Drugs And Alcohol 69273380 Feverpitched Dreamstime 615efe6615138

FMCSA requires states to revoke CDLs for drug, alcohol violators

Oct. 8, 2021
The new rule, which takes effect Nov. 8, mandates that states must not issue, renew, upgrade, or transfer a CDL or commercial learner's permit after one or more drug and alcohol violations recorded in the Clearinghouse.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is mandating that states crack down on commercial motor vehicle drivers with alcohol and drug violations, officially closing a “knowledge gap” in federal drug and alcohol program requirements.    

A new rule published in the Federal Register on Oct. 7 amends regulations to establish requirements for state driver's licensing agencies (SDLAs) to access and use information obtained through the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. The new rule, which takes effect on Nov. 8, states that SDLAs must not issue, renew, upgrade, or transfer a CDL, or commercial learner's permit (CLP) due to one or more drug and alcohol program violations.

Further, SDLAs must remove the CLP or CDL privilege from the driver's license of an individual subject to the CMV driving prohibition, which would result in a downgrade of the license until the driver complies with return-to-duty (RTD) requirements. This rule also requires states receiving Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) grant funds to adopt a compatible CMV driving prohibition applicable to CLP and CDL holders who violate FMCSA's drug and alcohol program requirements.

Most states currently do not receive drug and alcohol program violation information about CDL or CLP holders, FMCSA noted. Therefore, the agency pointed out, these SDLAs are unaware when a CMV operator is subject to the driving prohibition, and those CMV operators continue to hold valid CDLs or CLPs despite these driving prohibitions.

“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 in the Federal Register notice.

“The rule facilitates enforcement of the driving prohibition by requiring that SDLAs deny certain commercial licensing transactions and remove the commercial driving privileges of individuals who are prohibited from operating a CMV and performing other safety-sensitive functions, due to drug and alcohol program violations. By requiring SDLAs to downgrade the driver's licensing status by removing the commercial driving privilege, the final rule will also permit all traffic safety enforcement officers to readily identify prohibited drivers by conducting a license check during a traffic stop or other roadside intervention.”

States must comply with the final rule by Nov. 18, 2024. Petitions for reconsideration of the rule must be submitted this year to FMCSA no later than Nov. 8.

“The final rule will help ensure that CMVs are ‘operated safely,’ and that the physical condition of CMV operators is adequate to enable their safe operation,” the agency stated in the notice. “The requirement that states enforce the CMV driving prohibition on individuals who engage in prohibited use of drugs or alcohol will promote the safe operation of CMVs.”

According to the FMCSA, states must amend their laws or regulations to ensure compatibility with any new addition or amendment to the rule “as soon as practicable, but not later than three years after the effective date of such changes.” The agency said it believes a three-year period gives states “sufficient time to adopt necessary changes in state law and regulation, conduct training for SDLA personnel, and complete information technology changes that will allow SDLAs to request and receive Clearinghouse information electronically.”

The timeframe also accounts for FMCSA's development of technical specifications that will allow the information to be securely transmitted to the SDLAs, via a direct web-based interface with the Clearinghouse, the agency added. 

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