DOT works toward state access to drug clearinghouse to suspend, deny CDLs

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A proposed rule published in the Federal Register Tuesday by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lays the groundwork for how states access the DOT’s CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. Chiefly, if made final, the rule gives states the ability to deny issuing or renewing CDLs and downgrade existing CDLs for drivers with a positive drug or alcohol test.

FMCSA delayed this portion of the CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse rule in December to provide more time to develop the process for how states will receive and use the information. The agency is asking for public comment on the proposed rulemaking through June 29. Specific questions the agency seeks information on can be found here. The notice is available for comment here.

Under FMCSA’s proposed rule, states would be required to query the database for any commercial driver’s license or commercial learner’s permit transaction, including renewals or adding an endorsement, as well as when issuing new CDLs. States then are prohibited from making the transaction if the driver has a violation reported to the Clearinghouse, meaning they could not renew or issue those CDLs.

Drivers whose licensing transaction is denied would be required to complete FMCSA’s return-to-duty requirements and re-apply for the license.

FMCSA clarifies in the notice that the only information states would receive from Clearinghouse notifications is that a driver is prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle. Specific information, such as whether a driver tested positive or refused a test, would not be disclosed to states.

The proposal provides two alternative methods for how states could enforce the drug and alcohol driving prohibition for existing CDL holders who have a violation appear in the Clearinghouse.

The first suggestion, which FMCSA says it favors, is a “mandatory downgrade” that would require states to remove the CDL privilege of any driver after receiving a notification from the Clearinghouse that a driver is prohibited from driving. States would change a driver’s status from “licensed” to “eligible” in the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS), which removes commercial privileges from the license.

The other alternative would allow, but not require, states to receive notifications from the Clearinghouse when CMV drivers are prohibited from driving due to drug or alcohol testing violations. States would then determine whether, and how, to use the information to enhance enforcement, such as making a driver’s “prohibited” status more accessible to roadside officers or use the information to take action on the license. States that opt into receiving the notification would also be notified when the driver is able to resume driving.

The rule proposal also includes a provision for drivers who receive a citation for DUI that does not result in a conviction. Under the Clearinghouse final rule, employers are required to submit an actual knowledge report if one of their drivers receives a citation for DUI.

The original Clearinghouse final rule allows drivers to request removal of an actual knowledge report from their Clearinghouse file if the citation doesn’t result in a conviction. However, FMCSA notes that a DUI citation is a violation of Part 382, Subpart B of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and a subsequent conviction carries separate consequences under Part 383.

Because a DUI citation is still a violation, FMCSA is proposing to amend the rule so drivers can only request that the agency add documentary evidence of non-conviction to their Clearinghouse record, which would be available to employers who query the database.

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