FMCSA Requires States to Downgrade CDLs for Drivers with Alcohol or Drug Violations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to tighten the restrictions on commercial drivers that violate federal alcohol and drug regulations. It recently added a requirement for all states to obey alcohol and drug prohibitions by November, 2024.
All drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) that test positive for alcohol or drug screens and are listed in the Clearinghouse will start having their CDLs downgraded immediately following agency notification. This new rule took effect on November 8, 2021.
Currently, the Clearinghouse rules mandate state driver’s license agencies (SDLAs) to inquire with the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse (DACH) before the issuance, renewal, transfer, or upgrade of CDLs. If the inquiry indicates that the driver isn’t eligible due to a failed alcohol and drug test, the CDL must be denied.
In general, SDLAs don’t get this information about CDL holders in their state, which means that they don’t know when a driver has a driving prohibition from the FMCSA. Under the new rule, however, FMCSA alert states when it records a positive test in the DACH. The FMCSA administers the DACH, a database containing records of drivers pertaining to alcohol and drug violations.
An Increase in Positive Alcohol and Drug Tests
Drivers can only reapply for a CDL once they’ve completed their return-to-duty (RTD) requirements following the successful completion of an RTD program and have passed a negative test result to the DACH. This new rule comes as the FMCSA continues to record more and more positive tests, based on the August 2021 Clearinghouse report. Most of the positive tests involved marijuana.
The FMCSA also reported that approximately 80% of CDL violations were for positive drug screens. The rest were mostly for alcohol but also involved the inability or refusal of drivers to submit to testing. The Clearinghouse report also stated that approximately 87,000 CLD holders had one alcohol or drug violation. However, fewer than 18,000 of these drivers have returned to work after passing their RTD tests because they still failed the alcohol and drug screens.
A Solid Move Towards Safer Georgia Roadways
Upon mandating this new CDL downgrading regulation, the FMCSA explained that since most SDLAs don’t obtain alcohol and drug violation details about commercial drivers in their state, many of these drivers who aren’t fit to drive because of their violations continue to drive commercial motor vehicles and hold valid CDLs.
The rule also closes this information gap by making sure that SDLAs, such as the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS), can determine whether their commercial drivers are subject to any driving prohibitions. In addition, this gives the Clearinghouse greater control in keeping these alcohol and drug violators in check and off the roadways by establishing streamlined requirements for SDLAs that need to access the database.
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