fee to reinstate a commercial driving privilege: $20
  • Fee in advance to schedule an appointment to take the skills tests: $50
Last updated on Thursday, March 5 2020.