The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is addressing deficiencies in the way it collects commercial driver’s license disqualifications after a federal investigation cited “gaps and challenges” in the agency’s oversight of regulations.
According to a July 23 Federal Register notice, the FMCSA has ruled that state driver licensing agencies (SDLAs) implement a system for the exclusively electronic exchange of driver history record (DHR) information through the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS). This includes postings of commercial driver convictions, withdrawals, and disqualifications.
The rule aligns FMCSA's regulations with existing statutory requirements in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). The final rule takes effect on Aug. 23; compliance with the final rule is required by Aug. 22, 2024, according to the notice.
According to FMCSA, states must achieve “substantial compliance with this requirement as soon as practicable, but not later than three years after the effective date of the final rule.” “Substantial compliance” means that a state meets this requirement “by means of the demonstrable combined effect of its statutes, regulations, administrative procedures and practices, organizational structures, internal control mechanisms, resource assignments (facilities, equipment, and personnel), and enforcement practices.”
Provisions of the rule require that states ensure CDL and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders convicted of serious traffic violations are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle for specific periods depending on the violation.
The rulemaking comes after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General called out the FMCSA for having “gaps and challenges” in its oversight of CDL disqualification regulations. In a July 14 report, the inspector general’s office found that states did not timely transmit electronic conviction notifications 17% of the time. Specifically, the report states that states did not timely transmit 18% of 2,182 major offenses and 17% of 23,628 serious traffic violations. The report also notes that roughly 11% of 2,182 major offenses were not timely posted and 2% of 23,628 serious traffic violations were not posted to driver records at all.
“While states did take action to disqualify CDLs when appropriate, with exceptions, FMCSA’s evaluation of paper conviction notifications is limited by states’ processes for recording and tracking convictions sent by mail,” according to the inspector general’s report. “Furthermore, FMCSA's annual program review process lacks adequate quality control measures for verifying that state CDL programs meet federal requirements. Finally, state noncompliance with federal CDL disqualification requirements and other state actions pose challenges for FMCSA’s oversight. For example, some states offered administrative appeals to out-of-State drivers, overturned disqualifications, and backdated CDL disqualification periods. As a result, some drivers served shorter disqualification time periods than federal law requires.”
To “strengthen” FMCSA’s oversight of states actions to disqualify commercial drivers, the inspector general recommended the following actions:
- Improve current requirements for states to record, track, and maintain paper-based convictions sent and received via mail by incorporating its standardized method for states to aggregate paper-based convictions to facilitate FMCSA’s evaluation of state performance.
- Finalize and implement standardized operating procedures for conducting annual program reviews and for supervisory quality control reviews of completed annual program reviews.
- Modify the annual program review checklist to require reviewers to address key factors and determine whether: Sampled out-of-state convictions were posted to driver records within the required 10 days; results from a review of in-state convictions and paper notifications of out-of-state convictions were documented; sample testing was conducted of the greater of 2% of electronic transactions in a month or a total of five transactions; states are sending convictions either electronically or via mail but not using both methods; states begin disqualification periods on or after the date the out-of-state conviction is received; and states that offer administrative appeals for out-of-state disqualifications and permit them to be overturned are identified.
- Finalize and implement a standard operating procedure for determining when a state is not making a good faith effort to timely mitigate compliance issues and when to impose sanctions on noncompliant States.
- Complete the agency’s review of the State Compliance Records Enterprise system and implement identified improvements for managing states’ compliance issues.
- Develop and implement a process to segregate non-CDL holder convictions from all CDLIS reports and workbooks utilized.
- Develop and implement a plan for coordinating with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to mitigate risks when states transition to new software systems.