Hawaii asks FMCSA for limited CDL test exemption

August 24, 2023

Mark Schremmer


Citing the lack of highway infrastructure on two of its islands, Hawaii is asking for an exemption from parts of the federal commercial driver’s license skills test.

The state of Hawaii’s exemption request to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, Aug. 25.

Regulations require a CDL applicant to possess and demonstrate specific on-road safe-driving skills, including the ability to choose a safe gap for changing lanes, passing other vehicles and crossing or entering traffic and the ability to signal appropriately when changing direction in traffic. For drivers on the islands of Lanai and Molokai, Hawaii proposes to issue a restricted CDL to drivers who pass a limited skills test but would not be required to perform those on-road skills.

“The state of Hawaii maintains that the islands of Lanai and Molokai do not have at least 2 miles of a straight section of urban business street and at least 2 miles of an expressway or highway section with multiple lanes going in each direction to allow the ability to legally change lanes,” FMCSA wrote in the notice.

If FMCSA approves the request, Hawaii would establish a new CDL restriction “R,” limiting the CDL to only Lanai and Molokai. The limited CDLs also would include the “K” intrastate restriction.

Alaska’s exemption

Last year, Alaska asked FMCSA for a similar exemption due to its state’s geography.

In July, Alaska asked FMCSA for relief from the requirement that CDL applicants demonstrate proficiency in proper techniques for initiating vehicle movement, executing left and right turns, changing lanes, navigating curves at speed, entry and exit on interstate or controlled-access highway, and stopping the vehicle in a controlled manner.

As part of the application, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the regulation requires students to demonstrate proficiency at skills that are not necessary, nor able to be demonstrated, in remote Alaska communities. The request specifically asked for an exemption from 49 CFR part 380, Appendix A, Section A3.1.

FMCSA granted an exemption but limited it to drivers in 14 defined geographical areas that lacked the infrastructure to allow completion of the full skills test. Specifically, FMCSA approved an exemption from 49 CFR 383.3(e)(2).

“If FMCSA were to grant the relief requested, the affected drivers would be eligible to obtain an unrestricted CDL and operate in any location in the U.S., even though they did not receive the requisite training to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle,” the agency wrote in the notice. “The exemption applies only to CDL applicants who reside in one of the named remote geographical areas identified below and who operate only within those defined areas.”

Hawaii’s request makes it clear that the relief would apply only to drivers on the specified islands.

How to comment

Once Hawaii’s exemption request is published, the public will have 30 days to comment. To do so, go to the regulations.gov website and enter Docket No. FMCSA-2023-0185. LL