States have until November 2024 to comply with a new requirement that they ban drivers with drug and alcohol violations from operating a truck before the drivers complete the return-to-duty process.
The rule is scheduled to be posted in the Federal Register on Thursday. It resulted from a 2020 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposal requiring state agencies to stop issuing, renewing or upgrading commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) or commercial learner’s permits (CLPs) to drivers with drug and alcohol violations, as well as to downgrade drivers’ CDL and CLP driving privileges within 60 days of notification.
“The CDL downgrade requirement rests on the simple, but safety-critical, premise that drivers who cannot lawfully operate a CMV because they engaged in prohibited use of drugs or alcohol or refused a test should not hold a valid CDL or CLP,” according to FMCSA.
In issuing the rule, FMCSA explained that because most state driver’s licensing agencies (SDLAs) do not receive drug and alcohol violation information about drivers who are licensed in their state, some drivers who are not supposed to be on the road continue to operate trucks with valid licenses. “The rule closes that knowledge gap by ensuring that all SDLAs are able to determine whether CMV drivers licensed in their State are subject to FMCSA’s CMV driving prohibition,” FMCSA stated.
The rule also makes the FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse a stronger force in keeping substance abuse violators off the road by establishing requirements for SDLAs accessing the database. Those requirements have not been in place since the clearinghouse became active in January 2020.
From an enforcement standpoint, the requirement mandating that SDLAs downgrade the driver’s license status by removing driving privileges allows police to readily identify banned drivers through a simple license check during a traffic stop or roadside inspection.
The rule has implications for employers and the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse as well.
Currently, employers who know of a driver’s use of drugs or alcohol based on a DUI citation must report this “actual knowledge” violation to the clearinghouse. The new rule requires that this type of violation remain in the clearinghouse for five years or until the driver has completed the return-to-duty process, whichever is later, regardless of whether the driver is convicted of the DUI charge.
“The rule also permits drivers to add documentary evidence of non-conviction to their clearinghouse record so that future employers will be aware of that outcome,” the agency stated. “FMCSA makes this change to fully comply with requirements that all violations be reported to the Clearinghouse … and to provide full disclosure to employers, while maintaining fairness to drivers.”
FMCSA is giving SDLAs two methods by which to transmit violation information: the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) as well as a web-based platform using cloud technology, with the CDLIS option estimated to be more costly. The agency anticipates that developing an IT system to carry out the new rule could cost an SDLA $60,000 to $300,000.
Petitions to reconsider the rule must be submitted to FMCSA no later than Nov. 8.