Under new rules proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), state driver’s licensing agencies (SDLAs) would be prohibited from issuing, renewing, upgrading or transferring a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or learner’s permit (CPL) for drivers who have been barred from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) due to drug or alcohol violations.
The proposal is designed to provide real-time information from the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse to SDLAs to keep drivers with drug or alcohol offenses off the road until they comply with return-to-duty requirements.
The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), posted April 28, calls for SDLAs to check commercial license applicants’ status in the Clearinghouse; if the results show a driver is prohibited from operating a CMV, the agency would be required to deny licensing. Affected drivers could re-apply for licensing after completing return-to-duty requirements. The notice also outlines how state licensing agencies would use Clearinghouse information to help enforce CMV driving prohibitions.
As an alternative, FMCSA proposes that SDLAs receive “push” notifications from the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse indicating when drivers licensed within the state are prohibited from operating a CMV.
“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,” the proposal notes. “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.”
This alternative proposes a licensing downgrade to align a driver’s licensing status with his or her current CMV driving status, closing a current loophole in regulations. To achieve the mandatory downgrade, SDLAs would change CDL and CLP holders’ commercial status from “licensed” to “eligible.”
FMCSA’s proposal also addresses operational questions and legal considerations identified by SDLAs, both individually and through the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
FMCSA will accept public comments through June 29. When submitting comments, refer to Docket No. FMCSA- FMCSA-2017-0330 and indicate the specific section of the document to which each comment applies; also note a reason for each recommendation. Comments may be submitted via fax, mail or hand delivery, or online here.