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FMCSA issues new driver-ban rules for drug and alcohol abusers

State DMVs required to downgrade licenses, permits until return-to-duty process is completed; police get more enforcement power

Law enforcement will have better access to drug/alcohol violations. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

States have until November 2024 to comply with a new requirement that they ban drivers with drug and alcohol violations from operating a truck before the drivers complete the return-to-duty process.

The rule is scheduled to be posted in the Federal Register on Thursday. It resulted from a 2020 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposal requiring state agencies to stop issuing, renewing or upgrading commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) or commercial learner’s permits (CLPs) to drivers with drug and alcohol violations, as well as to downgrade drivers’ CDL and CLP driving privileges within 60 days of notification.

“The CDL downgrade requirement rests on the simple, but safety-critical, premise that drivers 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,” according to FMCSA.

In issuing the rule, FMCSA explained that because most state driver’s licensing agencies (SDLAs) do not receive drug and alcohol violation information about drivers who are licensed in their state, some drivers who are not supposed to be on the road continue to operate trucks with valid licenses. “The rule closes that knowledge gap by ensuring that all SDLAs are able to determine whether CMV drivers licensed in their State are subject to FMCSA’s CMV driving prohibition,” FMCSA stated.

The rule also makes the FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse a stronger force in keeping substance abuse violators off the road by establishing requirements for SDLAs accessing the database. Those requirements have not been in place since the clearinghouse became active in January 2020.

From an enforcement standpoint, the requirement mandating that SDLAs downgrade the driver’s license status by removing driving privileges allows police to readily identify banned drivers through a simple license check during a traffic stop or roadside inspection.

The rule has implications for employers and the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse as well.

Currently, employers who know of a driver’s use of drugs or alcohol based on a DUI citation must report this “actual knowledge” violation to the clearinghouse. The new rule requires that this type of violation remain in the clearinghouse for five years or until the driver has completed the return-to-duty process, whichever is later, regardless of whether the driver is convicted of the DUI charge.

“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 stated. “FMCSA makes this change to fully comply with requirements that all violations be reported to the Clearinghouse … and to provide full disclosure to employers, while maintaining fairness to drivers.”

FMCSA is giving SDLAs two methods by which to transmit violation information: the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) as well as a web-based platform using cloud technology, with the CDLIS option estimated to be more costly. The agency anticipates that developing an IT system to carry out the new rule could cost an SDLA $60,000 to $300,000.

Petitions to reconsider the rule must be submitted to FMCSA no later than Nov. 8.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Niko

    “while maintaining fairness to drivers” Oh really even though a Jury or Judge finds you innocent of DUI you are still guilty how is that fair to drivers?

  2. Edward T Eaton

    Really y’all out here picking on us trying to take our jobs why don’t talk start doing the same thing to these four wheelers out here it’s not always us truckers fault pick on another industry and let’s us do our jobs. Ain’t nobody perfect we push ourselves to the limit everyday and this is how y’all treat us.

  3. Clifford Bayne

    I am rapped up in this bs and now I am having trouble finding a job I tested POS for thca 15% wich used to be a negative result I have been driving over 35 years near to perfect driving record they fail to tell you that you have to go back to your former employer to get the RTD drug test . No other companies can do that so now I am faced with the responsibility of a company that I had left because of unfairness its been 3 weeks since my RTD test and nothing I have a great job waiting for the results I think this whole thing is put together wrong!!!! You are destroying people’s lives over this bs !!!! By the way thca is the raw form of marijuana it can’t get you high its only prescribed to people that have a medical card witch I do not have!! Or by eating a Leif you picked of of a growing plant. Didn’t even know anything about it till I came up positive. They need to think about what’s going on with growing canibus because bees pollinate up to 10 miles from home and if the bees pollinate off of the flower it will create thca honey !! I by local honey for my allergy now I am afraid to by it for my self!! Why is it that we Americans have to be in this program when foreign people don’t its not fair to the American cdl drivers! I am for drug testing but not to this extent. The way it was done before was better you are destroying cdl drivers lives over bs

  4. TonyKegley

    To much power. If a drivers CDL is downgraded pending on the restriction they are including that CDL driver is without a job. In some states your DUI is on your driving record for 3 years. The employer should be responsible for not doing random drug and alcohol screening. And should hold responsibly for all accidents if accursed since they failed to do drug and alcohol screening. They should be forced to provide proof of all screening before allowing a driver get behind the wheel. This is only attacking American workers and trying to strip them from a paycheck. None of this has come about until Biden has took office. Truck drivers are the heart of America keeping stores stocked up for American people Government is trying to place a stop sign in front of truckers to attack America. And they know how that will have an impact of criminals to steal and try kill people. Given D.O.T and police officers more power to show there ass. Trying to be tough guy. But without that badge truly there wimps.

  5. Bartholomew Winkle

    I think you should have more than 30 days to pay any ticket for CDL holders due to their out on the road and if the ticket comes through the mail fromPublic utilities commission it does not give it over the road truck driver and enough time to get the ticket that is unknown at the time the trooper or commercial enforcement gives you the inspection you should consider 90 days for CDL holders

  6. David bell

    There should be no complaints about a driver shortage. Who wants to do a job that automatically makes you a criminal the day you hire on.

Comments are closed.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.