CDL Classes Planned as Part of Maui Recovery

Workforce Development Focuses on Hazmat Job Training
Lahaina debris
Debris is scattered around a destroyed home on Sept. 26 in Lahaina. (Mengshin Lin/AP)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is planning to launch classes for a commercial driver license to help Maui wildfire victims rebuild their lives and the community through workforce development classes now focusing on training to clean up hazardous materials.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen unveiled a staggered approach Sept. 27 to reopen west Maui and its hotels to visitors Oct. 8 since the area has been open to support disaster victims. The wildfires displaced 7,800 people on Maui who are currently housed in hotels.

“In total, nearly 8,000 people — roughly 80% of the population affected by the disaster — have been receiving non-congregate shelter and support services in 40 hotels and other lodging since the disaster,” noted Gov. Josh Green’s office.

Maui residents have voiced concerns about being able to rebuild their homes and lives to avoid displacement in the aftermath of the Aug. 8 wildfires that caused significant loss of life and property in Maui County, destroying the town of Lahaina and several Native Hawaiian areas of cultural significance, including the Na ‘Aikane o Maui Lahaina Cultural Center.

Removal of fire debris is a big challenge for Maui residents, business owners and government agencies.

“Debris removal is occurring in phases to ensure the safety and cultural sensitivities of the affected communities,” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The only Maui locations that remain completely closed have been historic Lahaina Town and surrounding areas impacted by the wildfires.

President Joe Biden on Sept. 22 authorized more federal funds to Hawaii for wildfire debris removal and emergency protective measures. His order OKs 100% funding for debris removal of total eligible costs for a continuous 180-day period that the state can select within the first nine months from Aug 8.

Maui officials have designated two phases for fire recovery. They began the first phase in mid-September, which involves having the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remove hazardous materials and assess infrastructure. Unsafe property conditions (with unstable buildings, exposed electrical wires, ash with toxic substance, sharp metal objects, etc.) will be deferred to Phase II. That final segment will have the Army Corps of Engineers remove approved fire-damaged materials from private property (if approved by the owner) and complete environmental testing to ensure a property is safe to rebuild.

Maui County officials want Lahaina residents to return to survey their property, but no date had been scheduled as of Oct. 2.

Since Sept. 15, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement began working through its Hawaiian Trades Academy on special job training for Maui residents with free workforce certification classes in five different types of hazardous material handling and rebuilding-related jobs. Local companies will assist with job placement. Two job categories provide Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification for construction jobs to train workers on OSHA basics for workplace hazards and also a more intensive course for safety directors, field supervisors and others on OSHA compliance and safety essentials.

Three other training programs are for hazardous materials. One class is to raise awareness for workers who may handle or be exposed to dangerous materials at home or work. Another certification program is broad for workers who will have limited time at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites, or not be exposed to dangerous levels of hazardous substances. The third Hazardous Materials course is for workers new to hazardous waste or emergency response (Hazwoper) jobs. Students will learn to safely and properly perform required or voluntary cleanup job duties in compliance with OSHA’s Hazwoper standard.

The academy, launched four years ago, provides workforce development education to economically and socially disadvantaged Hawaiian communities to raise household incomes.

“We need to make sure that our Maui residents and Maui-based companies are front and center when these job opportunities become available. Our classes will help to ensure that they are prepared to take on that task,” said Kuhio Lewis, council CEO. “These workforce development courses will provide opportunities for individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of the fires. We want to help empower the Maui community to move forward together.”

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info

The council has announced it will be phasing in workforce training for CDLs, carpentry and forklift safety training and is asking for interested Maui residents to submit an online form expressing their interest available at

“We are also looking for local companies who want to provide training for their employees. We can help facilitate group training classes for them,” added Lewis.

It plans to offer a six-week CDL A class, which includes permit preparation to obtain a commercial learner’s permit, entry-level driver training test preparation and behind-the-wheel instruction. To be eligible, participants must be at least 21 years old with a valid driver’s license and current medical examiner’s certificate. A two-day CDL hazmat endorsement course will also be offered for study assistance and provide material on the hazmat knowledge test for CDL holders who want a hazardous materials endorsement.