Hawaii’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws

The requirements to obtain a Hawaii CDL and the reasons for disqualification.

Like all states, Hawaii requires commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators to possess a commercial driver's license (CDL). Hawaii has special rules regarding the type of license a commercial operator must have and the requirements for obtaining a CDL. Hawaii also has strict penalties for drivers who fail to comply with the CMV rules and requirements. This article outlines the types of CDLs, the application process, and how a CDL can be disqualified.

When a CDL Is Required

Hawaii requires a CDL to operate any vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds or vehicle designed to carry hazardous materials or 16 or more passengers. Exceptions apply for military and emergency responders.

CDL License Categories

There are three categories of CDLs corresponding to the weight of the truck and/or trailer(s).

Combined Weight

Tractor Weight

Trailer(s) Weight

Category A

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

Over 10,000 pounds

Category B

26,001 or more pounds

26,001 or more pounds

Not over 10,000 pounds

Category C

Less than 26,001 pounds

Less than 26,001 pounds

Not over 10,000 pounds

The CDL's applicable weight limits must meet or exceed the operated CMV's weight. So, a category A CDL can be used to operate all weights of CMVs.

Endorsements. Some CMVs and cargo require "endorsements" for the driver's CDL. Endorsements often require additional testing and education.

CDL Testing

All CDL applicants must first obtain a commercial learner's permit (CLP), which requires the applicant to be at least 18 years old, show proof of residency, and pass the written exam. The CLP can be used to operate a CMV, but only under the supervision of a licensed commercial driver. After 14 days of practice and turning 19 years old, the CLP-holder can take a CDL driving test.

Under 21. An applicant who's at least 19 but younger than 21 years old will be issued a limited CDL. The driver can only operate a CMV weighing less than 18,000 pounds and cannot carry school children or hazardous materials. An under-21 applicant must also possess a category 3 license for at least two years and be free of a history of suspensions and serious traffic violations.

Over 21. Once the driver is at least 21 years old, he or she is permitted to operate all applicable CMVs and can engage in interstate commerce.

Medical exam. CDL holders are required to submit to a medical examination to ensure physical fitness to operate a CMV. Certain medical conditions may result in license restriction or disqualification. Failure to obtain or maintain a valid medical examiner's certificate will result in license disqualification.

CDL Revocation and Disqualification

A Hawaii CDL holder can be disqualified for failing to comply with CMV regulations and for certain criminal convictions. All license penalties can be reviewed and appealed in court.

Serious Traffic Offenses

"Serious traffic offenses" include speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, reckless driving, erratic lane change, following too closely, driving without a CDL, texting while driving in a CMV, and any traffic violation involving a fatality. The commission of multiple "serious traffic offenses" within three years will result in license disqualification. The driver's license will be disqualified for at least 60 days for two violations and at least 120 days for three or more violations.

Out-of-Service Order

A temporary out-of-service order (OSO) can be issued to a CMV, CDL-holder, or CMV business for certain safety violations. For example, driving a CMV with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .01% or more will result in a 24-hour OSO. Violation of the OSO will result in a $2,500 to $4,000 fine for a first offense and $5,000 to $7,500 fine for a second or subsequent offense (within a ten-year period). The driver will also be disqualified for 180 days to one year for a first offense, two to five years for a second offense, and three to five years for a third or subsequent offense. If the operated vehicle was designed to carry hazmat or more than 15 passengers, the license will be disqualified 180 days to one year for a first offense and three to five years for a second or subsequent offense.

Railroad Crossings

Hawaii has special rules for operating a CMV near or over railroad tracks. CMV operators must stop or slow down for all crossings and must ensure the CMV has enough clearance in front and below to safely cross. Railroad track violations will result in a minimum 60-day, 120-day, and one-year license disqualification for a first, second, and third violation in three years.

Criminal Convictions

Certain criminal convictions can result in a minimum one-year disqualification. This list includes chemical test refusal, DUI (driving under the influence)/OVUII, operating a CMV with a .04% or higher BAC, leaving the scene of an accident, using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony, driving a CMV while in possession of a controlled substance, driving a CMV while disqualified, and causing a fatality due to a CMV traffic violation. Any of these violations that occur in a hazmat CMV will result in a minimum three-year disqualification. A second or subsequent listed conviction or any conviction involving the CMV transportation or distribution of controlled substances will result in lifetime disqualification.

Honesty Policy

CDL holders are required to self-certify as to the type of CMV and cargo carried. All traffic convictions and suspensions must also be reported to the license examiner and the driver's employer. Drivers who make false representations on the CDL or CLP application will be disqualified for at least 60 days.

Implied Consent

All CMV operators are deemed to have impliedly consented to a test of the driver's breath, blood, or urine to determine the presence of drugs or alcohol. An officer who has probable cause to believe the driver has alcohol or drugs in his or her system can request chemical testing. Refusal to submit to the test will result in license disqualification, an OSO order, and possible criminal penalties.

Employer Liability

Hawaii also holds CDL employers liable for known violations. Permitting an employee to drive a CMV without a valid license will result in a maximum $100 fine for a first offense, maximum $300 fine for a second offense (within one year of the first), and maximum $1,000 fine for a third or subsequent offense (within two years of the second). Permitting operation in violation of an OSO will be a $2,750 to $25,000 fine and permitting a railroad crossing violation will be a fine up to $10,000.

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