The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) October 7 issued a final rule closing a loophole in the enforcement of the agency’s drug and alcohol regulations by requiring states to deny or downgrade commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) or learner’s permits for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers with drug or alcohol violations (86 FR 55718).
Under the new rules, state driver’s licensing agencies (SDLAs):
- Must access and use information obtained through the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse), a federal government database containing driver-specific controlled substance and alcohol records;
- Must not issue, renew, upgrade, or transfer a CDL or commercial learner’s permit (CLP) for any person prohibited under FMCSA regulations from performing safety-sensitive functions, including driving a CMV, due to one or more drug and alcohol program violations; and
- Must remove the CDL or CLP privilege from the driver’s license of an individual subject to federal CMV driving prohibition, resulting in a downgrade of a license until the driver fulfills all federal return-to-duty requirements.
States receiving Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) grant funds must adopt a compatible CMV driving prohibition applicable to CDL and CLP holders who violate the FMCSA’s drug and alcohol program requirements and make changes to state requirements clarifying and conforming to the new federal regulations.
The FMCSA rule amends 49 CFR parts 382, 383, 384, 390, and 392 and becomes effective November 8; compliance with the final rule is required November 18, 2024. The rule is intended to help keep unsafe drivers off the road by increasing compliance with the CMV driving prohibition, according to the FMCSA. It continues the implementation of 2012’s Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).
An earlier rulemaking (81 FR 87686, 12/5/16) established the drug and alcohol Clearinghouse as a repository for driver-specific drug and alcohol program violation records, as well as return-to-duty information.
Most SDLAs do not currently receive drug and alcohol program violation information
about CDL or CLP holders licensed in their state, according to the FMCSA. Many SDLAs, therefore, are unaware of whether a CMV operator is subject to federal driving prohibitions.
The new rule closes the knowledge gap by ensuring that all SDLAs access data in the Clearinghouse database to determine whether CMV drivers licensed in their state are subject to the FMCSA’s CMV driving prohibitions. Under the new rule, state licensing agencies must check a driver’s status by querying the Clearinghouse before issuing, renewing, transferring, or upgrading a CDL.
Drivers denied a CDL or CLP or whose driving privileges are downgraded may reapply once they’ve completed the federal return-to-duty requirements.
The new rule requires that state licensing agencies deny commercial licensing applications and remove commercial driving privileges of individuals prohibited from operating a CMV or performing other safety-sensitive functions due to federal drug and alcohol violations. Once the new licensing nonissuance/downgrade requirements are in place, all traffic safety enforcement officers can readily identify prohibited drivers by conducting a license check during a traffic stop or another roadside intervention, according to the FMCSA.