A new rule tasks state driver’s license agencies with sidelining truckers who fail drug and alcohol tests.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) promulgated a new rule that requires state agencies that oversee suspensions, renewals, upgrades, and transfers to take measures ensuing CDL holders lose their privilege to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The new rule was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 7 and takes effect on Nov. 8.
Employers with credible knowledge about a truck driver’s misuse of drugs or alcohol must report incidents in the Clearinghouse database. The updated rule mandates this information remain on file for up to five years, even if the driver completes return-to-duty requirements.
“The rule also permits drivers to add documentary evidence of non-conviction to their clearinghouse record so that future employers will be aware of that outcome,” the agency reportedly stated. “FMCSA makes this change to fully comply with requirements that all violations be reported to the Clearinghouse.”
But the FMCSA has also acknowledged that a knowledge gap exists between drug and alcohol violations posted in the Clearinghouse database, state licensing agencies and DMVs. Closing the information distance involves increased access to violations and requires state officials to downgrade CDL capabilities and endorsements.
“The rule closes that knowledge gap by ensuring that all SDLA (State Driver’s License Agencies) are able to determine whether CMV drivers licensed in their state are subject to FMCSA’s CMV driving prohibition,” FMCSA reportedly stated in the Federal Register. “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.”
The FMCSA violation system has been frustrated by the fact not all states receive Clearinghouse information, and those that participate experience delays. Although the new FMCSA mandate appears to be built on a logical highway safety position, the federal agency takes its rule-making authority perhaps one step too far. According to the language in the new rule, the agency dictates to state legislatures to change existing laws and comply with the FMCSA. State lawmakers may take exception to a federal outfit, with limited authority to make trucking safety regulations, overreaching.
“States must achieve substantial compliance with the applicable requirements of the final rule as soon as practicable, but not later than November 18, 2024,” the FMCSA states in the Federal Register. “The State must amend its laws or regulations to ensure compatibility with any new addition or amendment to the FMCSRs as soon as practicable, but not later than 3 years after the effective date of such changes. The Agency believes a 3-year period also allows States sufficient time to adopt necessary changes in State law and regulation.”