“Currently, most state driver licensing agencies do not receive drug and alcohol program violation information about commercial driver license or commercial learner permit holders licensed in their state,” said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in a recent statement.
Now, state driver licensing agencies are seeing stricter guidelines being mandated by federal trucking regulators requiring that further oversight must be implemented regarding commercial motor vehicle drivers with previous drug or alcohol violations. After being notified of a drug or alcohol test failure, these agencies must revoke the driving privileges of these drivers within 60 days.
“Therefore, these [state driver licensing agencies] are unaware when a commercial motor vehicle operator is subject to the driving prohibition, and the CMV operator continues to hold a valid CDL or CLP, despite the driving prohibition,” the agency explained.
By making sure drivers are subject to the agency’s driving prohibition, and that state licensing agencies are able to make the determination of whether or not this is the case for each driver, the FMCSA believes this final ruling will close the “knowledge gap” in these circumstances.
The licensing agency still can not “issue, renew, upgrade, or transfer a commercial driver’s license or commercial learner’s permit when a driver has tested positive for drugs or alcohol,” the new rule mandates.
Additionally, state agencies will need to begin the CLP or CDL privilege removal process from the driver’s license within two months after being notified by FMCSA that said driver either refused a test or was found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and is thus prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle, according to the rule change.
As of now, there is already a mandate in place requiring that states must review the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse database for previous driver violations before renewing licenses or issuing new ones.
The agency did indeed decide to extend the time period during which an agency must remove driving privileges from 30 to 60 days after many industry members expressed concerns regarding states’ abilities to downgrade a driver’s commercial license within just one month. Still, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, along with American Trucking Associations, insisted that 30 days is indeed ample time to notify drivers of the changes in their driving privileges.
Extending this time period will negatively affect the safety of our roadways, the organizations noted.
“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,” said FMCSA.
This privilege removal would be an additional way to motivate drivers to follow mandates necessary for them to return to work, the agency continued.
“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 requirements.”
Still, many licensing agencies noted that state law requires them to notify a driver directly in regards to an imminent license downgrade, and that the 30-day time frame requirement would not allow for enough time to do so. It also would not provide sufficient time for an administrative hearing to take place before the license action is completed.
Additionally, the time period allotted should be aligned with the downgrading process of medical certifications, which currently allow for 60 days to update the driver’s record in the Commercial Driver’s License Information System and to complete the overall downgrading process.
Now, states must reach proper compliance with the requirements of the final mandate at hand before November 18th of 2024, the FMCSA said.
“The CDL downgrade requirement rests on the simple, but safety-critical, premise that drivers,” the agency said, “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.”