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FMCSA wants to make it simpler for states to ban drug and alcohol violators

April 28, 2020
Regulators want to formally prohibit state driver licensing agencies from issuing, renewing, upgrading, or transferring a CDL for drivers with substance abuse violations, according to a filing in the Federal Register.

With its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse up and running, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed limits on state agencies to issue, renew or upgrade commercial driver’s licenses or permits for drivers with drug or alcohol violations.

“These proposed changes would improve highway safety by increasing compliance with existing drug and alcohol program requirements,” according to a notice filed in the Federal Register on April 28. Before the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse was launched at the start of this year, carriers did not have real-time access to driver violations and instead mostly had to rely on self-reporting.

This led to a loophole in the system. Under the current rule, a driver who violates the drug and alcohol program can continue to hold a valid CDL even though they are prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle until completing return-to-duty requirements. “These drivers, who are illegally operating a CMV, are thus able to evade detection by roadside enforcement personnel,” according to the federal filing.

The clearinghouse, which now has more than 650,000 registrants, is an online database that allows FMCSA, employers of CDL drivers, state driver licensing agencies and law enforcement officials to identify drivers who have violated federal drug and alcohol testing program requirements in real-time. 

The rule was mandated by Congress as part of the MAP-21 highway funding law and finalized in December 2016 by FMCSA, which estimates this will eliminate nearly 900 crashes a year. After launching on Jan. 6, the FMCSA reported nearly 8,000 positive substance abuse tests of drivers by late February. 

According to the April Federal Register filing, regulators want to formally prohibit state driver's licensing agencies from issuing, renewing, upgrading, or transferring a CDL — or commercial learner's permit — for individuals prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle due to controlled substance and alcohol program violations. The CMV driving ban is intended to keep risky drivers off the road until they comply with return-to-duty requirements. 

The FMCSA seeks comments on alternate proposals to create more ways that state agencies would use clearinghouse information to increase compliance with the commercial driving prohibition. 

The FMCSA also wants to revise how reports of actual knowledge of violations would be maintained in the clearinghouse. This includes how the government would address initial citations, regardless of conviction. Drivers who are not convicted could petition to “add documentary evidence of that fact to their clearinghouse record,” according to the filing. 

Comments on the federal proposals are due by June 29. 

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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