Many people who start a business in Hawaii discover that things operate differently in the islands than they do in the continental 48. It’s tough to generalize since every island—and every business—offers its own unique experience. However, one thing you’ll notice is that very few business people wear full suits in Hawaii. An aloha shirt with a nice pair of pants is much more common business attire for men.

You’ll also notice differences in the way goods move via truck in Hawaii. If you have some experience with trucking in the continental U.S., we’ll show you how (and why!) trucking is a little different in Hawaii. Whether you’re interested in getting involved with trucking in Hawaii—or you simply want to deepen your understanding—we’ll walk you through the basics so you’ll have a sense of how trucking operates here in the islands.

1. Each Island Is Its Own Community

Whether you’re talking about Oahu (population: 953,207), the Big Island (population: 186,738), Maui (population: 144,444) or Kauai (population: 66,921), each island acts like its own little community. (This is even more true on the smaller islands of Molokai and Lanai!)

It can feel like everyone you meet is someone’s auntie, uncle, cousin, brother—you name it. In fact, do business in these islands long enough, and you might start to suspect that everyone really does know everyone else.

If you decide to open a business in the Hawaiian islands, this is good information to keep in mind. Building relationships is one of the most important things you can do, since you’ll get a lot more done if you can leverage your network of trusted contacts.

But what does this “community feel” have to do with trucking? We’ll show you how this comes to play in just a moment.

2. Access in “Urban” Areas Can Be Tricky for Trucking in Hawaii

Each island has its share of busy, commercial areas, where getting freight delivered can be tricky. For example, our team on Oahu has to deal with daily deliveries to Waikiki, the island’s major tourist destination. Our drivers have gotten skilled at navigating pedestrian traffic, rental cars, surfers headed for Waikiki beach, other delivery trucks on their own routes and more.

In many busy areas, businesses (including hotels!) don’t necessarily have a dock to receive freight. And if they do have one, everyone’s trying to use it. As a result, delivery trucks may have to park several blocks away.

We also encounter challenges at shopping centers and malls. Narrow driveways or limited access can make it difficult to get trucks in and out to make deliveries.

Here’s where those relationships come into play. If you’re working with an established trucking company, you’ll likely benefit from any contacts that the local drivers have established. It might be a family relationship—or the driver may have just gotten to know the personnel at the destination after years of weekly deliveries.

Either way, when you’ve got a company with established, on-island relationships on your side, it can mean they have the “in” they need to get freight where it needs to go, even when it gets difficult.

3. But Even Accessing the Rest of the Island Can Be Challenging

Island deliveries can still be tricky—even outside busy business districts. Our drivers regularly encounter challenges such as:

  • Low-hanging wires that may prevent a large truck from accessing an area for delivery.
  • Narrow roads, alleyways, and driveways. Deliveries can often come in 45′ containers, and those aren’t always easy to park, especially when it comes to narrow alleyways and streets.

The solution? Many trucking companies will ask to do a site visit before committing to delivery. Even if you’ve accepted successful deliveries in the past, it makes sense to encourage these site visits. By allowing the company to put eyes on your unique situation, you’ll reduce the possibility of problems—and added stress—on delivery day. It’s also an excellent opportunity for you to vet the company and get an idea of how they do business.

One other note: If you’re working with a trucking company to deliver your freight, make sure you tell them your preferences about breaking your freight down. In our experience, many customers prefer that we not break down their freight. However, if your business has very tight access restrictions, your trucking provider may want to break it down to simplify delivery. Talk with them upfront during your site visit so you can find a partner who will work according to your preferences.

4. Traffic Is a Growing Issue for Trucking in Hawaii

Oahu’s traffic is has become almost legendary, specifically in and around Honolulu. That being said, each island has its own bottlenecks, as any Maui, Big Island or Kauai resident will tell you.

So how do the experts deal with it? They do their best to schedule around it. Many companies, for example, will arrange 6:00 am deliveries, both because 1) customers appreciate receiving inventory before business hours and 2) because it means their trucks can get back to the warehouse before the real traffic starts.

If you’re already living on the island where you’re doing business, you probably know these traffic patterns by heart. However, if you’re managing deliveries in Hawaii from the continental U.S., talk to your trucking company about the traffic patterns on their island. In some places, a 5:00 pm delivery time just won’t be feasible. However, if you address the issue upfront, your delivery provider should coordinate with you to find a time that works for your business.

Just One More Reason Why Hawaii Is Like No Place Else

When describing what makes Hawaii unique, you might hear someone talk about the beaches, the varied microclimates, the Hawaiian culture or even the ono plate lunch they picked up at the gas station. That person might not bring up trucking—unless he or she works in logistics!

However, when it comes to trucking in Hawaii, it pays to have an expert on your side who knows the nuances of your delivery location. You’ll save yourself a steep learning curve. You’ll also give yourself the ability to establish a regular route much more quickly, one that ensures your freight arrives on time—and intact.


Looking for better deliveries in Hawaii? We can help! Our team has been driving freight around the Hawaiian islands since 1982. Our drivers know the roads, the terrain and all the right people to make your deliveries as smooth as possible. We can also create all-in-one solutions that get your freight from your warehouse in the continental U.S. all the way to its final destination on any Hawaiian island. To discover more, schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our experts.

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