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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. Joel

    I was sent to to a DOT random drug test. During the test I was notified by my wife that my son had an emergency.  Since I left to attend this matter with my son I was reported to the fmcsa by my employer as a refusal by leaving the testing site.. I did not know I would lose my job due to this unfortunate coincidence. Driving career over no break no exception. FMCSA laws are unfair. After all this dedication and hard work for it to end my career just like that you know how hard it is for a company to pick me up now. I’m clean. Wtf!!! Government!!!

  2. Shaun Beavers

    Does anyone know how I might be able to go about challenging the competency of the tester who happened to be a outside contractor to the company that I was applying with? I refused a secondary pre-employment drug test because of this dude’s nature and person. The guy wanted to argue with me about some fictitious 4-minute rule that the sample had to hold temperature for 4 minutes. Upon doing my research the only thing that said anything remotely close to 4 minutes was that he had to document the temperature within 4 minutes of receiving the sample.

  3. David bell

    Truck drivers are pretty much considered criminals and every thing we do is illegal so just shut down all trucks you don’t need us any way.

  4. Mike Treglia

    I said it once and I’ll say it again, they don’t care about safety, it’s the almighty dollar. Now folks will have to pay even more out of pocket money to the state for the license status change. The clearinghouse does just fine without changes to the license. Your either clear or not, regardless of status of state license. If they would worry about real safety issues like drivers who can’t read signs and operate a semi properly I might believe they care. All about the money. Communistic control freaks

  5. Keith+Laird

    Well that is what Donald Trump has been saying all along about these commies and I refused a drug that was illegal for the employer to perform because it was just 2 days after I had already submitted one to the fmsca so does that bar me from driving a truck

    1. Michael England

      You did what? you refused a drug? I wonder if you meant to say you refused a drug test?
      So under what circumstances did you “Submit a drug test to the FMCSA” ?
      Honestly, I have never heard of someone sending a drug test to the FMCSA.
      Not a bad idea though. Which field office did you ship it to?
      just kidding. Did you read somewhere that your employer could not require a random D & A test because you had done one 2 days prior?
      Please share the information – what law or rule are you referring to that says the employer is forbidden from sending you for two drug tests two days apart.
      If you refused to take a DOT drug test, you are permanently banned – but who knows you refused? Was it was reported to the clearinghouse?

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.