Proposed ‘CMV driving ban’ would crack down on drug & alcohol violators

One of the proposed rules would call for a "mandatory downgrade" of driver's CDL if state licensing agencies receive notice of a drug or alcohol violation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering new rules intended to increase compliance with existing drug and alcohol rules for truck drivers.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to be posted in the Federal Register on April 28, FMCSA called for a new “CMV driving ban” meant to increase compliance with current regulations and keep drivers with drug or alcohol offenses off the road until they have complied with return-to-duty requirements.

State Drivers Licensing Agencies Could Receive Drug and Alcohol “Push” Notifications

One of the most significant rule changes proposed by FMCSA as a “preferred alternative” would require State Driver’s Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) to issue a “mandatory downgrade” of a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) or a commercial driver’s license (CDL) after the SDLA received a “push” notification from the new Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse indicating that the driver is prohibited from operating a CMV.

After receiving notification of a driver substance use violation, the SDLA would be required to change the CDL or CLP holder’s license status from “licensed” to “eligible.” The driver would be required to complete return-to-duty requirements in order to reinstate his or her license.

FMCSA explains the purpose of the rule change:

Currently, most States are not aware when a CDL holder licensed in their State is prohibited from driving a CMV due to an alcohol or drug testing violation. Consequently, there is no Federal requirement that SDLAs take any action on the license of drivers subject to that prohibition. As a result, a driver can continue to hold a valid CLP or CDL, even while prohibited from operating a CMV under FMCSA’s drug and alcohol regulations. The proposed downgrade would align a driver’s CLP or CDL status with his or her CMV driving status under § 382.501(a), thus closing the current regulatory loophole that allows these CMV drivers to evade detection.

Alternately, FMCSA is also considering a plan to allow — but not require — SDLAs to receive “push” notifications from the Clearinghouse whenever CMV drivers licensed in their state are prohibited from driving due to a drug or alcohol testing violation. Under this version of the rule, the Clearinghouse would also send out “push” notifications to SDLAs when a driver had completed return-to-duty requirements and was eligible to drive a CMV again. It would be up to the SDLAs to determine how to use the “push” notifications to increase drug and alcohol compliance.

State Licensing Agencies Could Be Required To Query Database Before Issuing CDL or CLP

Additionally, under the FMCSA’s new proposal, SDLAs would be forbidden from issuing, renewing, upgrading, or transferring a CDL or CLP to a person who has drug or alcohol violations.

Prior to issuing a CDL or CLP, SDLAs would be required to query the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. If the SDLA learned that the driver was driver is prohibited from operating a CMV due to a substance violations, the SDLA would be forbidden to issue the license.

While there are already regulations on the books that prevent drivers from operating a CMV with unresolved drug and alcohol violation. However, until recently, these rules have been mostly self-enforced, with “FMCSA [relying] primarily on drivers themselves, and their employers, to comply.”

This rule change is intended to deal with an “information gap” on the part of SDLAs, which did not have access to real-time driver substance violations until earlier this year when the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse online database went into full effect.

Following the publication of the NPRM, the FMCSA will accept public comment on the rule changes for 60 days. To leave a comment, you can visit regulations.gov and reference Docket Number FMCSA-2017- 0330.